PITTSBURGH – Cubs catcher Alex Avila clearly didn’t play distracted, guiding Jose Quintana through his matchup against Pittsburgh Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, throwing out a runner to end the eighth inning and delivering the game-winning hit in Wednesday night’s 1-0 victory at PNC Park.
But Avila has other things on his mind, tracking Hurricane Irma’s devastating path, staying in touch with his family in the Fort Lauderdale area and making sure they fly to Chicago on Thursday to escape a storm coming with historic force.
“Not one eye,” Avila said. “I’ve got both my eyes (on it).”
That became the reality check at his locker after Avila broke his bat and knocked Daniel Hudson’s ninth-inning changeup into the right-field corner, scoring pinch-runner Leonys Martin from second base and again showing why the Cubs made that deal with the Detroit Tigers before the July 31 trade deadline.
Avila grew up in South Florida, where his father, Al, worked for the Marlins, made his reputation as a strong talent evaluator and eventually rose to become the Tigers general manager who would trade his own son.
“It’s been a little nerve-wracking the last couple days, just watching the weather reports,” Avila said. “I’ve been just sitting in the hotel room watching The Weather Channel all morning. It’s talking to my wife and cousins and friends. They’ve been over to my house to try to get the stuff as best prepared for the storm.”
Several Cubs understood that helpless feeling. Backup catcher Victor Caratini posted this message on his Twitter account: “Please pray for my family and friends in Puerto Rico. One of the most catastrophic (hurricanes is) about to hit my beautiful island.”
Shortstop Javier Baez sent a message to Puerto Rico in Spanish on his Instagram account. Manager Joe Maddon – who has a home and a restaurant in Tampa – remembered how real-world problems put blowing an eighth-inning lead into perspective.
“It doesn’t look good for the coastal area there in South Florida,” Avila said. “Luckily, I have a house in Michigan. Maybe I can go to it if worst comes to worst. It’s been a little nerve-wracking the last couple days, but I’m glad my whole family’s coming to Chicago on Thursday. I wasn’t messing around with that.”