Wade Davis may have been the only person at Wrigley Field who wasn’t alarmed when Michael Taylor’s fly ball found the basket on Wednesday night.
Several minutes after Jon Lester converted the Friendly Confines into a madhouse with his pickoff move, Taylor turned the aged venue on its side with a back-breaking grand slam that sealed a 5-0 Game 4 victory for the Washington Nationals over the Cubs. Taylor’s homer through the heavy wind and persistent mist that enveloped Wrigley surprised even his own manager.
But Davis said he wasn’t the least bit dazed when Taylor’s opposite-field blast scooted over the fence and sent both teams scrambling to prepare for Game 5 on Thursday in Washington, D.C.
“I don’t think I’m ever surprised when someone hits one good,” Davis said. “That’s just usually what happens.”
Cubs fans likely found the entire scenario shocking.
Davis has been the stalwart in the Cubs bullpen all season. Sure, he’d surrendered more homers (six) this season than any other since he moved to the bullpen. But that has been the trend baseball-wide.
Despite serving up a few extra round-trippers, Davis converted 31 of 32 saves for the Cubs. With the Cubs down by a run in the eighth, Davis was viewed as the potential lifeline. In a matter of minutes, the crowd had transformed from a frenzied state after Lester’s get-me-over pickoff move nabbed Ryan Zimmerman into a nervous ball of energy when the Nationals loaded the bases with two outs.
Lester yielded a two-out single to Daniel Murphy and Carl Edwards Jr. walked two consecutive batters and fell behind in the count 1-0 to Taylor when Cubs manager Joe Maddon made the call for Davis.
But only two pitches later, Taylor defied the odds when he drove a 95-mph fastball out to right on a day when home runs seemed next to impossible. The result of the 393-foot, opposite-field drive caught Nationals manager Dusty Baker off-guard, particularly after the wind and rain had knocked down Addison Russell’s drive in the second inning.
Yet much to Baker’s surprise, the same elements that afforded Washington an opportunity to start Stephen Strasburg on regular rest after a Tuesday rainout were still in a giving mood. The round-tripper was the first Davis had yielded in the postseason in 107 batters as a reliever and broke open a tightly-contested ballgame.
“I really didn't know,” Baker said. “Fortunately for us, the elements are on our side because Russell's ball would have been way up in the stands and maybe even on the avenue. That ball was blowing back in because that ball was hit a ton.
“I've played many games here, managed many games here, and everybody talks about, you know, how the ball flies here. But I think the time that I was here, I think the stadium takes away more homers than it gives. And tonight, it gave us one.”
Davis was down 1-0 when he took over for Edwards, whose wild streak had loaded the bases. But the free-agent-to-be said the hitter’s count didn’t affect how he planned to approach Taylor. Davis evened the count when Taylor fouled off a first-pitch fastball but left the next one over the middle. Even the 16-mph winds that knocked down Russell’s blast weren’t going to slow down Taylor’s drive.
“I felt pretty good about the at-bat,” Davis said. “Just that particular pitch, tried to go down and off and obviously I threw it almost down the middle.
“It was a bad pitch. It was down the middle and he put a really good swing on it. Definitely if I could have it back, but we’ve got to get ready for tomorrow.”