CHICAGO — The Cubs have a brand new clubhouse that visitors often compare to a spaceship, and this season their front office moved into a sparkling building alongside Wrigley Field that has a Starbucks on the ground floor and arcade games sprinkled among the offices.
There are still plenty of old-school quirks at this 103-year-old park, however, and two of them teamed up to get to Jeff Samardzija and the Giants in the first inning Thursday.
Kris Bryant lofted a ball to left and Mac Williamson settled under the basket hanging over the track. Williamson thought he had a bead on the ball, but a Cubs fan caught it as he reached over the basket, installed in this yard specifically to keep fans from unleashing their inner Jeffrey Maier. Williamson immediately pointed up, trying to signal to Giants coaches that they should take a second look at the homer. Bruce Bochy never had a chance.
“In this game you get a safety valve and one is replay,” Bochy said. “The phone wasn’t working and by the time Shawon (Dunston) ran down they were throwing the pitch to (Anthony) Rizzo.”
Bochy kept looking at the replay phone but it didn’t ring. Once the first pitch to Rizzo was thrown, the Giants were out of time to challenge.
“I definitely would have challenged it,” Bochy said. “I didn't see any reason to at first. That’s something we definitely would have done differently … It’s ironic that as soon as it happened it stopped ringing.”
Bochy met with home plate umpire Laz Diaz after the inning and informed him that if the replay phone continued to give the Giants issues, he might have to stop the game and get it fixed. The Giants continued to check the phones every inning to make sure they worked, although there were no challenges from their side.
It’s an interesting wrinkle to the loss, especially given the history of shenanigans here. But there are two postscripts.
The first is that the ball was a home run. Unless you’re built like Kevin Durant, it’s just about impossible to pull a ball over the basket, which Williamson noted as he stood underneath the overhang. Still shots were deceiving because the fan tugged his glove down after making the catch, but the Giants checked with the league during the game and they were told that the home run call would have stood.
"If it would have gone in, it would have been like the (Javier) Baez homer in the playoffs where it just nicked it," Williamson said.
The second postscript is that this goofy isolated play isn’t the reason the Giants lost. Jeff Samardzija gave up two more homers, Denard Span halted a rally with a mistake at first base, and the Giants managed just one run against the Cubs’ No. 5 starter and lefty reliever Mike Montgomery. They lost 5-1.
“You’d like to think we could score in this ballpark, three to four runs,” Bochy said. “We couldn’t do it. We shot ourselves in the foot there with runners on first and third.”
With the corners packed and one down in the fifth, Span was picked off first by Eddie Butler. The Giants would never again threaten.
“You never know what’s going to happen in an inning like that, but now he’s got two outs,” Bochy said.
The Giants looked poised to tie the game or take the lead in that inning. Instead, the Cubs added another run on Ben Zobrist’s homer in the sixth. Two more scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch in the eighth. Samardzija took the loss despite striking out eight in three innings. He gave up three solo shots, two that landed in the basket.
“Yeah, man, that’s a tough way to take it,” he said. “You give up one to Zobrist that he hit well and then two in the Easter basket. It’s unfortunate.”
The Cubs might have caught a break or two, but the Giants had no room to argue or complain. There’s something else about those baskets: They’re out there for both teams, and only one of the lineups was hitting it far enough to bring them into play.