Cubs

Cubs display their dominance in wacky eighth inning

Cubs display their dominance in wacky eighth inning

Hector Rondon might lead the league in near-appearances.

Rondon is the Cubs' unquestioned closer...only they don't really need one.

The Cubs have 38 victories, yet Rondon has only nine saves since most of the wins are by a wide margin.

Friday was another illustration as to why. 

With the Cubs clinging to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth, Kris Bryant was hit by a pitch and Anthony Rizzo followed with a liner down the right-field line. 

Rizzo was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double, leaving Bryant at third base with two outs. 

At that point, it would take a clutch hit to drive home even one insurance run, so a perfect chance to get Rondon another save, right?

Nope. 

Here's the play-by-play breakdown of what happened next:

—Ben Zobrist was intentionally walked.
—The Diamondbacks made a pitching change, bringing in Silvino Bracho.
—Addison Russell — in his first at-bat of the game after coming in as a defensive replacement — doubled home Bryant and Zobrist.
—Miguel Montero was intentionally walked.
—Javier Baez doubled, driving home Russell and Montero. Baez then was awarded home plate (and another run) when Arizona shortstop Chris Owings hurled the relay throw into the stands.
—Tim Federowicz pinch-hit for Pedro Strop and reached on an error by Arizona right fielder Chris Hermann.
—Dexter Fowler was hit by a pitch.
—Federowicz advanced to third, Fowler to second on a wild pitch.
—Jason Heyward struck out swinging to end the inning.

Whoa. 

Go back and read that again if you need to. Even people watching the game intently were left trying to wrap their heads around it.

Baez was playing and he didn't even know Owings threw the ball into the stands.

"I was so pumped. I was just clapping so hard and when I turned, I saw the umpire say 'two bags' for me and I was like, 'OK. Whatever,'" Baez said.

Baez admitted he was extra motivated after he struck out his first three trips to the plate Friday and Montero was intentionally walked before him.

When Rizzo was nabbed at second base to kick off all the craziness, Joe Maddon insisted he didn't see the air being let out by the Cubs players in the dugout. 

"I wasn't concerned," Maddon said. "That's the aggressive nature of our team. Everybody understood that. I talked to Rizzo about it: 'I'm never gonna criticize you for trying to make a good play like that.'

"I didn't sense [the air going out of the team]. I really didn't."

Think it's safe to say the results — five runs with two outs — back Maddon's statement up.

The Cubs are now a season-high 23 games over .500 and a plus-140 run differential, which is almost double that of every other team in baseball.

When asked if the Cubs are playing any looser than they were during their brief lull in late May, Rizzo had his answer ready.

"No, honestly," he said. "There's no different feeling from a week-and-a-half ago when everyone was asking why we're not winning every game.

"We just come in every day, play and we have a good time doing it."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 10th, 11th homers in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa is heating up, but even a red-hot Sosa doesn't automatically equal wins for the Cubs.

Slammin' Sammy notched his first multi-homer game in 1998 in a 9-5 loss to Kevin Millwood and the Atlanta Braves. Sosa drove in 4 of the Cubs' 5 runs on a solo shot in the 4th inning and a three-run shot in the 8th. 

Sosa tallied 830 feet of homers in the game, with his first blast going 410 feet and the second shot measured at 420 feet.

The big game bumped Sosa's overall season slash line to .337/.411/.551 (.962 OPS) with 11 homers and 35 RBI.

Fun fact: Mickey Morandini hit second for the Cubs in this game and went 4-for-4, but somehow only scored one run despite hitting just in front of Sosa all game. That's because Morandini was caught stealing to end the 3rd inning, leaving Sosa to lead off the 4th inning with a solo blast.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: If Cubs somehow miss the playoffs will Joe Maddon's seat start heating up?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Nick Friedell (ESPN.com) and Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) join David Kaplan on the panel.

The guys discuss Welington Castillo’s 80-game PED suspension, the Cubs struggles and if Joe Maddon could be on the hot seat if the Cubs somehow miss the playoffs in 2018.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: