Cubs fans had plenty to cheer about late in Friday's game against the Cardinals, but not in the way they expected.
With St. Louis absolutely wearing out the Cubs pitching staff in an 18-5 blowout, Joe Maddon turned to a trio of position players to pitch.
In front of 41,077 people at Wrigley Field for the second game of the official second half of the season, Tommy La Stella came on to pitch for the Cubs with 2 outs in the top of the sixth inning. After La Stella got 4 outs, it was Victor Caratini's turn for the eighth inning.
It was the first time in recorded history the Cubs used two different position players to pitch.
According to historian Ed Hartig, the Cubs have not used multiple position players in a game since at least 1907. The data is harder to discern before that point because so many players back then were both position players and pitchers.
Oh, but the Cubs weren't done yet.
Ian Happ got the nod for the ninth inning on the mound, serving as the third different position player on the mound.
Seeing a position player pitch has actually been a pretty common occurence under Maddon as he's done everything he can to limit the stress on the bullpen:
#Cubs position player pitchers 1970-present— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 20, 2018
1970-2014: Biittner, Dascenzo (4 times), Gaetti, Mather, John Baker
Under Maddon: D. Ross (2x), Denorfia, Montero (2x), Jon Jay, L. Martin, Gimenez, La Stella & Caratini
Meanwhile, on the other side, Matt Carpenter had a record-setting game.
Before being removed from the game in the sixth inning, Carpenter smashed 3 homers and 2 doubles and drove in 7 runs. It tied a Cardinals record for total bases (16) while tying the MLB record for most extra-base hits in a game (5):
Matt Carpenter has tied the MLB record with 5 extra-base hits today. He also has 16 total bases, 3 shy of the MLB record held by Shawn Green (19).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 20, 2018
Of course, the fact he did it all before the game reached the seventh inning is remarkable:
Matt Carpenter is the first player in the last 100 years with five extra base hits in the first six innings of a game.— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) July 20, 2018
Offensively, the Cubs left 11 men on base, which would normally be the focal point of ire for the fanbase if not for the rest of the day's events...
No matter how much people complain and Tweet, Joe Maddon will never go with a set lineup every game.
But that doesn't mean he won't let certain spots in the lineup settle in for a couple weeks in a row.
That's what may be occuring right now with Anthony Rizzo holding serve as the "Greatest Leadoff Hitter of All-Time" once again.
Rizzo made his 5th straight start atop the Cubs order Friday after collecting a pair of doubles and a walk in Thursday's 9-6 victory.
Initially, moving Rizzo from the heart of the order to the top was in part to help the Cubs first baseman get going. Maddon is a big fan of hitting guys leadoff to help them reset mentally and find their stroke again.
But it is working — Rizzo entered play Friday 8-for-16 with 5 doubles, 3 walks, 3 runs and 3 RBI in the leadoff spot over the last week. The promptly reached on a hit-by-pitch and walk his first two times up Friday.
He's also been the team's biggest cheerleader:
So how long will Maddon keep this unconventional lineup?
"I don't know," he said, smiling and shaking his head. "I don't know. He came up again in crucial moments [Thursday]. He looks really good out there. I don't know. That's my exact answer."
Yes, Rizzo is looking good in the leadoff spot, but his insertion atop the order has given the Cubs lineup a new dynamic.
With Rizzo first and Kris Bryant second, the guys that are historically the Cubs' top two run producers are hitting atop the order and "behind" the pitcher's spot.
But they're also the Cubs' top two on-base guys and Maddon is liking the look of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — two high-contact guys — following Bryzzo in the order, as they have done recently. (It doesn't hurt to have the NL leader in RBI — Javy Baez — hitting cleanup, either.)
"It's almost a backwards way of doing this right now that I'm finding fascinating," Maddon said. "So I'm just gonna let it play for just a little bit and see where it takes us."
It's taken the Cubs on a 4-game winning streak endcapping the All-Star Break, though the Cardinals got up big early Friday afternoon.
For a team that leads the NL in just about every important offensive category, it's going to be a huge key moving forward if Rizzo gets going on a consistent basis in the second half.