Was this the craziest game you’ve ever been a part of?
“The craziest, absolutely.”
Kris Bryant didn’t even need to go through his memory banks to find comparisons. Saturday’s insane comeback win over the visiting Atlanta Braves had no comparison.
Denizens of the press box, the few fans who waited through three-plus hours of miserable weather conditions and the players getting dressed in the clubhouse all said the same thing: That was the craziest game I’ve ever seen.
Baseball’s got a long history and a lengthy list of wild finishes, but there’s no doubt that Saturday’s 14-10 final will forever be lodged in the memories of those who watched, witnessed and participated in it.
And all because it started as such a game to forget.
In Joe Maddon’s opinion, it was a game that never should have been played, and it’s hard to argue with that assessment considering the conditions at Wrigley Field. It was freezing cold, with an announced wind chill of 25 degrees in the fourth inning. Rain fell the entire game, moving sideways through the stadium in a never-ending mist. And the wind was howling at such a speed that the standings flags and flags honoring the Cubs’ retired jersey numbers never even went up. It wouldn’t have been at all surprising to see the American flag fly off the flagpole above the center field scoreboard.
“I thought the 2008 World Series game was the worst-weather game I ever participated in. I think it just got surpassed,” Maddon said. “That’s not baseball weather. I don’t know what the intent is, I really don’t. The elements were horrific to play baseball, it’s not conducive.
“We made mistakes on the infield, they made mistakes on the infield, in the outfield based on weather-related issues. Because these are really good players. Even to a certain extent their wildness toward the end of the game was contributed to by the horrible weather.
“We’re going to do what we’re asked or told to do. But I’m here to tell you, that was the worst elements I’ve ever participated in in a baseball game ever. And I’ve been in some pretty bad stuff.”
That “wildness,” of course, ended up defining the game. The Braves’ bullpen, which entered Saturday with the best relief ERA in baseball, blew up in the eighth inning, allowing the Cubs to score nine runs — all with two outs — and engineer an unbelievable comeback in jaw-dropping fashion.
Here’s the play-by-play of that bottom of the eighth: hit batter, strikeout, single, strikeout, hit batter, infield single, walk, double, intentional walk, walk, walk, walk, wild pitch, throwing error, strikeout.
Described in more detail, it featured three bases-loaded walks, a seared bases-clearing game-tying double off the bat of Javy Baez, a wild pitch that brought home a runner from third and another when the Braves' catcher threw the ball into center field. It was absolute baseball madness.
It all added up to nine runs, which turned a 10-5 deficit — which was as big as 10-2 earlier in the game — into a 14-10 lead for the Cubs, who walked away with an absolutely incredible win.
The team on the other side of town has turned its tendency not to quit into a mantra. But these guys on the North Side don’t give up easily, either. And they praised the positive attitude in the dugout, with the bench keeping everybody lively. Anthony Rizzo, most likely itching to come off the disabled list, was supposedly acting as cheerleader/team dad, pumping up his teammates and bringing in supplies to keep them warm.
“Everybody played a part in this win, and that’s kind of what we’re all about this year,” Bryant said, “the guys that aren’t in the game, Rizz on the disabled list helping us out, bringing us coats and warm water bottles and doing all he can. Everybody, from our trainers to the clubhouse guys, everybody had a part in this win today, and that’s what makes it more special.”
“It’s not a good feeling when you’re down that much, especially in that weather,” Kyle Schwarber said. “It was a great sign of resilience. I would say that we all had really great attitudes throughout the whole game there. Our bench guys were cheering everyone on, getting everyone going. Once everything started going, we just kept rolling.”
“We don’t really give up never. The energy in the dugout was pretty pumped, with Rizz joking around and stuff,” Baez said. “We didn’t give up.”
And so, yeah, this is one to remember. But will it be a turning point?
That’s hard to say. As much as fans — many of whom were in a foul mood over the game’s first seven innings and were letting the Twitterverse know it — might want it to cure all the ills that have plagued these Cubs through the season’s first two weeks, Maddon cautioned that it’s still too early in the season.
“It can be impactful, but you have to wait till tomorrow or the next day to find that out,” Maddon said. “These are professionals, you don’t know the kind of impact it’s going to have. I do know that the guys are definitely going to go home feeling better about themselves. But I don’t get carried away yet about things like this, I really don’t.”
“It’s just another win in the win column,” Bryant said. “Obviously, there’s a lot more camaraderie and guys having a lot of fun, especially after a win like that, it’s impossible not to have fun. We’ll enjoy it for tonight, and then come out here and it’ll be nice and cold and rainy out here tomorrow.”
They have a point. The Cubs were hardly at their best Saturday, even in pulling off such an epic comeback. They were outhit 15-10, got only three hits in their nine-run inning and glaringly got only one run out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the sixth inning. There were errors in the field — though, as Maddon suggested, perhaps those were weather-related — and Jose Quintana made it another short outing for a Cubs starting pitcher, giving up seven runs in fewer than three innings and putting the Cubs in such a hole to begin with.
The issues remain. One comeback win won’t solve them all. But at the same time, there’s something to be said about something so improbable happening giving a group of players the idea that they can do anything. Maybe it is the start of something special. Like Maddon said, it’s impossible to know until tomorrow.
And while this game is sure to be remembered for a very long time, it will only be celebrated until tomorrow. Maybe even shorter than that.
“Thirty minutes,” Maddon said, “and it’ll be over.”
Some celebration for the craziest game these Cubs have ever played.