Why Wade Davis was the only person in the building not surprised by Michael Taylor's home run


Why Wade Davis was the only person in the building not surprised by Michael Taylor's home run

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.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer 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's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound


Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.