Terrance Gore’s 13th-inning at-bat doomed Cubs
Without Terrance Gore, the Cubs might not have been able to make it through regulation tied. Without Terrance Gore, the Cubs might have been able to make it into the 14th inning.
Gore, who is only on the Cubs’ postseason roster for his speed, played an integral part in the Cubs’ 2-1, 13-inning loss to the Rockies in the NL Wild Card game on Tuesday night. With the Cubs trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth, Gore pinch-ran for Anthony Rizzo, who singled with two outs. Gore promptly stole second base, then came around to score easily on an RBI double to left-center field by Javier Báez. The Cubs might not have been able to tie the game if Rizzo had not been replaced by Gore.
In the bottom of the 13th, after the Rockies hit a trio of singles to break the 1-1 tie to take a 2-1 lead, Gore led off the inning. Gore has been in the majors for parts of five seasons, mostly as a September call-up with the Royals and Cubs. He has taken a grand total of 19 plate appearances despite appearing in 63 games. He has hit .063/.211/.063 but has stolen 27 bases in 31 attempts. Gore’s postseason numbers are even more absurd: he has appeared in eight games but taken no official plate appearances. He swiped four bags in five attempts and scored two runs.
If you’re Gore facing Scott Oberg to lead off the bottom of the 13th inning, you leave the bat on your shoulders the entire time, right? Go up with a wiffle ball bat. That’s mostly what Gore did. He worked the count to 2-2, then appeared to be nicked on his left shoulder by a 96 MPH fastball that ran a bit too far inside. The pitch was a cross-up between Oberg and catcher Tony Wolters and ended up nailing home plate umpire Chris Guccione. Gore was awarded first base, but had to come back after replay review revealed that he was not, in fact, hit by Oberg’s fastball. With a 3-2 count, the bat should never leave Gore’s shoulders. Gore swung and missed at a slider that dove low and outside of the strike zone. Oberg proceeded to strike out Báez and Albert Almora, Jr. to end the game, sending the Rockies to the NLDS.
Oberg has been excellent this year, particularly when it comes to being stingy about walks. After walking 10.4 percent of batters he faced in his first three seasons in the big leagues between 2015-17, he walked only 5.3 percent of batters faced this season. When facing a full count, Oberg threw ball four in six of 32 opportunities, or 18.75 percent. Not great odds, but better odds than Gore and his .063 batting average swinging the bat and hoping for a base hit or forcing a fielding error.
The Cubs had no position players left, so Gore was on his own. If Gore didn’t understand the situation, manager Joe Maddon and his coaching staff should have. They should have given Gore direct orders not to swing the bat.
Is it all Gore’s fault the Cubs are already eliminated from the playoffs? Of course not, as of the 50 Cubs batters who came to the plate, only 11 reached base. 10 were stranded as the club went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Rockies pitching racked up 16 strikeouts. But if Gore were to get on by drawing a walk (or being hit by a pitch), it’s nearly a foregone conclusion that he moves himself into scoring position. He might even be able to get to third base on his own, opening up the possibility for a sacrifice fly, an RBI ground out, or a chance to score on a wild pitch/passed ball. It was a pivotal moment in the game, with a leverage index of 3.53 (an average LI is 1.00). And it’s one Cubs fans will be remembering until spring training begins next year.