TOP OF THE THIRTEENTH: CUBS 6 – (6) 7 PIRATES
“Freese hits an infield single off the glove of Rob Zaztryz…Zaztrzyz…Zastryzny,” and Len Kasper’s almost worked himself up into a sneeze, stuttering over the strange sounds of too many Z’s.
In the Cubs’ clubhouse the other day (via ESPN), there was one simple question, posed to the team: “Pronounce Rob Zastryzny”—with the full gamut of butcherings drawn out, from the almost-theres to the dead-ass-wrongs.
“Rob Za…strinski. / Egh…. Zasstreeznee / Uhh…. Rob Zhaztrzyny /Rob… Za-trizznee? / Zazitski….. uh I dunno… Zazinski? Zinski. / Rob…. Zellzinski / Yeah, no chance. / Zingl… I don’t even know. / Just call him Rob.”
For the record, it’s “zass-trizz-nee”, and he’s out on the mound for the thirteenth inning at Wrigley, a tie game, the back end of the Pirates’ order up—David Freese on first with the infield knock.
Francisco Cervelli slaps a base hit on the ground to left.
The ballpark’s half empty, the Cubs are way out in front of the standings, the Pirates are treading water, and the first game of the series serves here as a kind of should-be grudge match—rehashing the tension of 2015 and the wild-card game. But it’s instead a subdued, quieter rivalry. Without the win-column nearness, lacking the feel that it’ll have all too much of an effect.
But it’s been a hell of a game.
The Pirates were up 6-3 in the eighth. Willson Contreras hit a home run, Jorge Soler hit a home run, and it was tied in the ninth. Javier Baez was thrown out twice at the plate in extras, the would-be winning runs stopped with a jolt. Now, still, 6-6 in the thirteenth.
Jordy Mercer draws a walk on a full count.
“The bases,” Len says, “are full of Pirates.”
Sean Rodriguez comes up with the infield in.
There’s a mound meeting, and on the Wrigley organ it’s “With a Little Help From My Friends”, Gary Pressy clacking the keys like a narration to the huddle-up.
They break, Zastryzny sets up again, and the count goes to 3-0. And then, as if it were magic, three quick fastball strikes. Rodriguez stalking off to the dugout with the riled-up grin of disbelief.
Josh Harrison comes up. Scraping the dirt around the batter’s box with his cleats. Bending his knees, letting loose a hack, and he lines a ball in the air to left, into the glove of Zobrist—an out traded for the go-ahead run batted in. A giant 1, painted in white on the green metal square, gets added to the frame on the great Wrigley scoreboard. It’s 7-6, two outs, Pittsburgh ahead, and Jeff Locke steps up—in for long-relief, with no Pirate hitters left on the bench.
He strikes out looking. Rob Z out of a jam.
And the Cubs down one with the top of the order due up.
BOTTOM OF THE THIRTEENTH: CUBS 8 (6) – 7 PIRATES
Audible, singular fan-calls ping in from around the stands. “Eyyy!” “Eyyyoo!” “Lehzgocubbayzz!” And a collective cheering mini-roar, as Fowler smacks a ground-ball single through a gap in the infield.
Hits a deep fly ball, trailing fowl down the line, to the sound of a few hundred “Whoaaa! Whoaa?? Awww”s from the crowd. The camera zooms in on the clock. A perfect circle of white, the arms tilted straight up for midnight, and Len Kasper croons: “Just…about to Tuesday~”
And he lines another pitch foul, a would-be double a foot outside the line. An 0-2 count works back to a 3-2 count, and Bryant lofts a flare single the other way, to right, the now-regular battle-back routine, as Fowler charges past second and in to third.
The Pirates hold a mound meeting. The Wrigley Field speakers flick on, to the soundtrack of a hip-hop god—Marky Mark Wahlberg’s “Good Vibrations”—a track cut off in most at-bats at the ten second mark as Rizzo digs in, played out now for a whole minute as the infield deliberates. The lyrics, copied here, from what was to the 20th century what Samuel Taylor Coleridge was to the 19th:
Black, white, red, brown
Feel the vibration
Come on, come on
Feel it, feel it
Feel the vibration~
Rizzo hits a sharp ground ball on the first pitch, a single through the gap beyond second base, past the creeping infield. Looks up at the first base coach, points up to the centerfield clock, just turned 12:01 am. The game is tied up, at 7-7, no outs, the beginning of a new calendar day, the Cubs now sitting pretty.
He walks. Bases loaded.
And then, finally, Montero. Miggy.
The organ plays, the fans clap. Clap, clap, clap, clap clap clap and on and on. They’re all standing, with infield and outfield both drawn in with nervous defensive energy.
On an 0-2 count he fouls one off his foot. Pops the next pitch foul into the camera bay, just out of play. Had Freese caught it, the Cubs would have won right there on the tag-up, a fact he half-realizes and tries to shake out of his head.
Montero lays off on a wicked slider outside.
And on the next pitch—a blurted bit of joy from Len Kasper on the TV broadcast, as the ball flies on a line off the bat, and onto the left-field grass: “Cubs win! Cubs win, Miguel Montero!”
Bryant runs home to score the winning run, the whole team bursts from the dugout, Montero’s shirt near-torn, powdered rosin thrown like a rogue snowball into his face, and the whole mob grabs him between first and second. The screenboard in left replays the hit—a low line-shot the other way, a half-humble bat flip and a victory trot to first.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 30, 2016
He was the only pinch-hit man left on the Cubs bench, in this many-hour game—the winning hit, the ending walkoff, and the fluttering, luffing, dying sail of the pirate ship.
From the moment of the hit, through all hours of the night, the Miguel Montero catchphrase echoes around the city–in bars, on sofas, in bedtime stories, broadcast around the Twitters, the post-game chats, the t-shirts, in its proudest moment all year. We are good, he says, with a chorus behind him. #WeAreGood.