Game 124 // Eighth Inning, Chicago // The Calliope Crashed to the Ground

BOTTOM OF THE EIGHTH: CUBS 14 (5) – 10 BRAVES

 

It’s not yet halfway to May, and we may have seen 2018’s wildest inning.

Wrigley Field. Misty. Wet. Wind chills in the 20s. Cubs down 10-2, on the verge of falling to 6-8 on the year. “7-7 sounds a whole lot better,” every raindrop mutters to its neighbor. Dripping onto the brim of batters’ helmets, down around their ears, whispering: “Can’t you get to 7-7?”

Cold raindrops covering their faces, their uniforms, as the Cubs, this great gang of Chicago Cubs, began to wake up.

 

 

They scored one in the sixth, leaving the bases loaded. Then two more in the seventh. Down 10-5 going into the eighth.

Cub fans turning the radio off, turning the MLB Gameday off, turning the TV broadcast off. Getting on with their Saturdays, their errands, their pessimistic old groove—feeling the golden aura of 2016 wear off as northside baseball nestles back into its familiar ways.

But then.

That eighth inning. That two-out rally.

That hit-by-pitch, that single. That walk. That deficit cut almost in half. That Javier Baez, stepping up to the plate with the bases loaded, 10-7 the score. And that swing. That sweet, sweet swing. That Javy swing, concluding so often in tumbling, twisting, strikeout failure. Connecting here on the big one. Full count, two outs. Down three. That Javy swing—whipping around low on a pitch at his knees, the ball skipping on a line to the left-center wall in almost a second.

Tie game.

 

 

Earlier this week, Baez hit two home runs in the same game, two games in a row. With an average under .200 on the year, struggling in every game but those.

Struggling, in all parts of the game, but for that swing. That swing. That pent-up bolo whip of a swing, angry at the rain, at the score, the record, the slump, the average, angry at the ball for approaching its general direction, until—Crack!

Listening to the raindrops, hardening into icicles clinging to his ear lobes, whispering as he rounds first base and sprints into second: “That 7-7, you made it happen, you made it real. It’s coming. That reset back to .500. Just wait. One minute. Watch what happens next.”

Russell walks. Heyward walks.

And then, Kyle Schwarber walks.

 

 

Cubs lead. Cubs lead.

Fans around Chicagoland get a buzz on their phones. They flip around wildly for the right button to press, the right device to whip out—the right state of mind to be in, the right place to sit, the right screen to turn on, the right readiness for the kind of baseball smile they don’t often know.

That run-around-the-kitchen jumping, shouting kind of smile.

A rare one. A baseball day you don’t go forgetting. A very baseball kind of day. Weird. Cold. Depressing. Boring, boring, boring, and then—thrilling.

Tommy La Stella walks, scoring another. And then, a wild pitch. A wild throw to second, on the same play. A wild throw back to home.

And the Cubs lead 14-10.

Two runs come storming home in a frantic rush. Ecstatic fans wave ponchos like rally towels. And the great Jim Deshaies opens up the vault for a classic:

 

 

There won’t be one like this for a while. When the Cubs look this pathetic, when the Cubs look this miraculous.

When hypothermia is told, with a big defiant grin, “The poncho is coming off, asshole!”

 

 

 

 

When an inning this big comes by. And the calliope crashes to the ground.

 

 

 

 

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