It’s kinda cute that Alec Asher decided to pitch to Kyle Schwarber. Can you blame him though? I mean, the rookie masher had gone 0-4 on in his first full game back after sitting out a week with rib soreness. Perhaps someone should have told the Phillies that Schwarber had homered 4 times following an 0-4 performance with at least 2 strikeouts. Maybe then Asher wouldn’t have grooved a first-pitch fastball.
448 feet later, that pitch was landing up on the deck above the bleachers out in left-center. Sadly, I didn’t get to see it live. I was engaged in a conversation with my son about not being a jerk to his classmates and my wife felt it would be in poor taste to leave the television on. Sufficiently chastised, my little buddy headed to bed and I flipped the game back on to see the tally and how the Cubs got it. Oh, man, I love me some WAR Bear.
As you might imagine, I was all the more amped up for his next AB after having missed the first. I was not disappointed. Perhaps having learned something from their first dance, Asher led with a slider this time and experienced much better results. By that, I mean that the ball had a lower exit velocity (100 vs. 108) and traveled 60 fewer feet. It still got out though, and was again hit to left-center.
That is some monster power, right there. But maybe the best part of the second homer was what happened as Schwarber was beginning his trot. Not really sure whether it would get out, he was only half paying attention to first base as he watched the ball. As a result, he absolutely bit it and face-planted while rounding the bag, which drew a chuckle from Len Kasper as he called the play.
You can see the kid trying to remain stoic after dusting himself off and continuing his circuit of the bases, but as he rounds third it’s impossible for him to keep the smile from breaking. He knows he’s going to catch hell in the dugout, as evidenced by all the pointing and laughing from the players waiting there for him. It’s stuff like this that just makes me fall in love with my team all over again though.
By the time Kris Bryant came up in the 5th, the game was pretty much already decided. Of course, that didn’t stop the Cubs’ new all-time rookie RBI leader (89) from putting up a highlight of his own. Just prior to the game, Todd Hollandsworth had been talking about how Bryant’s uppercut swing was perfect for hitting breaking balls, the motion of which matched up with the arc of the bat.
Sure enough, Bryant took a 76 mph curveball and hit it to the ivy-covered wall 439 feet away. Asher, meet masher. Again. If you are arguing for anyone other than Bryant to take home the NL Rookie of the Year award, you’re doing it wrong. This is a guy who started the first game of the double-header in LF and the second at 3B. He’s going to end up with the best rookie season in Cubs history. And that smile. Seeing that beaming grin as he crossed the plate after the homer to congratulations from Chris Coghlan was great.
I know every team has its own camaraderie, but the Cubs are my team and this is something I haven’t seen in a long time. Sure, they’ve had some really good groups in my lifetime, but I can’t remember another that just seemed to have so much fun together. I credit Joe Maddon for a great deal of that. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a tip of the cap to Theo Epstein and Co. as well. This is not some random collection of mercenaries, after all. These players were assembled for more than just their talent and we’re seeing that each day.
While we may be growing ever more obnoxious and overbearing as fans (though with a long way to go to catch the BFIB), I can’t see how someone could watch these guys and not feel good about it. I’m not saying everyone should be Cubs fans, just that you have to enjoy the way they are genuinely having a good time out there. I mean, you don’t have to. But I’m going to. Early in the first game of the double-header, folks were talking about how the Phillies just seemed to have the Cubs’ number. 15 or so innings later, not so much.
I love to watch this young team continue to exceed expectations, particularly those we’ve set for them. And on a day that represents such sadness, it was nice to find solace in several hours of Cubs baseball.