Replay Got It Right, Kolten Got It Wong, Javy Went to Right, Another Oppo Dong
Since the title alone should bring fans by the dozens, I’m going to avoid trying too hard on this post. By that I mean not breaking down Saturday’s pivotal play in all it’s minutia, relying instead on either links or videos to fill in any necessary details. The big home run by Javy Báez in the 8th inning of the series-clinching win over the Cardinals was notable for several reasons, not the least of which was the non-play that made it possible.
With the score knotted at 5-5 and the Cubs desperate for just about anything since the Taylor Davis grand slam — it’s weird to put those words together and have them make sense in something other than gratuitous fanfic — four innings earlier. That’s when Javy teed off on a high fastball at 95.5 mph that followed two other fastballs in a similar location. I’m no expert, but I’m not sure it was wise of John Brebbia to go back to that well a third time after Javy fouled two of them off.
Wait, let me rephrase that: It was trés stupide for Ol’ Bushybeard to pump high fastballs against the man who boasts more opposite-field homers than any other righty batter in the game. At his current pace, Javy will end up with 32 of them. Homers that is. To right or right-center. He’s got seven already after hitting eight all of last year.
It shouldn’t come as anything approaching a surprise at this point, what with the Cubs’ work on opportunity hitting and using the whole field this spring. And though they don’t lead the league in opposite-field homers — their 11 trail the Brewers’ 15 — the Cubs’ .372 oppo average and .660 slugging are the best in baseball. They have a .425 team wOBA and 167 wRC+ when hitting the other way, both of which are just…insanocheez.
But it was all set up by a play that didn’t happen, or that was perhaps preordained not to happen. Just before the homer, Javy had sliced a ball down the first-base line that looked as though it would have dropped fair had it not ticked off of Kolten Wong‘s glove. It was called foul on the field and no angle existed to overturn it, so Javy had to dig back in.
“Thank God that we did not get what we wanted right there,” Maddon said after the game. “If that had been called fair, it would’ve been much more difficult to score him probably. But, we get another shot and the ball goes in the bleachers. It was loud. It was gone the moment he hit it. He doesn’t surprise anymore.”
Quite possibly because I’m typing this from my parents’ home, I’m reminded of a song one of the members of their church congregation would ask to sing every once in a while. It was cringe-worthily off-key and certainly an odd choice, but I suppose it also took cajones to get up there on Sunday morning and belt out Garth Brooks’s Unanswered Prayers in public.
If you’re unfamiliar with the ditty, it’s basically saying that sometimes things work out for the better even when they don’t initially work out the way we want them to. For a little more context on the big hit, including a few stills and some Statcast images, check out (Ol’ Dirty) Jordan Bastian’s postgame blog.
And since I’ve said pretty much all I need to, I’ll close with this: In loving Javy’s homer to right, I don’t wanna be Wong.