We all saw the monkey, and nobody wanted to address it. It had morphed into an elephant with a HUGE 7 on its side.
Kershaw walks Rizzo. on FOUR pitches. that are NOWHERE near the zone.
“this can’t be happening.”
“this IS happening.”
Rizzo takes first.
Zobrist bats. Frustrating, unorthodox stance. mouth wide open while hitting. really makes for an awkward plate appearance, but the dude can hit. and he’s a righty.
Grandal, spooked by Gonzalez charge from 1B, drops a catcher popup (super-difficult/underrated catch, ps).
“this really is going to happen again, isn’t it?”
Zobrist hits a hard foul ball.
Zobrist inexplicably takes a fastball through the heart of the plate for strike three.
HUGE sigh of relief.
Addison Russell. Stud. Struggling, but a stud nonetheless.
1-1 count crack off the bat, flyball to left.
Kiké, positioned perfectly in left, makes the catch. two outs.
“He’s gonna do it. Clayton’s gonna get the monkey off his back once and for all.”
But baseball is funny. It really is.
Who steps up – well, it’s Javier Baez. The man that had a superstar-in-the-making reputation for two years without producing. Until this postseason, when he’s become a superstar within a fortnight. And he has one of the two hits on the night off of Kershaw. He’s an immediate Cubs superstar, already entrenched in Cubs lore, especially after his astute play in the field earlier, where he intentionally allowed a pop flare fall in front of him, instead of catching it – the result was a double-play. very heady.
So Baez, the most confident of all Cubs, is at the plate. The air hangs heavy with humidity and bladders are weighed down with beer. Wrigley Field is rollicking.
First pitch to Baez is a ball. The crowd, fervid with excitement, shakes the ancient ballpark.
Kershaw fires a 95-mph fastball letter-high and on the outside half of the plate. Baez takes a mighty rip and CRACKS a bomb deep to center. Every fan, at Wrigley and watching on FS1, takes to their feet. Kershaw huddles over, hands on his knees – this one is gone. The sound, the crowd reaction, Baez’ little hop-step after he hit it –
“We all knew this was going to happen. Damn 7th inning.”
And Joc Pederson, one foot on the warning track, settles under the heavy ball for the third out, excitedly points at Kershaw, who breathes the biggest damn sigh of relief and smiles his way into the dugout.
The monkey? The elephant? They’re gone. Kershaw is the only animal left in these playoffs.