CHICAGO – As the rains swept through Wrigley Field in the ninth inning, the thought began to dawn on the Cubs and their fans.
Extra innings was a real possibility – and that’s means something quite different for 2020.
Because of the shortened season, and the hopes to bring a contest to a conclusion sooner than later, a runner is placed on second base to begin the tenth inning along with every one after that. The Cubs had yet to take part in an extra inning contest so far, so when they were still tied with the Pirates at one on Sunday, this new rule came into effect.
On this particular afternoon, the Cubs passed the test.
The Cubs managed to hold the Pirates scoreless over the course of the tenth and 11th then broke through in the bottom half to pull out a 2-1 victory. Javier Baez’s single through the drawn-in infield brought home David Bote to give the Cubs their first sweep of 2020 and improve their record to an NL Central-best 7-2.
“We won, so it’s good so far,” said manager David Ross of the team’s first overtime experience. “It definitely puts a lot of heat in the moment and the heart rate goes up and you’re not having everybody trying to hit homers. I think sometimes in extra innings, it ends up being a home run derby.
“You feel that sense of having good at-bats, things that we preach and moving the baseball and getting runners over and all those little details that matter in winnings. I liked it. It showed a lot of areas we can improve, that’s for sure.”
His team did come through in their first try at this unusual baseball “overtime” in 2020. It started with the first batter in the top of the tenth, when Kyle Schwarber threw out Jacob Stallings at the plate after a leadoff hit by Josh Bell.
In the bottom of the 11th, the Cubs pushed across the winning run, beginning with a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rizzo that was deep enough to get Bote, who started the inning on second, to third. Baez ended it with a single to center, giving the Cubs the weekend sweep of Pittsburgh.
Before that, it was Jon Lester who was strong again, allowing just one run over six innings. Schwarber got the Cubs their only tally before the 11th on a long double to center that brought home Willson Contreras.
Much-maligned over the first week-and-a-half of the season, four Cubs’ bullpen pitchers held the Pirates scoreless the final five innings, scattering just two hits in the process. Ryan Tepera and Jeremy Jeffress had scoreless 10th and 11th innings, respectively, to give the Cubs the shot to win.
“We handeled it very well,” said Schwarber of the first extra innings game in 2020. “I think our bullpen did a phenominal job today of just going out there and keeping us in the game and we were able to scratch across a run.
“An Jonny Lester too, being classic Jon. It was great all around.”