The Cubs and Brewers needed 15 innings to settle Saturday’s score, making it the longest game the two teams have ever played at Wrigley Field. And that marathon, combined with heavy reliever usage in the previous few games, meant emptying both the bullpen and bench. Tyler Chatwood batting for himself with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 13th wasn’t a matter of faith, it was necessity.
The deposed starter has become an indispensable late-inning long man, but he was also Joe Maddon‘s last available pitcher when he entered the game. And backup catcher Taylor Davis was the only remaining bat, which means hitting for Chatwood would have resulted in a position player pitching. Even though a similar situation made John Baker a cult hero, Maddon wasn’t considering a reboot.
“No, that’s not even outside the box,” the manager quipped after the game. “That’s outside the universe.”
Is it really, though? We’re talking about a guy whose uncanny ability to find live cameras at the ballpark made him a viral sensation and whose first MLB homer was a game-tying grand slam. Coming on to toss a couple innings may not have been par for the course, but it wouldn’t necessarily have been a double bogey.
Rather than risk shanking his drive into the drink, Maddon chose to lay up with Chatwood. Which, wow, can we talk about how wild it is that Chatwood is now a guy whose presence in a tight game instills confidence? Even if he wasn’t that dude, he was a better option than any position player.
But since nothing is guaranteed, the skipper was running through the possibilities should the game dictate a move.
“I was going around the horn thinking about it,” Maddon admitted. “I thought maybe if you want to get smart, bring in Rizzo on the lefty. Weird stuff like that. Have Taylor go to first base. But it was Taylor.”
That move probably would have happened had Willson Contreras not walked the Cubs off with a win for the third time in five games. And so the chance for Davis to further inflate his cult legend status passed by at 111 mph, like Moonlight Graham getting that close to his dream just to see it disappear like that.
Except it didn’t really disappear because it was never there in the first place. And I’d wager Davis was happier watching the starting catcher end the game than he’d have been trying to extend it from the mound himself. Not to mention the fact that Davis has already borne the hero mantle for a while this season.
And that’s what’s been so great about the Cubs at this early juncture: Anyone can and everyone has stepped up to win games. In the last week alone we’ve seen a handful of massive home runs, three of which have ended contests. So it’s really not outside the realm of imagination to see a backup catcher out there pitching in a tie game.
Let’s just be thankful it didn’t come to that Saturday evening.