Neither team had scored since trading single tallies in the first two innings, but one call in the bottom of the 10th may have changed the tenor of the game. Wait, scratch that. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz had presided over an amoeba zone all night well before making a call that Cubs announcer Jim Deshaies said may have been the worst miss of the year.
It was already a dicey situation, with Kolten Wong on second following a one-out double against Mike Montgomery. Joe Maddon wanted a righty, bringing on Dillon Maples to face the right-handed-hitting Harrison Bader. And Maples did his job, striking out Bader with a full-count slider that was unquestionably in the strike zone by every objective measure.
Problem is, only one person’s subjective assessment mattered. So Diaz called ball four and the Cardinals had two on with one out instead of the other way around.
That's a strike. pic.twitter.com/nADQeVWwCK
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) June 1, 2019
And how about the first pitch also being a strike, basically the exact same pitch he got right afterwards?
Maples didn’t show it on the outside, but he was clearly thrown off by the bad call and walked Jedd Gyorko on four pitches. Even by Maples’ normally wild standards, his pitches were nowhere near the zone. That set up a bases-loaded situation that resulted in an eventual walk-off.
Listen, I’m not taking heat off the offense for failing to score more than one run. You don’t deserve to win if you can’t hang a crooked number. But Yu Darvish battled through horrendous early control issues to go six innings of three-hit ball and put his team in position to win. He even drove in the Cubs’ only run. The suspect bullpen hadn’t issued a walk until the terrible call against Maples.
All said, this is a game the Cubs should have won. But they didn’t and that sucks and the terrible call stands out because it absolutely changed the complexion of the inning and directly impacted the outcome.
“That’s the kind of stuff you want to see something done about,” Maddon said after the game. “And I’m still not advocating an electronic strike zone, I’m just advocating, ‘Let’s go, let’s go, you cannot miss that pitch in that situation.’
“And like I said, here’s a guys that’s ascending to the major leagues as a relief pitcher, doing a wonderful job. Does his job and does not get rewarded for it. That’s what kind of pisses me off, quite frankly.”
Can’t say it much better than that, but now the Cubs need to suck it up and get back after it over the weekend. The Cardinals had to burn their best bullpen arms and the Cubs’ high-scoring offense should be primed to blow up after a stinker Friday night.
What’s more, Diaz won’t be behind the plate again.