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Game #114: Monday Night Battle Goes to the Cubs

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Chicago Cubs
Aug 5, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Oakland Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien (10) and Oakland Athletics second baseman Jurickson Profar (23) celebrate after the two run home run in the third inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

In an amazing battle of hitting and managing, the Cubs and A’s battled to the very last pitch in the 9th inning. All totaled, the Cubs were able to fly their W flag, defeating the Athletics 6-5.

Link to game thread #1 is here:

Link to game thread #2 is here:

Link to game thread #3 is here:

The Cubbies made a statement quickly in the first inning by demonstrating just why they topped the National League Central this last weekend. On a hanging fastball with a little Chi-Town wind for the assist, Nicholas Castellanos took it over the right field wall, just over the basket, on a fastball up by Chris Bassitt. That said, it didn’t take long for the Athletics to demonstrate their hitting prowess when Marcus Semien hit the 176th team homerun of 2019, scoring Profar.

Profar walked and was advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Chris Bassitt, Henricks to Rizzo for the out. This 2-1 lead took the Athletics into the bottom of the 6th inning.

While Bassitt gave up a homerun in the first inning, his composure, posture and delivery overall was consistent and served him well, even when he had difficulties. In the second inning he led off the inning by striking out Javier Baez who was “swinging for the fences” and actually tweaked his ankle slightly on such a big swing. After seven pitches, he gave up a double to Kyle Schwarber on a 95 MPH sinker. He then lost the battle to Victor Caratini when, after starting out with an 0-2 advantage, gave up a walk on seven pitches. Tony Kemp then followed with a base hit up the middle, close enough to second that it pushed Schwarber to hesitate and slow his advance to third. Bassitt came through with back-to-back strikeouts to pitcher Kyle Hendricks and Jason Heyward to close out the inning and get out the team out of their base-runners-dilemma.

Melvin had Bassitt bat in the 5th. This made sense; Bassitt had thrown only 74 pitches and had settled in after the initial struggles. Unfortunately Javier Baez won the battle with Bassitt, sending a deep shot 454 feet to center field to tie that game. Following this, one might have been singing, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” In this scenario, Profar and Semien were the friends who helped. Here is how it played out. Kyle Schwarber picked up his second hit of the game. Victor Caratini then followed with a shot to Profar at second base. This was a hard shot and, without looking, Profar deftly fielded the ball, tossed a sideways shuffle pass to Semien—seemingly without looking—who then threw to Olson despite his view being blocked by Schwarber barreling down on second; nonetheless Semien delivered for a 4-6-3 double play that was stunning. The inning finished off with Semien grabbing a backhanded grounder to throw out Tony Kemp at first to end the 6th. Tie score: 2-2.

Like Melvin with Bassitt, Joe Maddon continued the game with starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks. Despite a hit batsman (Robbie Grossman) in the 6th, Hendricks settled in and closed out the sixth. In the 7th, Hendricks was able to get Matt Olson to fly out to left field for the third time in the game. Hendricks then proceeded to walk Mark Canha, which ended his night. His saving grace was bullpen-mate Rowan Wick who came in to get Stephen Piscotty to hit to shortstop Marcus Semien who converted the double play by throwing to Profar who threw to Olson to end the inning with out number three.

In the bottom of the 7th, Blake Treinen replaced Chris Bassitt. Treinen faced pinch-hitter Ian Happ, replacing Rowan Wick at the plate. Unfortunately, the substitution of Treinen did not work out as planned and the right move seemed to go to the Cubs in this instance. Happ took the ball deep to center field to put Chicago ahead 3-2 with a solo home run. On the night, Chris Bassitt went six innings, giving up two home runs and a total of 8 hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

Following the home run to Happ, Treinen proceeded to give up a single to Jason Heyward. Nicholas Castellanos then hit a shot into the left center field gap and, with tremendous speed, Heyward scored from first as Castellanos easily coasted into second for the double. Cubs 4, A’s 2. Treinen’s troubles did not stop there. Despite having two outs, a sacrifice grounder by Kris Bryant and the strikeout of Anthony Rizzo, Treinen then allowed Javier Baez his second home run of the game, this one a two-run homer that scored Castellanos. That was all she wrote for Treinen as Ryan Buchter replaced him. Treinen left the game having thrown 17 pitches and giving up four earned runs on four hits and solidifying the loss to be added to his stats. Ryan Buchter took down the hot bat of Kyle Schwarber, striking him out to then the inning. But the damage was done: Cubs 6, A’s 2.

Steve Cishek came in to take the mound for the Cubs in the 8th and the Athletics quickly showed Cishek what their bats could do. Jurickson Profar doubled into left to start the inning. Herrmann, on what might be considered a bad call by C.B. Buckner with his ever moving strike zone, was called out on strikes. Nick Martini, pinch-hitting, slammed a 2 RBI home run to right center field to put the A’s within striking distance of a win, 4-6.

Marcus Semien followed suit by hitting his 19th homer of the season to left center. Cishek proceeded to walk Robbie Grossman, the tying run, and Joe Maddon had had enough—pulling him and sending Brandon Kintzler to the mound to face Matt Chapman. Chapman, however, continued his plate struggles, striking out. With two outs, Kintzler faced Matt Olson.

Matt Olson, with a 1-1 count, hit a shot down the first base line where the ball careened off of second baseman Tony Kemp’s leg that allowed Grossman to advance to third and the winning run on first. Unfortunately, the A’s could not convert a run. Mark Canha grounded out to second baseman Tony Kemp who threw to Anthony Rizzo for out number three. But the A’s ended the inning within one run of the Cubs, a far cry from the beginning of the inning when the A’s were down 2-6. Piscotty, Profar and Herrmann would give it another go in the 9th.

Joakim Soria came in for the 8th and quickly denied the Cubbies access to any hits. Victor Caratini began the inning by grounding out to Marcus Semien who threw to Olson for the first out. Tony Kemp hit a high fly ball to right field for the second out. Ian Happ, who pinch-hit in the 7th and was left in the game, became the third out as he flew out to Nick Martini who remained in the game in left field.

Kyle Ryan closed out the game on the mound for the Cubs. Facing Piscotty, a short liner to left fielder Ian Happ led to the first out of the 9th. Jurickson Profar with a 2-2 count grounded up the middle to be thrown out 4-3, Bote to Rizzo. With two outs, Khris Davis came in as the final hope in the 9th. With a 3-1 count, Davis waited and walked—becoming the tying run on first. Meanwhile, Nick Martini whose 2 RBI homerun put the A’s win striking distance, was pulled and replaced by Chad Pinder—something unexpected given Martini’s previous success at the plate. With a 1-1 count, Pinder proved Melvin’s decision was not a poor one as he singled to left field to become the go-ahead run. With two on, two out, and Marcus Semien up, Maddon pulled Ryan for David Phelps. Maddon’s decision seemed to be the right one but barely. Marcus Semien hit a deep fly ball to the warning track in left for the final out of the game, ending an epic battle of managing and hitting.

Backseat driving is always easy to do in sports, and tonight’s A’s game was no exception. One has to question why Treinen—who gave up a home run, a single and an RBI double—was allowed to continue, the result being a two-run homer to Baez. Had Melvin pulled him after the double, the Cubs could have been kept to four total runs. Similarly, why pull Nick Martini who, as a pinch hitter went yard with a two run homer that clearly showed his bat was hot; subbing in Chad Pinder, despite his single, seemed an odd move given Martini’s success the inning before. This, contrasted with Maddon’s quicker decisions around his multiple pitching changes provided quite the managerial contrast for the evening. This is in no way a criticism of Melvin, but it is a bit puzzling from one angle and an example of just how difficult it is to manage a big-league team.

Overall, hats off to the A’s who battled through the ninth and had an overall solid game.