While the “wins” stat is pointless in modern baseball and amazingly is still overused, the one redeeming value it has is providing the historical context to make John Baker’s rare accomplishment last night stand out in an otherwise bleak season for the Cubs.
After throwing 105 pitches through four innings, Edwin Jackson made an early exit and left the game tied up at three runs apiece. A parade of Cubs pitchers came on in relief including Carlos Villanueva, Wesley Wright, Justin Grimm and Brian Schlitter who combined to shut down the injury-depleted Rockies with four scoreless innings.
The previous night, manager Rick Renteria was forced to use closer Hector Rondon on short rest, making him unavailable for the marathon snooze-fest between the Rockies and Cubs. This meant that newly promoted Blake Parker took the ball in the ninth and provided two scoreless innings before handing the ball over to James Russell.
At this point, I assumed Russell would give up the lead (and I could go to bed) leaving the Cubs one step closer to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. However, Russell instead stepped up his game (and hopefully his appeal to potential trade partners) throwing two scoreless innings of his own.
Pedro Strop, who was also used on short rest the night before, came on after Russell and threw another two shutout innings. The problem was that after Strop, there was no one left in the bullpen.
Enter backup catcher John Baker, who had last pitched in the Cape Cod league coming up as a minor leaguer. Baker walked the first batter he faced and blamed it on miscommunication with his catcher:
“I had to shake ‘Wely’ a couple times, because we just weren’t on the same page,” Baker said. “I trust my stuff.”
After inducing a double-play to end the top of the 16th inning, Baker led off the bottom half of the inning with a walk. Arismendy Alcantara was then hit by a pitch before a single by Anthony Rizzo. With the bases loaded, Starlin Castro delivered the game-winning sacrifice fly as Baker scored and became the first Cubs position player ever to earn a “win.”
At six hours and twenty seven minutes, the game was the longest in Cubs history.
Other than the Baker heroics, the best moment of the game may have come between Len and J.D. long before the drama of the 16th inning. In the second inning, J.D. is trying to describe to Len this toy he had growing up that made pencil beards, much like the one Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario is sporting. Len, to the viewers delight, has absolutely no clue what J.D. is talking about: