2015 NLWC: CHC vs. PIT — A water cooler, a brawl, a shutout, and a complete game

So much drama in Iron City tonight. While the game last night started electric and progressively petered out, tonight’s Wild Card game just showed off the passion that is the Pittsburgh fan base. Tonight’s game was between division rivals Cubs and Pirates, and the winner will go on to play their other division rival — the Cardinals in the Division Series this weekend. So basically, this week is heaven on earth for NL Central fans.

Well, not so much for Pirates fans after tonight. And those fair-weather Cubs fans (I’m looking at you Back the Future fanatics) are going bonkers with the fans from the North Side finally praying the Curse of the Goat is on its way to being over. And after watching this game, I can’t tell you how glad I am that I’m a Yankees fan. Oh, the drama, the “passion”, the Gatorade? We’ll get there…

So as per tradition, both the Pirates and Cubs sent up their best pitchers from their rotation. And while both pitchers tended to be fairly even through the regular season, the Cubs’ starter certainly edged out the Pirates tonight. The Pirates’ starter Cole threw 78 pitches through 5 innings, giving up 4 runs and striking out just 4 Cubs’ batters.

In the 1st inning, a Cubs’ lead-off single stole 2nd and then scored on an RBI single to get the scoring started for the evening. Then in the 3rd, with 1 out and a Cubs’ batter on 1st with a single, a batter then hit a 2-run home run to increase the Cubs’ lead. And finally, a 1-out solo home run in the 5th inning capped off Chicago’s scoring.

After that, the Pirates went to their bullpen for assistance in tamping down the Cubs’ offense. Bastardo, Watson, Soria, and Melancon all kept the Cubs from adding to their score for the Pirates, throwing 4 rather impressive innings for the home team. It was unfortunately not enough, as the Pirates never capitalized on their few opportunities to do something about their zeroes winking down at them from the scoreboard at PNC Park.

The Cubs’ starter Arrieta threw at complete game, 9 innings, 113 total pitches, giving up just 4 hits, and striking out 11 Pittsburgh batters.

But oh, you can’t forget the drama…

So being hit by a pitch seemed to be a pattern tonight. Arrieta hit catcher Cervelli (yes, the former Yankee) in the 5th and then infielder Harrison in the 6th, though I don’t think either was intentional. And in the 7th, the Pirates’ reliever Watson plunked Arrieta (remember, in the NL, pitchers bat too), though I don’t think that was intentional either, but the home plate umpire took the initiative (finally) and warned both benches.

This started a staring contest as Arrieta tried to glare-down Watson, who was more concerned in his conversation with Cervelli on the next batter. This set off some words exchanged between the dugouts, and the Cubs jumped their fences which prompted the Pirates to jump their fences. And suddenly the first base line looked like an odd mix of black and blue as the words heated up and shoving commenced.

The cooler heads on both teams, the coaching staffs, and the 6-man umpire crew managed to get control of the situation and send everyone back to their respective areas. The umpire staff conferred with each other and then with Hurdle and Maddon (the Pirates and Cubs’ managers respectively). No immediate ejections were made.

However, one particularly “passionate” player found himself in a bit of a conundrum. So, yes, he was one of the more “passionate” guys mouthing off from the Pirates’ dugout to the Cubs players and then almost frenetic in the scrum. But this guy was riding high having been pulled from the game before his first at-bat earlier in the game, and then after the benches-clearing, he was still rather hot under the collar. So he promptly returned to the dugout and took out his anger on a Gatorade cooler. (Some fan capitalized on the meme and marketing possibilities and created a Twitter account for the cooler; within minutes of it being active, the cooler had over 4500 followers.) He was then escorted back to the clubhouse and informed that he alone would face ejection for his over-the-top antics as part of the brawl.

Final score in Pittsburgh: 4-0 Cubs. Cubs will face the Cardinals in St. Louis beginning Friday.

My postseason predictions: so, I’m 0-for-2 now in the postseason and starting off October baseball well, as you can see. And yet, I’ll continue with my postseason predictions. I should note that some of my choices are based on personal biases (what I hope will happen) and some are based on stats or intuition (what will probably happen). I’ll let you figure out which ones are which.

  • ALDS 1: Texas over Toronto in 5 games
  • ALDS 2: Houston over Royals in 4 games
  • NLDS 1: Cardinals over Cubs in 3 games
  • NLDS 2: Mets over Dodgers in 4 games

Word is already circulating in Yankee Universe about off-season free agents and contract negotiations for the 2016 Yankees. Right now, it’s just chatter as the season just ended yesterday for the Yankees. But I’ll let you know when I know something.

Go Yankees!

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