Game 104 // First Inning // The Death of the 2017 Cubs



Fifteen minutes into the first, and Jon Lester is down for the count.

Pulled before the inning ends. The worst of his career.

It’s the first inning and—10 runs?



On the Pirates TV broadcast to start the inning, there’s an omen. Sort of.

“If Lester is on his game, he could be tough. If he’s off, he could be had.”

Well holy insight, Batman, if only Joe Maddon had that info—he’d have never sent boy Jon out to the mound! You mean—If he’s off, he could be had? Hell, what if he’s off?! He could be—he could be—well he could be had!

So, the question becomes: Is he off? Or is he on?

And then: If he’s off indeed, and could be had, will he indeed be had?

Josh Harrison lines a single into center.

He’s off.

Kris Bryant barehands a ground ball from Cervelli, throws out to first. One out.

He’s on?

Andrew McCutchen comes up to bat. Batting over .400 the past two months. Lester leaves a cutter up over the plate. A double lined down the line, tucked just fair beside the wall. Harrison scores,1-0. Pirates lead.

He’s off. He could be had. And the being had is well underway.

But wait. Schwarber points at the spot, down the line, the most narrow foul ground in baseball. Says to challenge. So, Maddon challenges.

The umpires don headsets and scan through the replays, checking and checking until—and one angle shows it, tennis-like in proximity to the white line.

“Foul ball!”



Harrison goes back to second base, McCutchen goes back to the plate.

On his game, you declare, he’s on his damn game. Giving up line drives and blessed by the good fortune of a replay.

And then, Lester walks McCutchen.

David Freese hits a two-hopper to Bryant at third and it bounces off his wrist. Bases loaded.

He’s off. Way off.

Josh Bell steps in, Lester throws a cutter at the knees, and he lines it the opposite way to right. 1-0.

He is—most definitely—off. He could be had, he can be had, he has been had. A whole team being had.



Jose Osuna bats next and drills a double deep over Schwarber’s headsent on a high line into the left-field corner, bouncing into the ivy off the warning track, and two more runs come home to score.

McCutchen high-fives two young Cub fans beside the dugout. 3-0 Pirates.

He’s off, and he’s not coming back on.

Jordy Mercer singles on the ground between short and third, under Addison Russell’s glove. Two runs score as Osuna slides in safe at home.

“What a great start for the J’s!” they say on the broadcast. Jose, Jordy, Josh, and Josh, storming home in a row.

5-0, Pirates. Deep into big inning territory we go….

Days earlier, it was the Brewers putting up seven runs in the third inning, routing a one-game makeup at Wrigley in the first statement game they’d had all year. Jon Jay (outfielder Jon Jay) had come in to pitch the ninth—throwing 57mph lobs and mailing it in for a loss. Days before that, Miguel Montero DFA’d for reaming out his teammates, discord on the rise in the clubhouse.



And today, well today was different. Today was, starkly, a world-class team falling quickly apart.

Lester walks Josh Harrison, back up for the second time this inning. And after a mound meeting from Chris Bosio, it’s Francisco Cervelli up again.

A long at-bat, six pitches, seven pitches. A full count. Bases loaded. Two outs. Down 5-0. Exactly a game below .500 on the year. A win today just possible. If he gets out of this.

“I’d imagine this’ll be the last batter he faces,” they say on the broadcast, “even if he gets Cervelli out.”

The most pitches Lester’s thrown in any inning in his career. And he throws one more, a cutter low over the middle of the plate—cutting almost not at all.

Cervelli reaches for it. Hits it. Drills it. Lofting it over all of left field and into the basket.

“A grand slam for Cervelli! Nine runs here in the first!! WHAT an inning for the Pirates!! You gotta be kidding!! They’ve got nine in the first!!”

9-0. The Cub fans by the dugout get another round of high-fives from each of the Pirates running back into the dugout. 

Nine runs to zip, and Cubs island has been raided and pillaged–World Series trophies nicked, their rings swashbuckled away and the Pirates sailing off at speed into the distance.  



Lester stays in, somehow, still out there after the grand slam.

And on the second pitch to McCutchen, he gives up a no-doubter to left-center. 10-0.

“And there it goes!!! Put it on the board!! Ten for the Pirates in the first!! Un-believeable!!” “You’ll never see this again, wow!!”



Now, finally, Lester’s pulled. A few boos. A few claps. A lot of what-the-f*cks, a lot of grimaces, head shaking, score-checking—and the home run ball lands on the outfield grass, thrown back from the bleachers.

And in the Pirates dugout, a whole hell of a lot of smiles. Clint Hurdle with a grin going ear to ear. Each one of the Pirates starters scored, except the pitcher.



“Hitting is contagious,” they say on the broadcast, “and right now the Pirates have malaria.”

10-0. Ten runs to none. 


Are the Chicago Cubs…. no more?




Inning 80: The Pirates, Pirates, Pirates

Inning 43: Home of the Freese