John Baker is the big star in long-story shorts
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter July 30, 2014 11:03PM
Updated: September 1, 2014 8:10AM
They’re already calling it the John Baker game. Well, John Baker is anyway.
Baker, the Cubs’ backup catcher, became a pitching and run-scoring sensation in the 16th inning of the marathon 4-3 victory over the Rockies on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning that ended at 1:34 a.m., when Baker slid across the plate with the winning run on Starlin Castro’s sacrifice fly.
But his daring baserunning and his 76 mph two-seam fastball weren’t the only highlights from the longest game in franchise history for both teams (6 hours, 27 minutes):
◆ Baker became the Cubs’ first “true” non-pitcher (majority-time position player with five or fewer pitching appearances) to earn a victory since infielder Fred Pfeffer in 1885. (Source: Cubs historian Ed Hartig)
◆ When he took the mound? “There was nothing going through my mind,” said Baker, who said he had to suppress the urge to smile, “other than the unbridled joy of a 12-year-old playing baseball.”
◆ The time of game eclipsed by 17 minutes the Cubs’ 32-year-old franchise record set over two days after darkness suspended play in a 21-inning loss to the Dodgers.
◆ Baker was the first Cubs position player to pitch in a game since outfielder Joe Mather in 2012 and the first in the big leagues to get a win since Baltimore’s Chris Davis on May 6, 2012, against Boston.
◆ The game also included pinch-hit appearances by Cubs pitchers Travis Wood in the fourth and Jake Arrieta in the 13th. Arrieta was sent up to bunt with one out and two men on instead of allowing the last bench guy, Baker, to hit. Manager Rick Renteria said he needed to save Baker for a possible pitching assignment. Arrieta struck out, and Emilio Bonifacio followed by also striking out.
◆ Renteria: “It might have seemed odd. There were a lot of situations where using your last man to go ahead and win a ballgame, especially on the offensive side, is very tempting — but at the same time very dangerous.”
◆ Bonifacio doubled, singled and homered in his first three at-bats, then got a rare five shots at completing the cycle. He mustered only a single the rest of the way (and sacrificed Baker to second during the winning rally).
◆ The Cubs used 22 of 25 players (exempting only starting pitchers Kyle Hendricks and Tsuyoshi Wada and closer Hector Rondon, who had pitched four of the previous five days).
◆ Seven Cubs relievers plus Baker combined for 12 scoreless innings, and the Rockies didn’t score over the last 15 in all (including three by starter Edwin Jackson, who lasted only four innings).
◆ Baker finished his brief outing by inducing an inning-ending double play from Wilin Rosario.