All things considered, out of all of thee must-watch contests of 2017, I think the most exciting game of the season came against the Toronto Blue Jays last month - a game which completed another three-game sweep over a team named after a species of bird.
In fact, the game was so intense, that I actually felt compelled to purchase the Topps NOW card released to commemorate the madness that took place at Wrigley Field on August 20th, 2017.
For frame of reference, this is only the second NOW card to enter into my collection and the very first one which I have purchase myself (granted, through a third party). The first, a card celebrating Jake Arrieta's second no-hitter with the Cubbies, was acquired via trade with Addiction as Therapy. Generally, I find the price point on these instant cards to be too much for my wallet to swallow - $10 for a single card and even $6 through most secondary markets is a bit steep for my penny-pinching ways. That should tell you how much this game affected my senses.
|My other NOW acquisition|
Plus, it doesn't hurt that, courtesy of his walk-off single, this special release becomes Alex Avila's very first Cubs card. What a way to earn it!
The Cubs held a 3-2 lead over the pesky Blue Jays going into the sixth inning, in the middle of a claustrophobically tight divisional race. Of course, old friend and recently exiled catcher, Miguel Montero, thwarted his former club by driving a game-tying homer into the bleachers. Having lead 3-0 at one point, that hurt. The Cubs offense continued to remain silence into extra innings and, come the tenth, the Blue Jays broke through for two, big runs. One of those runs, came as a result of Avila himself, when he botched a toss back to the pitcher's mound:
I mean, when's the last time you saw THAT on a Major League diamond? No one knew at the time, but that was far from the last bit of weird baseball to rear it's head on that afternoon. The rest of the damage was done with some shaky pitching from Koji Uehara and Al's fellow former Tiger, Justin Wilson. Everything was shaping up to be a deflating loss for the hometown club.
Then, the bottom of the tenth happened.
With shutdown closer, Roberto Osuna on the mound, all hope seemed lost, especially so when Kyle Schwarber led off the inning with a K. But, fortunately, former Cubs catcher Raffy Lopez couldn't handle the delivery and Schwarbs reached on the dropped third strike; then, a Ben Zobrist double and then a wild pitch would plate Kyle's run. Thanks to a pair of mistakes, the Cubs were suddenly back in the game. A groundout by Rizzo moved Zobs to third and brought free-swinging Javy Baez to the plate. As fun as Baez is to watch at the plate, his strikeout seemed almost inevitable. But, then, weird baseball reared it's head, once again:
Another dropped third strike! And this time, Lopez checks the runner at third... and somehow completely forgets to throw the ball to first base! What in the heck was Raffy thinking about?? I'm fairly certain that I've never seen that on a baseball diamond, at any level, whatsoever.
How could this game possibly get any crazier?
Just a few pitches later, Javy-Air stole second base on the Osuna/Lopez battery and Jason Heyward got hit by a pitch, affording the opportunity for Alex Avila to redeem himself and be the hero of the day:
Exactly as they drew it up, I'm sure.
So, in summation, that tenth inning featured one miffed throw by the catcher to the mound, two dropped third strikes, one major mental gaffe by the other catcher, a wild pitch, a hit by pitch, a stolen base, and five total runs scored. Talk about total insanity, right? Needless to say, with all those dropped thirds, the forgetfulness, and the wild pitch, the Toronto backstop and 2014 Chicago Cub, Rafael Lopez, did not have a banner evening.
All told, since it eventually amounted to a immensely exciting Cubs victory, it instantly became one of, if not, my favorite game of the 2017 season. There was just so much happening at the Friendly Confines in that tenth frame.
Inevitably, I knew this game would be deemed NOW worthy by Topps and, when it officially hit the virtual shelves, I tracked down a third-party vendor on Ebay hocking a copy for six bucks. Still pricey, yes - but, seeing as it was such a kooky, unique game and also just so happened to be Avila's first Cubs card, I pulled the trigger. The souvenir finally showed up in my mailbox yesterday and Alex's wild celebration looks wonderful as his representation in my CATRC - I regret nothing! That said, I still won't be making NOW purchases a regular habit; but, they do make for a nice, once-in-a-while treat.
With this tight-playoff race coming to a head (and hopefully a deep October run on the horizon), here's hoping that the Cubbies aren't done making things interesting and exciting - let's create a few more Topps NOW-worthy moments, boys! Also, here's hoping that my poor heart can take it!