Well, Mr. Manfred, that's why you don't mess with extra innings.
There's something magical about what can happen when a baseball game stretches from one night into the early morning hours of the next day. What Dexter Fowler managed to do to the Cubs just before 1 a.m. local time Monday morning is as good of an example as you'll find.
The start to this season has been, to put it mildly, forgettable for the current Cardinal, former Cub outfielder. But with the game on the line—heck, with the game seemingly conceded by the Cardinals—Fowler turned on a pitch down the right field line with two outs in the bottom of the 14th. Just as it began to look like the ball might have home run distance, an alternative picture emerged showing someone else might be in position to prevent it from doing so.
Fittingly, it was current Cub, former Cardinal outfielder Jason Heyward making his way back toward the wall, preparing to time his leap. One way or another, this ball, on this swing, was going to bring this marathon game to its end.
“I see J-Hey flying and I'm like, dude, if you catch this, I'm going to cry,” Fowler said.
Heyward didn't catch it. The ball disappeared for a moment after passing inches beyond his outstretched glove, then revealed itself again with a thunderous bounce off the area past the top of the wall. Fowler’s swing gave the Cardinals a 4-3 walk-off win and their first three-game series sweep of the Cubs at Busch Stadium since June 26-28, 2015.
“He jumped and I thought he caught it, so I stopped,” Fowler said. “And then I saw it bounce, and I’m like, oh my gosh. Words can’t even describe it.”
The game-winning blast came after the Cardinal bats were quieted for much of the night. Jedd Gyorko homered in the second and Kolten Wong tripled in a run on a ball that Heyward certainly should have caught in the sixth. Before Fowler’s heroics, that’s all St. Louis could muster at the plate. Fowler’s home run allowed the Cardinals to overcome 11 men left on base and a 1 for 9 showing with runners in scoring position. It was an out of nowhere kind of win made possible by a sneaky stellar performance by the entire pitching staff.
When the 12th inning began, the Cardinal bullpen had been busy for hours, yet it still had not surrendered a single hit. For more than six innings, St. Louis relievers no-hit Chicago batters. Kyle Schwarber was the only base runner permitted by the bullpen across 6.1 innings from the 6th through two outs in the 12th. Schwarber reached via walk in the eighth-inning against Tyler Lyons.
That stout bullpen performance followed a solid outing by starter Michael Wacha, who was able to grit through 5.2 innings of two-run baseball despite two rain delays in the middle of his start. Mike Mayers snapped the Cubs hitless streak in the 12th, but tossed a scoreless 12th and 13th to keep the Cardinals alive. It wasn’t until the 14th that Mayers gave up a home run to put St. Louis down.
Of course, that deficit was fleeting. Unlike what they had done for most of the night, the Cardinals rallied to put runs on the board and send the remaining fans home with a memory they won’t soon forget.
“We never give up,” Fowler said. “That’s key. Every guy fights. If it’s not one, we pass the baton to the next guy… We bought in to never give up until the last out.”