Early on in the Brewers’ 4-0 win over the Cubs Tuesday, Christian Yelich was on second base and Lorenzo Cain hit a sharp grounder up the middle. Javier Baez was there for a nice backhand play, but Yelich had already taken off for third, maybe figuring the ball was getting through. That required a rundown, which completely fell apart.
The Cubs amiably shuffled around to back each other up and make sure the lead runner didn’t advance any further, but they didn’t account for what Cain might do. The Brewers outfielder acted as a sort of second-base coach for Yelich as three different Cubs surrounded the bag. Since no one was covering first, Cain easily ran back to the base.
There are a number of people who could be assigned blame for this:
- Pitcher Tyler Chatwood, for running that ball all the way back to second, instead of throwing to one of his three teammates standing near the base.
- Anthony Rizzo, for watching all of this unfold from home plate. It’s good and sound rundown practice for him to protect the run after Willson Contreras abandoned his post—the outcome would have been far worse if he’d abandoned the post and Yelich had scored. But after a certain point in the rundown he could’ve seen this play wasn’t going beyond third.
- Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, maybe, for not urging Chatwood to throw it their way.
- Jason Heyward, who was also there.
The Cubs were wisely protecting the lead runner and caught a bad dose of luck. It was just a good, smart play from Cain, who seemed to telegraph the whole thing and had apparently practiced shit like this (per MLB.com):
“I heard him yelling, ‘All the way back! All the way back!’ He was yelling at me, pointing at the bag,” Yelich said. “I just kept running hard and got there. That’s a really smart play. He said it’s something he’s practiced before, which is unbelievable. I guess if you think about it, it happens a lot. There’s a lot of throws in a rundown. Things kind of get chaotic and you can lose track of the bases sometimes.”