The Cubs beat the Phillies 7-5 in a thriller on Wednesday night that culminated in a walk-off grand slam dinger from Jason Heyward. This came right after the Phillies had taken a 5-3 lead in the top half of that inning on a two-run smash from Dylan Cozens. The win-probability graph alone is exciting to look at.
But for the connoisseur, the best play of the game occurred back in the fourth inning, when it was still just a 1-0 Cubs lead. Anthony Rizzo was at the plate with a 3-1 count and Kris Bryant, who had walked in the previous at-bat, took off for second. Since severe shift-related measures are taken whenever Rizzo comes up to bat, third baseman Maikel Franco was all the way over covering second on the steal. Bryant beat the throw, which was moot because the pitch was ball four. But then Bryant looked up, realized no one on the Phillies was anywhere on the left side of the infield, and took off for third easily.
The shift makes good analytical sense and pans out more often than not, but that doesn’t mean hitters and baserunners shouldn’t clown on it at any possible moment.