With the St. Louis Cardinals up 1-0 in the second inning of Game 2, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon broke out his small-ball playbook. The result was a sequence of plays never seen in Major League Baseball postseason history.
Starlin Castro led off the inning with a single to center field off Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia. The next hitter, Austin Jackson, grounded to shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who flipped to second baseman Kolten Wong for the forceout on Castro.
But Wong's errant throw to first base allowed Jackson to advance to second base with one out.
That's when Maddon cracked open the playbook. On a 1-1 count to Miguel Montero, Jackson, who stole 17 bases during the regular season, swiped third base. Perhaps Maddon knew that baserunners had been successful on three of five steal attempts of third base against Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina during the regular season. But the fun was just beginning for the Cubs. With the No. 8 hitter, pitcher Kyle Hendricks, coming to the plate, everyone expected a bunt.
And Hendricks laid down a perfect one that Garcia fielded on the first base side of the mound. But what Garcia and the Cardinals didn't expect was a safety squeeze.
Once Hendricks got the bunt down, Jackson raced home from third base. And as Molina yelled for Garcia to throw the ball home, Garcia instead looked home and then fired awkwardly to first base; but the ball sailed well past Wong and down the right-field line. Montero advanced to third base and Hendricks to second with one out and the score tied at 1-1 before Addison Russell came to the plate.
On a 0-1 pitch, Russell surprisingly squared around and laid down a bunt.
Montero came home from third, scoring the go-ahead run on the second straight safety squeeze play as Garcia got the out at first base.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the first time in postseason history that a team had executed two successful sacrifice bunts in the same inning, let alone on consecutive hitters. During the regular season, two sac bunts in the same inning had occurred only one other time (the Miami Marlins on Aug. 9), and it was the first time one of Maddon's teams had done it since May 29, 2010, when he was managing the Tampa Bay Rays.
With the Cubs now leading 2-1 with two outs, Dexter Fowler proceeded to hit a slow roller to Peralta, who couldn't make the play at first as Hendricks scored from third to make it 3-1.
As Maddon congratulated Hendricks upon his return to the dugout ...
... Molina tried to settle down the now-rattled Garcia, who had just seen three runs score without one ball -- except Castro's leadoff single -- leaving the infield.
Up stepped Jorge Soler, who had doubled off Garcia in the first inning. He took Garcia to a full count before squaring up the next pitch and sending it 413 feet over the center-field fence.
The two-run home run capped the Cubs' five-run inning and gave them a 5-1 lead. All five runs were unearned, and Garcia -- after finally retiring Kris Bryant on a grounder to end the inning -- was done for the night, reportedly leaving the game with a stomach virus.