The greatest baseball game I have ever seen went like this:
That's a win probability graph produced by FanGraphs.com to capture the fluctuations within Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Each time the line moves, a play has happened, shifting the odds. There are hints in that graph of how exciting the game was: the taut first few innings; the two sudden shifts in the third and fourth, as one club missed its opportunity to pull ahead and the other immediately took advantage of its own; one team's shocking climb out of despair in the eighth, resetting everything; the wild swings of opportunity in the ninth and 10th; and the last gasp of hope in the final half-inning.
But there are limitations to that graph. Each jag demonstrates the shift from before each play to after each play, 89 batter-pitcher matchups cleanly plotted for their impact on parade preparations. Those data points reflect something like the idea of discrete time, time jumping from one event to the next. They don't reflect the idea of continuous time -- that within each rotation are infinite micromoments, each existing but immediately outdated.
When the line on the graph moved for the first time -- when Dexter Fowler lifted a Corey Kluber sinker into center field for a leadoff home run -- it added 9 percentage points to the Cubs' chances of winning the 2016 World Series. But how many moments existed between the starting point and the ball's touchdown? The moment Kluber decided to throw a sinker, the moment he gripped the ball and it felt right or slightly not right, the moments in which he rocked his body back and his balance was in flux, the moment when his back leg drove him toward home plate and his arm was either perfectly in sync or a microsecond ahead or behind its usual pace, the moment Kluber released a pitch on target or otherwise, the moment Fowler identified the pitch or didn't, the moment he decided he'd swing or wouldn't, the ways his conscious and subconscious fought for control of that decision. Between each data point there are infinite possibilities for how this game would end. The story of the game is in those jags -- every run, out and base taken are in those jags -- but it's also in the ambiguity between each jag, the microseconds in which the ball is in the air, the baserunners are in motion, the fielders are converging and we don't yet know what any of it means.
For all the complaints that baseball is too slow, it moves quickly from jag to jag. Nearly two months after the greatest baseball game I have ever seen, we've had time to slow it down and focus on the whims, accidents, decisions and Chekhovian subs that would cooperate to put David Ross, of all people, on a magazine cover. This is the story that was happening in the microspaces between seven of those moments.
Moment 1: Cubs 56.5 percent likely to win
Jason Heyward enters this game hitting .225 in 2016: .230 in the regular season and .175 in the postseason. In some ways, the .225 batting average sterilizes how long and how bad it was. The season was not a .225 batting average, but a series of weeks, games and at-bats, each one an opportunity to justify his contract but most of them actually harmful to his team's chances. There's a stat called win probability added, which measures the movement in graphs such as the one above and credits it to the hitter and the pitcher. One-hundred fifty-eight times, Joe Maddon put Jason Heyward into a baseball game this year, and going into the 158th instance, Heyward had managed to contribute positively to his team's chances of winning as a hitter, by WPA, in only 57 of them. In the rest, he was a negative or, at best, a nonfactor. Most workdays, Heyward drove home and might have wondered whether the Cubs would have been better off if he had signed somewhere else.
The season is long, but it's so much longer when viewed as a series of days in which you are hurting your teammates. It's so much longer when viewed, for instance, like this:
-.129, -.004, -.044, -.103, .000, -.011, .098, .033, -.070, -.028
Those are the WPAs produced by Heyward's bat in his previous 10 postseason games. The best day in there -- the .098 in World Series Game 3 -- was thanks to a fielder's error on a routine ground ball Heyward hit.
You start the postseason watching Heyward closely because you hope this is where the story is going to get redemptive. The outfielder says he took less money (eight years and $184 million, but yes, less) because he wants to help this team win the World Series, and now he's scuffling through the worst season of his career, and he's staring at the prospect of seven more years of this: What if I'm just not good at baseball anymore? What if I spend the rest of my career being embarrassed of how much I'm paid, embarrassed to be around a team that knows it would be better off if I would just go away? The window for an elite athlete is so brief, but it's not supposed to close at 25. What if mine did?
He doesn't say anything of the sort when asked by reporters, but you project these anxieties on him because these are the anxieties you imagine you would feel. We're all a little embarrassed for him, and you think how painful it must be for him to realize that.
As he steps into the batter's box, he clenches and relaxes his shoulders, reminding his body to stay loose. The camera holds a tight shot of his face, and you look closely at his eyes. They're looking out at Corey Kluber, and you're not sure whether they're steady and confident or frozen with self-doubt. We stare into the eyes of people to understand them; we think it's our best evaluative tool as humans. But that's the thing about looking into the eyes of strangers on television: We actually have no idea.
Heyward gets a first-pitch cutter, at the belt. It isn't as far inside as Kluber wants it, a mistake.
Heyward's bat explodes into pieces as he floats a gentle popup behind second base. Francisco Lindor hurries under it and puts it away with two hands. Heyward jogs to first base, stares at the ground for a moment, then looks up and gazes off into the outfield, jaw working on a piece of gum, hands unstrapping batting gloves, one failure closer to a long offseason.
Moment 2: Cubs 72.9 percent likely to win
The chart's first big swing straddles the bottom of the third and the top of the fourth. Cleveland gets a rally when a ground ball hits the lip of the infield grass and bounces askew, turning a likely double play into a fielder's choice, and Javier Baez tries too hard to turn that fielder's choice into a double play anyway, turning a fielder's choice into an error. With the game tied and two on later in the inning, Mike Napoli bats. The next six at-bats demonstrate the possibilities in the microseconds. On a scorecard, they look like this, with the Cubs' chances of winning the game increasing or decreasing by the amount in parentheses:
Napoli: Lineout (plus 4.8 percent), ends inning
Bryant: Single (plus 4.4 percent)
Rizzo: Hit by pitch (plus 6.7 percent)
Zobrist: Fielder's choice (minus 2.7 percent)
Russell: Sacrifice fly (plus 3.2 percent)
Contreras: Double (plus 11.4 percent)
Each play, though, could easily have gone in a wildly different direction, with very little imagination required.
** Napoli's lineout was hit 103 mph and just a couple of feet to the right of Kris Bryant. Leaguewide in 2016, 64 percent of line drives hit more than 100 mph were hits. A single would have dropped the Cubs' chances to 34 percent, while a double would have sunk them to 24 percent. Instead, after the out, they went to the fourth with a coin flip's chances.
** Bryant's single was on a hard ground ball pulled into a shifted Cleveland infield. Even ignoring the shift, similar ground balls hit by right-handers were hits only 33 percent of the time this year. The Cubs' chances would have dropped from 50 percent to 47 percent with an out; they instead jumped to 55 percent with the hit.
** Rizzo's hit by pitch came on an 0-2 count. Even a great hitter such as Rizzo is terrible after falling behind 0-2. The moment that Kluber got the second strike, the Cubs' chances dropped 3 percentage points to around 52 percent. But Rizzo, smartly, nudged slightly closer to the plate, and when Kluber threw a pitch up and in, he started to flinch but let it hit his right biceps. It didn't have to be a hit batter; five pitches were further inside in this game, including one Jason Heyward swung at, and none of them hit the batter. This one did. The Cubs' chances moved to 61 percent.
** Zobrist's fielder's choice was a grounder right to first baseman Mike Napoli. Similar ground balls in similar situations were double plays 16 percent of the time in 2016, but the ball took an in-between hop on Napoli, who got an odd grip on the ball and sailed his toss to second base. Francisco Lindor saved the throw and got one out, but the double play was lost. The Cubs' chances after a double play would have been 49 percent. Instead, they were 58 percent after the fielder's choice.
** Addison Russell's sacrifice fly was hit only 40 or so feet beyond the infield dirt, seemingly too shallow for a sacrifice fly, but Kris Bryant on third base decided to challenge center fielder Rajai Davis. Davis, too casually, caught the ball without momentum, his body leaning back a little, his throwing hand far from his glove. He looked up, took a split second to process that Bryant was going, then threw home. The throw beat Bryant by at least 10 feet, but it was a little high -- probably not so high that catcher Roberto Perez needed to jump, but high enough that he did, a little hop to catch the ball right about face level. As Perez waited for gravity to bring him down, Bryant slid under him and past his late tag.
It's probable that had Davis anticipated Bryant's trying to score, he would have thrown him out -- or Bryant, seeing Davis' positioning, wouldn't have gone at all. Even with that, it's possible that a throw a single inch lower would have gotten Bryant, as Perez might not have hopped up and would have had plenty of time to tag. Fly outs of similar distances in sac-fly situations yielded a run only 9 percent of the time this season. The Cubs would have been 44 percent likely to win. Instead, they were at 62 percent.
** Then Willson Contreras batted. He swung helplessly at a slider outside to make the count 2-2. Then Kluber threw him another slider, but this one stayed right at his belt, just a few inches from the heart of the plate, and Contreras crushed it deep to right-center field. Davis took a step in, then turned and chased the ball toward the wall. At the same time, a fan in center field hopped down onto the platform just beyond the wall, and the two men -- one in uniform, the other a civilian -- raced toward the ball from different directions. Davis pulled up just short of the wall and fielded the ball on a carom off the bottom of the wall. The man above him threw his hands up, dropped to his knees and screamed at Davis, slapping the ground with his palm. A second run scored, and the Cubs' chances were up to 72 percent.
How many what-ifs there are on that play. According to MLB's Statcast system, Davis started the play 311 feet from home plate, which is shallower than he normally plays center field (315 feet from home plate) and shallower than the league's center fielders as a group played Contreras during the regular season (317 feet). Then he took the faulty first step on the play. For good measure, the weather in Cleveland was unseasonably warm, 21 degrees warmer at game time than a typical Nov. 2 on Lake Erie. Every 10 degrees means about 3 extra feet of distance on long fly balls. Add it all together, and Contreras' double could easily have been the third out. Indeed, according to Statcast data, center fielders catch similar fly balls -- 91 feet away from their starting position, 5.4 seconds of hang time -- 90 percent of the time. But Davis didn't, and the Cubs were 73 percent favorites instead of 58 percent.
Six plays, all capable of swinging the game in either direction, all benefiting the Cubs. Make no mistake: On most of these plays, Cleveland's defense did nothing to earn a better outcome, and in a few, the Cubs deserve great credit for their role in the play. The team that performed better pulled ahead of the team that performed worse on plays that could have gone either way. This is how two evenly matched teams end up two runs apart through four innings.
Reporter, postgame: How did you feel today?
Kluber: Uh, I mean, good enough. I just made a few mistakes, and they were able to hit a couple home runs off them. And then those couple runs in the fourth inning are kind of hard to swallow.
Moment 3: Cubs 84.7 percent likely to win
"Uh, I mean, good enough."
Players don't always get to choose when the moment that will define their career comes. Kluber has been a professional baseball player for a decade and might be for a decade more. But this start will mean more than dozens or even hundreds of his other starts put together. When it arrives, there isn't much he can do but hope he shows up with his good stuff.
Every start Kluber makes is different. There are days, such as Sept. 26, when his fastball averages 95.5 mph, when his cutter moves 2.9 inches horizontally, when his slider moves 11 inches. There are other days, such as Sept. 21, when his fastball averages 93.3 mph, the cutter moves 1.3 inches and the slider moves 7 inches. Some starts he throws more four-seam fastballs than two-seamers; others, he throws nothing but two-seamers. This isn't unique to Kluber, of course. For any pitcher, every day is different: what he chooses to do, how well it works and what happens against him. It's never obvious why.
This day was no different, except for the built-in "why": Kluber was pitching on short rest. With injuries to the Indians' Nos. 2 and 3 starters, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, Kluber had been forced to carry his club through the postseason, and the start he made in Game 7 was his second in a row on three days' rest. With 30 1/3 postseason innings, he had gone past his career-high innings total for a season. It was his first time pitching in October, the first time he had pitched nearly this late into a season. The game that will define Kluber's career, and that might define an entire generation of Cleveland Indians fandom, was pitched under unusual circumstances, and there was nothing Kluber could do about it.
Kluber entered this game coming off strong starts but with some red flags. His fastball velocity in his two World Series starts was down a mile per hour from the ALCS and the regular season. He was leaning more than ever on his slider, but the velocity on that pitch was down almost 2 mph, and the same was true of his cutter. So when he allowed the first-inning home run to Fowler, the easy story was set: Kluber was tired, but he was gutting it out.
In Game 7, Kluber's velocity was back. This, one might conclude, showed that he wasn't tired. But every game is different, and Kluber, this day, was different. His four-seam fastball was tailing considerably more than it usually does, moving almost like his two-seamer but without the sink. He hardly threw either fastball, opting instead to throw cutters, more cutters than he had ever thrown in a major league start. The action on that pitch was comparable to in any other good start, same velocity and same movement. But he was throwing it higher than he usually does -- in the top half of the zone. His average cutter in this game was more than 8 inches higher than his average cutter in the regular season, and it was 5 inches higher than his average cutter in the postseason to that point. Differences.
It was one of those too-high cutters than Kluber threw to Javier Baez on the first pitch of the fifth inning. Baez had faced Kluber eight times before, including spring training, and he had swung at the first pitch six times. He swung at this one too, and the too-high cutter didn't land until it was well past the right-center-field wall. It was the last pitch Kluber threw, and it's tempting to wonder whether Ian Kinsler, watching at home, flashed back to the line drive he hit off Carrasco's hand in September and realized how much he contributed to that home run.
Moment 4: Cubs 47.5 percent likely to win
It will be remembered, too, that Aroldis Chapman was gassed. Joe Maddon had used him, seemingly unnecessarily, for 20 pitches with a big lead in Game 6. Chapman would ordinarily have no trouble pitching on consecutive days -- in his career, he has a 1.70 ERA on no days' rest, with batters hitting worse against him (.147/.232/.207) than in games in which he was working on two or more days' rest -- but this would be different. Chapman was asked to go not one inning but multiple innings, and in the previous week, he had thrown 102 pitches. It will be remembered that he was gassed, because we expected him to be gassed and because Rajai Davis, of all people, homered off Chapman to complete Cleveland's three-run comeback.
The first pitch Chapman threw, to Brandon Guyer, was 100 mph. The second was 100.3 mph. Then 99.3, 101.7, 101.1, 99.2, 99.2. The last was hit for a single. Then Davis: 99.9, 99.2, 98.4, 101.2, 99.5, 101.0. The average velocity of those 13 pitches was 100 on the nose, just slightly slower than the 100.6 Chapman had averaged in the postseason before that appearance. The pitches' horizontal movement, at an average of 4.3 inches, was almost identical to his pitch movement (4.6 inches) during the season. His release point, at 6.36 feet from the ground, was a pinkie fingernail from his norm, far less than his normal game-to-game variance. The pitch Guyer hit wasn't fat; it wasn't even likely to be a strike, with similar pitches getting called balls 90 percent of the time. It was, in fact, such a hard pitch to hit that nobody had gotten a hit against Chapman within 6 inches of that location this year:
(Guyer's hit is the "1" in the 1/4 near the top right.)
We're supposed to see a gassed reliever on the mound, and so that's what we see. If the velocity readings are 100 and 101, then we look for something else. "Here's the thing," Alex Rodriguez said later during the rain delay. "When you're fatigued, you don't lose miles per hour, per se. But what you do lose is command and movement." But Chapman didn't lose movement. He didn't lose command (arguably, he doesn't need command anyway). If you didn't see Guyer's ball split the gap and you didn't know you were supposed to see a gassed reliever on the mound, you'd never guess Chapman was anything less than dominant.
So why did Rajai Davis homer?
Look again at the velocities of Chapman's first 13 pitches. None of them starts with an 8. He threw 13 consecutive fastballs. Guyer finally caught up to the seventh, and Davis finally caught up to his seventh. Chapman's fastball is so dominant that he can throw it right down the middle, but only when there is the threat of a slider to keep hitters at least somewhat surprised. "When Chapman is ahead in a count and he throws a pitch down the middle, batters' isolated power -- slugging percentage minus batting average -- is .036. When batters are ahead, it's .300," we wrote before the Series, and with his refusal to throw a slider, Chapman was giving hitters the same predictable pattern. Chapman's fastball here, so hard, so historic, so dominant, might have been more effective if he had been gassed and recognized it -- and if he had therefore been forced to act like a normal pitcher and mix in a breaking ball.
He didn't. Instead, he threw a pitch to Davis that was 98.4 mph, matching the slowest one Davis saw. Chapman hit his target -- though it was a questionable target, low and in -- and threw a pitch right on the border of the strike zone, a pitch that is called a ball about two-thirds of the time. What's remarkable about Davis' home run isn't just that he hit it, but that he pulled it, that he was ahead of a Chapman fastball, which happened only because he was sitting on a 100 mph fastball and got one that was "only" 98.4. Davis, choking way up on the bat, had barely fouled off the previous pitch, a 101 mph fastball he slapped 30 or so rows up on the first-base side. But at 98.4, and with the slider out of his mind, he could pull it, right down the line, just a few feet fair above the "325" sign in the shortest part of the park. The ball hit the camera lens in the front row of seats.
After that home run, Chapman threw two more fastballs -- 99.8, 100.6 -- and the second one got turned around for a single. Then two more, 99.0 and 98.4, for balls. At this point, he finally threw a slider (swinging strike), a slider (swinging strike) and a fastball (98.9, swinging strike three).
At some point in this 35-pitch outing, it's undeniable that Chapman got tired. In his second, scoreless inning of work, he threw almost nothing but sliders, and he cracked 99 just once with his fastball. Maybe it was that pitch to Davis, the 14th one, at 98.4 mph, that was one too many, though Chapman threw scores of slower fastballs this year without alarm bells going off. We'll never know. Chapman has embraced the excuse.
Moment 5: Cubs 67.5 percent likely to win
Along the way, our longed-for hero, Jason Heyward, grounded out against Andrew Miller in the sixth, stood unchallenged in right field for a couple of innings and, in the ninth, came to bat once again. This, finally, we thought as we examined his eyes once more, would be his moment. Surely, the authors had simply not wanted to waste his redemption in the undramatic first or fourth or sixth inning, preferring to save his moment for this: the ninth inning of Game 7. There is nobody out, the go-ahead run is on first base, and it has been 11 minutes and 25 seconds since Davis homered. It's raining.
Cody Allen's first pitch is supposed to be on the inner half, as almost every pitch Cleveland has thrown Heyward on this day has been. It squirts way outside for ball one, and catcher Yan Gomes jogs out to talk to his pitcher. Allen kicks at the muddy clay on the mound, then gets set again. "Indians expect a bunt," Joe Buck says, but Heyward takes another pitch outside, ball two. Allen paints a strike on the inside corner at the knees for 2-1. Joe Buck mentions Heyward's massive contract. Allen holds the ball a long time, then delivers an inside fastball that Heyward pulls foul. He'll foul off the next three, then finally put one in play: a hard grounder to Jason Kipnis. It looks to be a double play, but Kipnis catches it in the heel of his glove, then tries a long, backhanded flip to second base. Francisco Lindor has to stretch across his body to get it. The out at second is recorded, but the double play is prevented by a hard slide from Chris Coghlan. Heyward is safe at first. He has dropped the Cubs' chances from 58 percent to the narrowest advantage possible: 50.1 percent.
What made Jason Heyward such an odd free agent last winter was how broad his skill set was. He was a fine hitter before this year but not the sort who gets an eight-year contract as a right fielder. He had never hit 30 home runs and just once hit 20. He had never hit .300 and just once topped .280. He had never driven in more than 82 runs or had an OPS higher than .850 or led the league in a single offensive category. He was an elite defensive right fielder with an average bat, and he could run.
This last bit is rarely brought up. Baserunning runs are the quietest part of the WAR formula, chipping in or taking away just a few runs relative to the dozens produced by the bat or the glove. But they count, and in the season before he joined the Cubs, Heyward added six runs as a baserunner, fourth most in baseball. He stole 23 bases and was caught three times. Heyward hit free agency as a superstar right fielder who was easy to miss because of details such as this: the runs he added away from the batter's box by being smart and skillful.
On a 3-1 count to Javier Baez, Heyward takes off. The throw is short, the grass is wet, and the ball skids off Kipnis and into shallow center field. Heyward hops up and races on, and suddenly the Cubs have the run that could win the World Series at third base with one out. The Indians, realizing the severity of the situation, replace the weak-armed Coco Crisp in the outfield just in case Heyward tries to score on a sacrifice fly.
He will not. Baez will strike out bunting. And Lindor will make a nifty play to retire Dexter Fowler, ending the inning as Chapman sinks his head into his arms on the dugout rail. Heyward will lope across home plate meaninglessly, then head back to right field, not yet realizing that he just set up the play that will make the Cubs champions.
Moment 6: Cubs 58.2 percent likely to win
When the Cubs bat again, Kyle Schwarber leads off the inning. On 1-0, catcher Yan Gomes calls for a cutter low and inside. Bryan Shaw throws a cutter, low and inside. It's perfectly located, slightly lower and slightly further inside than the target. Despite this, Schwarber hits a hard ground ball.
The Indians expected this. Three infielders are on the right side of the infield in a full shift, and Kipnis is playing at least 15 feet past the edge of the outfield grass. The league's lefties hit .146 on ground balls pulled into a shift this year. Despite this, the ball finds a hole.
The Indians threw the pitch they wanted. They got Schwarber to hit the ball they wanted. This is how the leadoff man gets on.
In Game 1 of the World Series, with Kluber on the mound, Joe Maddon benched his slumping right fielder. Heyward had sat in three previous postseason games, but those were against tough lefties. This was against a righty, and even then, Maddon decided Heyward was too far lost. Chris Coghlan started that game in right field. Later in the game, Albert Almora, not Heyward, came in as a defensive replacement.
Heyward didn't start Game 2 or Game 3, entering late in each game and going hitless in all three of his at-bats. Then, suddenly, he was back in the lineup. He went 3-for-15 in Games 2 through 6 -- all singles, no walks -- but for some reason, Maddon penciled him in for this game against Kluber.
That's why Coghlan was on the bench, available to pinch run for David Ross in the ninth inning. Had Coghlan started in place of Heyward, it's quite possible Almora would have pinch run in that situation, but he didn't, so he was then available to pinch run for Schwarber in the 10th. And when Kris Bryant flies out to center field, Almora is there to aggressively tag and race to second. That sets up an intentional walk to Anthony Rizzo. And when Ben Zobrist slaps a Bryan Shaw cutter down the left-field line, Almora is able to score the go-ahead run from second, and Rizzo is able to go to third with a possible insurance run. That insurance run scores when Miguel Montero singles.
Then Heyward strikes out, sinking him to 0-for-5 on the night. Somehow, the decision to start him led to the sequence of events that gave the Cubs a two-run lead going into the bottom of the 10th, which is nothing he can claim credit for and nothing we'll give him credit for. It's just weird how baseball goes.
Moment 7: Cubs 90.6 percent likely to win
Cleveland looked like it would go quietly. The first two batters in the bottom of the 10th made outs, and with the bottom of the lineup coming up, the Indians' chances of winning dropped to 1.4 percent. But Brandon Guyer drew a walk, and those chances tripled. Then Rajai Davis singled, and they were close to 10 percent.
But that 10 percent assumes a league-average batter. In fact, the Indians' chances were worse. The batter was Michael Martinez.
Martinez is 34 years old. He was signed by the Nationals in 2005, as a 22-year-old, which is ancient for a Dominican signee. It took him six years to reach the majors, by which point he was in Philadelphia, and it's possible the only reason he did so then was that the Phillies were obligated to put him on the major league roster after taking him in the Rule 5 draft. He's 34 years old, and he has started a total of 125 games in the majors. Sure, he's better at baseball than most of us are at anything, but he might be the worst hitter in the game today.
"You start the postseason watching Heyward closely because you hope this is where the story is going to get redemptive. The outfielder says he took less money (eight years and $184 million, but yes, less) because he wants to help this team win the World Series, and now he's scuffling through the worst season of his career, and he's staring at the prospect of seven more years of this: What if I'm just not good at baseball anymore? What if I spend the rest of my career being embarrassed of how much I'm paid, embarrassed to be around a team that knows it would be better off if I would just go away? The window for an elite athlete is so brief, but it's not supposed to close at 25. What if mine did?"
Among active players with at least 500 career plate appearances, Martinez's OPS+ is the worst. The difference between him and the second-worst active player -- backup catcher Drew Butera -- is as large as the gap between Butera and the 18th-worst, backup catcher Erik Kratz. There are a lot of backup catchers in this territory, and they're all better hitters than Martinez. At least a half-dozen active starting pitchers reliably outhit Martinez. Sending Martinez, rather than a league-average hitter, to bat drops Cleveland's chances to around 7 percent.
There's a reason Martinez is batting. In the ninth inning, Terry Francona put him in to play right field, moved Brandon Guyer to left and removed Coco Crisp from the game. Martinez's arm was the upgrade in the outfield that was going to cut down Jason Heyward on a sacrifice fly. Heyward, stealing second, forced the error that got him to third, which led to this moment: Michael Martinez, maybe the worst hitter in the majors, representing the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning of the biggest baseball moment of our lifetimes.
Martinez grounded out. Heyward jogged over to back up the throw to first, then ran in and got swallowed up by the dogpile, same as everybody else.
It is unlikely that Jason Heyward thought about this as he drove home after work that night. Maybe he thought about his more visible contribution: He called the team meeting before the Cubs rallied in the 10th inning, the one in which:
"I just had to remind them who they were.
"I just had to remind everybody who we are.
"I just had to remind them that I'm proud of them."
Or maybe he wasn't thinking about what he did at all. That's the great thing about a team sport: There's only one goal, and in all honesty, the winning team can generally look at any player in the room and say, "We wouldn't have done it without you."