Johnny Cueto was waiting for this moment.
After another regular season loss to the Cubs at Wrigley — a ninth-inning collapse that turned the starter’s seven-inning, one-run gem into another September casualty — Cueto was hungry for a playoff rematch, he told reporters:
“We’ll find out who’s got the coconuts.”
As it turns out, he had the coconuts. But all the coconuts in the world wouldn’t crack the Cubs on their path toward destiny: they beat the Giants 1-0, and Cueto fell to the wrong end of a tremendous game of baseball.
Cueto was as good as he could get; the MLB leader in complete games over the regular season (5) waited to take the biggest stage to spin his best one yet.
To the dismay of Bill Murray and a skeptical crowd, the Cubs looked helpless against him. Cueto struck out 10 batters. Only two members of the most potent offensive club in baseball managed a hit. One of them did it twice.
Javier Baez‘s first hit went for naught. But home field advantage, one that’s turned on the Cubs in World Series’ past, flipped a switch.
Baez hit the snot out of a 3-2 fastball down the pipe, sending the ball high and just deep enough to slip into the Wrigley Field basket.
Angel Pagan told reporters after the game that, had the basket not been there, it would have landed right in his glove for out number three.
He pitched his second consecutive postseason complete game and became the 15th pitcher to record 10 (or more) strikeouts while giving up three hits (or fewer). Cueto became the only to take the loss.