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Disputed Schwarber strikeout ends Cubs' rally

@MLBastian
April 13, 2019

CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber spiked his helmet, bellowed out some choice words and then began running up the third-base line. The Wrigley Field crowd unleashed a chorus of boos as the Cubs slugger tore through the infield grass in the direction of third-base umpire Gabe Morales. Schwarber was boiling over

CHICAGO -- Kyle Schwarber spiked his helmet, bellowed out some choice words and then began running up the third-base line. The Wrigley Field crowd unleashed a chorus of boos as the Cubs slugger tore through the infield grass in the direction of third-base umpire Gabe Morales.

Schwarber was boiling over a strike-three call on a checked swing that not only ended an inspired Chicago rally, but put the period on a 6-5 loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon. As Schwarber gained ground on the umpire, Cubs shortstop Javier Báez stepped in front of him like a cornerback trying to take down a running back that broke through the line in a football game.

"He's a pretty big dude. And he played football," Baez said. "I never played football in my life. He kind of took me with him, but I held him pretty good. He moved to the side pretty good. He almost got by me. I played good defense."

Baez was able to find humor in the moment -- there will be plenty of losses over the marathon of the season -- but Schwarber was still trying to calm down by the time reporters reached him at his locker after the defeat. Fittingly wearing a Chicago Bears hat, Schwarber said his main problem with the game's decisive call was that it did not seem consistent with another ruling within that same at-bat.

The path to the loss column was paved by a walk-filled showing from the Cubs' pitching staff, but Schwarber was trying to help the lineup overcome those woes. With Jason Heyward on second, Baez on third and two outs in the ninth, Schwarber checked his swing on an elevated first pitch from Angels closer Cody Allen. On that pitch, home-plate umpire Jerry Meals motioned to Morales, who deemed it a ball.

After the count eventually ran full, Allen fired a curve to the dirt and Schwarber offered enough to sway the umpire in the opposite direction.

"I took a look at it. If I didn't go the first time, I didn't go the second time," Schwarber said. "If you're not 100 percent sure, you can't call it. Obviously, I was frustrated. Who's not going to be frustrated when they end the game like that? You're that close to sniffing out a run. It's just frustrating. I just don't think that it was a good call."

As Schwarber emphatically and loudly argued his case, both Meals and Morales ejected the left fielder from the (concluded) game. While Baez corralled Schwarber and Heyward grabbed the outfielder's shoulders and led him down the dugout steps, Cubs manager Joe Maddon made his way onto the field to continue the argument with the officiating crew.

The game was in the books, but Maddon wanted to have his voice heard.

"I never thought the bat really moved forward," Maddon said. "When you see that check swing when the hands [stay still], to me that's not a swing. It's what you do with the barrel."

Unsurprisingly, Allen agreed with the umpire's assertion.

"I thought he went," said the closer. "But, obviously from my angle I don't have as good of a view as the third-base umpire or home-plate umpire."

The would-be comeback began in the eighth inning, when rookie Mark Zagunis entered as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded against Hansel Robles. The Cubs outfielder capped off an eight-pitch battle with a two-run, two-out single to center, cutting Los Angeles’ lead to 6-4.

"How about that at-bat?" Maddon said. "Outstanding at-bat."

In the bottom of the ninth, Anthony Rizzo started the final push with a one-out walk against Allen. Baez followed with his third double of the afternoon, sliding to the left of second base to avoid a tag attempt by David Fletcher. Heyward then sent a fly ball down the left-field line, where outfielder Brian Goodwin botched a sliding catch attempt at the foul line, allowing Rizzo to score from third.

The Angels felt a fan down the line interfered with Goodwin's ability to see the ball, but the dugout phone was not working.

"I don’t know if it would have been overturned," Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. "But, it was definitely something we would have challenged."

The game's final call and out rendered that issue moot.

"It could go either way," Baez said of Morales' game-ending decision. "I think it was the emotion of the game. Everybody was hyper. I just think the umpire called it a little bit too early. That's what got Schwarber fired up. But it happens."

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.