Brewers third baseman Eric Sogard learned a valuable lesson on Sunday afternoon: Never turn your back on El Mago.
In the fifth inning of Alec Mills' no-hitter at Miller Park, a 12-0 Cubs victory, shortstop Javier Báez pulled another trick out of his bag, scoring from second base on a sacrifice fly. This was not a case of steady sprinting, but rather the result of quick thinking by Báez when he realized no eyes were on him.
"Javy makes things happen," Cubs manager David Ross said. "He's always looking for the next play."
Báez was on second and Kyle Schwarber was on third when Jason Kipnis lifted a pitch from Milwaukee reliever J.P. Feyereisen to left field. Schwarber tagged and scored and Báez moved up to third base, as the throw from Christian Yelich made its way to Sogard at third base.
At first, Ross was holding his breath at Báez's decision.
"He tags up on that fly ball," Ross said, "and you're thinking, 'Please don't get thrown out at third, and before the run scores.' And then he's just heads-up."
After sliding into third and shifting to his feet, Báez kept his eyes on Sogard. Time had not been called by the umpiring crew, so the play was still alive. Sogard bobbled the catch from Yelich, walked over to retrieve the baseball and then threw to second baseman Keston Hiura to appeal that Báez left the bag early.
"There's no fans. You can hear everything," Báez said. "They were just saying, 'Check second, check second.' And [Sogard] just turned the back on me. I was making sure he was releasing the ball and when I faced to the catcher, he wasn't even at the plate. So, that's when I knew I had it."
As soon as Sogard let go of the baseball, Báez bolted for home. By the time Hiura relayed the ball to catcher Jacob Nottingham, Báez was across the dish standing up, giving the Cubs a 7-0 lead over their rivals. Brewers manager Craig Counsell immediately took the field to argue the play, leading to his ejection.
From the Brewers' perspective, there was some confusion as to whether time had been called. Sogard said home-plate umpire Chris Segal indicated that he was going to give a new baseball to Feyereisen, but the umpire never raised his hands to halt play. Around the same time, first baseman Jedd Gyorko was motioning for Sogard to throw to second base to appeal.
"Apparently, time had not been called even though the umpire was ready to throw the ball to the pitcher," Sogard said. "So, it was a very weird situation. I was very surprised they didn’t bring that back."
Counsell offered a similar stance after the game.
"I don't know that Segal said, 'Time out,'" Counsell said. "But, I think he said things that led [Nottingham and Feyereisen] to believe that there was time out. He did not put his hands up, but what he said to them led them to believe there was time out. Now did that effect Eric throwing it to second? I'm not sure."
Even if there was confusion, lesson learned: Keep your eyes on El Mago.
"That's why he's so exciting," Ross said. "That's why he's such a dynamic player."