CHICAGO -- After swinging through a pitch, pinch-hitter Tony Kemp began walking back to the Cubs' dugout during Saturday afternoon's 9-8 loss to the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. What looked like a critical strikeout, however, soon turned into a second chance with Chicago's playoff hopes hanging by a thread.
In the seventh inning, Kemp was called back to the batter's box by home-plate umpire Lance Barrett due to a balk call against Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos. Given new life, Kemp drilled the next pitch high over center field, where a friendly wind at the Friendly Confines carried the baseball over the wall for a two-run homer that gave the Cubs an 8-7 lead.
"I've seen the balk called and the ball gets put in play and good things happen," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "But, I have not seen that one. There was a couple things that were kind of like pointing in our direction. Some of the things pointed in their direction."
When Cardinals manager Mike Shildt made a pitching change in the seventh -- turning to Tyler Webb after Gallegos gave up the homer -- he discussed the ruling with second-base umpire Bill Welke.
"I wanted to confirm," Shildt said. "And he said, ‘Mike, look, he just ran through it.’ He didn’t want to make that call there, but rules are rules. We haven’t looked at it yet, but if he ran through it, he ran through it. You have to make the call. Bill and this group do a good job, and he’s doing his job. The timing wasn’t great, but if he ran through it and didn’t stop, then call it.”
Ben Zobrist, who moved up to third from second base on the balk call -- which stemmed from Gallegos failing to come completely set in his delivery -- shouted and high-fived Kemp as he crossed the plate. The crowd shook the ballpark, which had been quieted a half-inning earlier when Marcell Ozuna gave St. Louis the lead with a two-run homer of his own.