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‘Game-saving play’: Cubs defensive prowess sets stage in series-clinching win

1 week agoAndy Martinez

The Cubs offense stole the show in extra innings.

But the stage was set by Nico Hoerner’s defensive prowess an inning prior.

With 1 out in the 9th and the go-ahead run at second base, Edward Olivares hit a groundball to the left side that looked destined to reach the outfield and allow the Pirates to walk it off.

Instead, Hoerner dove from his position and fielded the ball, forcing Michael A. Taylor to stop at third base. Héctor Neris then pitched out of a bases-loaded jam to force extra innings in the Cubs’ 5-4 win over Pittsburgh.

“It’s the game-saving play by Nico,” Patrick Wisdom told Elise Menaker after the game on Cubs Postgame Live. “And even though he didn’t get an out, he saved the go-ahead run right there and then Héctor’s able to get out of that inning and we’re able to capitalize and put runs on the board.”

In the scorebook, it’s a single for Olivares, but it’s as good as an out for the Cubs, allowing them to the game tied.

“That’s the game,” Craig Counsell said after the game. “That’s a game-saving play.”

In the 10th, the Cubs plated 3 runs on a Cody Bellinger RBI single, a Wisdom solo home run and a passed ball that scored Mike Tauchman. 

Hoerner was an exceptional shortstop defensively in 2022 but moved to second base last year — and won a Gold Glove at the position — when the Cubs signed Dansby Swanson to a 7-year deal. But with Swanson on the IL, Hoerner moved back to shortstop and played a massive role in a series-clinching win.

The Cubs were one of the best teams defensively last season but have struggled in that department this season. They rank 25th in Outs Above Average (-9) and 19th in Defensive Runs Saved (-3) this season, after ranking eighth (16) and sixth in DRS (36) last year.

Plays like that showcase the level the team can still reach defensively and how improvement in that department can lead to more success this season.

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