For a team that lost 91 games, the Chicago Cubs are having quite an impact on the 2021 MLB playoffs.
Everywhere you look, some recent ex-Cub is turning up as the latest October hero. The trend reached a ridiculous proportion with Monday’s National League Division Series contest between the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers.
In the bottom of the fifth, Braves pinch hitter Joc Pederson became just the third player to hit two pinch-hit homers in the same postseason, belting a three-run jack off Milwaukee righty Adrian Houser that accounted for all the scoring in the Braves’ 3-0 win.
As you either already know or no doubt have guessed, Pederson is a very recent ex-Cub, having been acquired from Chicago by Atlanta in mid-July for a prospect. Oh, but there’s more: The bat Pederson used to hit the game-turning bomb was one he “stole” from former Chicago teammate Anthony Rizzo.
Joc Pederson was using Anthony Rizzo’s bat for that home run! pic.twitter.com/jnlS4L2f9N
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 11, 2021
Cameras during the broadcast caught Rizzo’s name on Pederson’s lumber. Asked about it during his on-field interview after the game, Pederson told TBS, “I stole it from him when we were in Chicago. He’s got a lot of hits in it. So, thanks, Big Horn.”
So Rizzo didn’t know?
“He just texted me,” Pederson said with a shrug. “Yeah, we’ll see.”
According to NBC Sports Chicago, Pederson first “borrowed” the bat — or at least a Rizzo model bat — back in May, when he rang out three hits in a loss to the Cleveland Indians.
Borrowing a teammate’s bat isn’t particularly unusual in the big leagues nor is continuing to use it if it works. But taking it beyond state lines and to another franchise? That might be a new tradition.
It was Rizzo who helped get the ex-Cub home run parade off to a grand start this October, homering for the New York Yankees in a wild-card game loss at the Boston Red Sox. Rizzo’s shot came three innings after another recent former Cub — Kyle Schwarber — went deep for the Red Sox.
And so it has gone in October: Rizzo is done, but his bat is not. Pederson has now hit two pinch-hit homers in Atlanta’s series against the Brewers, both off Houser. He is the first player to hit two pinch-hit bombs off the same pitcher in the same postseason.
No one has hit three career postseason pinch-hit homers. Even Pederson was impressed.
“Yeah, I guess I’m just a pretty good player, I don’t know,” Pederson deadpanned to reporters after Monday’s victory. “Just knocked it out of the yard.”
The key blow continues to put a fresh 21st-century spin on the old Ex-Cub Factor mythology. For decades, it was a trope around baseball that a team could not win a World Series if it had at least three former Cubs on the roster.
Now, in 2021, it seems you can’t get to the World Series without some fresh former Cub around to help. Rizzo, Pederson (twice), Schwarber (twice) and San Francisco’s Kris Bryant have all gone deep so far in the playoffs.
At the time of this writing, that means six of the 33 homers this postseason have been hit by batters who played for the Cubs either this season or last. Those four players have combined to hit .433 with a 1.033 slugging percentage.
The lesson is clear: In 2021 baseball mythology, if you want to win, you must have a former Cub. Failing that, swipe some equipment. Better yet, as in the case of Pederson and the Braves, try to get both.