Tough break for Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney, who was three outs away — barring a Cubs rally — from breaking Placido Polanco's Major League record with his 142nd consecutive errorless game at second base, before committing a throwing miscue in the Cubs 8-3 loss to the Diamondbacks on Friday night.
The error occurred in the eighth inning and actually came on a very difficult play that saw Barney range to middle of the diamond to flag down Justin Upton's hard two-hopper. After securing the ball, Barney had to quickly unload with his momentum carrying him away from first base in order to have a chance at the quick runner. Unfortunately, that throw skipped in front of first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who couldn't make the clean pick to save him.
But what makes the play even more unfortunate for Barney is that it was actually scored a hit for Upton, which was definitely the correct call. However, since runner Aaron Hill scored on the play from second base, an error had to be charged, and just like that Barney's chance to make history was gone.
"That's probably the sickest feeling that I think I've had in the game besides a couple playoff losses when you know you're going home," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's wow, you can't believe it. Some things you can't understand in this world and in life, period. That one is unbelievable to happen in the [eighth] inning and a play like that. It wasn't even an error — it was an error because a guy advanced on a base hit that got away from the first baseman."
Speaking of that first baseman, one has to think he was feeling just as sick, if not more so than Sveum, after failing to even knock the ball down to prevent the lead runner from advancing.
"Rizzo wanted to throw up," Barney said. "Both of us were talking about how we didn't want another ball [hit to them]."
OK, so the ball is hit to Barney despite his wishes for that not to happen. He makes a great play to track it down, and then his natural baseball instincts seem to take over leading to a highly difficult throw. That leaves one to wonder if there was even a thought beforehand or a hesitation during the play to put a difficult chance in his pocket to preserve the streak.
"No, I've got to make that play," Barney said. "It was 5-3 at the time. We're in that ballgame. My job is to make plays regardless of taking risk and I think I've done that through this whole little run. That's just how you play the game. You can't hold that ball right there."
Spoken like a true gamer. And that's actually what makes the entire streak all the more impressive. That's the way Barney always plays. There's no hesitation. There's no fear of making mistakes. He's just trying to get every out he can for his pitchers, and for 141 games and seven innings, he succeeded in doing just that.
Of course that mentality doesn't change how difficult this play will be to swallow for the Cubs, but perhaps there will be longer term positives coming out of this. Because as Rizzo mentioned after the game, the emotional scene in the clubhouse actually brought the players a lot closer together. So while it's a difficult moment to be sure, it's also a learning experience and an opportunity for growth for all involved. For a team on the verge of 100 losses that's building around a young core, that can't be a bad thing.
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