Only the Chicago Cubs would allow a guy to reach third base on a line drive hit to the shortstop.
It happened at Wrigley Field in the seventh inning Wednesday afternoon, when Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez led off with a screaming line drive, perhaps shoulder high, hit at Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. Reaching over not quite far enough, Castro had the ball go off his glove for an error. Castro has had some maddening misadventures in the field since coming to the majors, but this misplay was average for him.
Not that the fun was over.
Alvarez's liner was hit so hard, it split a huge gap in left center and its roll was aided by grass that, unlike other seasons at Wrigley, was playing more like artificial turf. By the time left fielder Junior Lake retrieved the ball at the warning track (!!!), Alvarez had reached second base. But Lake bobbled the ball, failing to pick it up with his glove (a no-no), and he showed a complete lack of urgency in trying to pick it up again and get it back to the infield. It was a keen example of lollygagging, as it was called in the movie "Bull Durham."
Watching all of this unfold, Alvarez re-started his sprint after having hesitated around second base, and made it to third with a head-first slide. The only person charged with an error on the play was Castro, though I think we all know that's not really how it went down.
It was a unique-looking play — and so Cubs — but I do remember another line drive to short that turned into an inside-the-park grand slam once. Ron Karkovice of the White Sox hit a screamer just over the glove of a leaping Greg Gagne of the Twins at the Metrodome in 1990. That ball skipped to the fence and one of the outfielders, John Moses, fell down before trying to flip the ball to Dan Gladden. But the time the Twinkies figured out what was happening, Karko had scored.
The thing about the Alvarez "triplerror" was, the Pirates couldn't score him from third with no outs. So good on the Cubs for that, and bad on the Bucs, who went on to lose 4-2. Pittsburgh will have to take two of three at Cincinnati starting Friday in order to host the one-game wild card playoff next week.