Second baseman Addison Russell essentially cost the Cubs by making a risky throw home. (Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)
Second baseman Addison Russell essentially cost the Cubs by making a risky throw home. (Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Cubs News: Addison Russell defends his questionable decision to throw home


by - Senior Writer -

PITTSBURGH — The Chicago Cubs gave up two runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday and lost on a walkoff sacrifice fly. However, the sacrifice fly would not have been possible if Cubs second baseman Addison Russell had gone for the easy out at first base instead of going home with his throw on a grounder in the previous at-bat.

With the Cubs leading 5-4 with one out and runners on second and third, Russell, who was shifted over toward the first-base side, fielded a dribbler hit near first and bobbled the ball while attempting to take it out of his glove. Therefore, what would have already been a really close play at the plate was made not very close at all when Russell fired home in an attempt at outing the lead runner. Cubs catcher Victor Caratini's tag attempt was late, and the Pirates tied the game without suffering their second out.

Thereafter, with runners on the corners and still just one out, a sacrifice fly to left scored the man on third with ease, providing the Pirates with a 6-5 walkoff win. Russell's decision to not make the simple second out at first base, which would have vastly increased the Cubs' chances of forcing extra innings, thereby cost the Cubs in the end, leading Cubs manager Joe Maddon to indirectly criticize the questionable throw home after the game.

"If the ball's hit hard," Maddon told the media about Russell's gamble, "you have a shot at it. Otherwise, just get the out."

Like Maddon said, if the grounder was hit harder, which would have given the lead runner less time to make it down the baseline before Russell fielded it, then it would have been understandable for Russell to throw to the plate. Instead, Russell probably should have flipped the ball to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, resulting in the ensuing fly ball serving as an inning-ending flyout rather than a game-winning sacrifice fly.

Russell was adamant in defending his decision to the media, though, saying, "I think, personally, I was just a little bit too far back, and I had to move to my left. It would've had to be a perfect play. I don't regret my decision going home."

Russell essentially questioned Maddon's decision to call a shift that positioned Russell at the back edge of the infield dirt. With that being said, Russell was positioned there in order to increase his chances of fielding a hard-hit grounder and firing a throw to first for the second out. Also, a single hit to shallow right field could have potentially scored both baserunners in that situation. While Russell's attempt at gunning down the runner at the dish was valiant, in retrospect, Russell should have gotten the guaranteed out at first, whether he is willing to admit it or not.

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