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Video: Cubs overcome deficit against Braves with a nine-run rally

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How many runs does a team need to score before they’ve safely secured the lead? Five? Eight? Ten? The Braves stockpiled an impressive 10 runs in the first four innings of Saturday’s contest against the Cubs, helped to an enormous degree by Ozzie Albies‘ four-RBI performance (solo home run in the first, RBI double in the second, productive out in the third and RBI single in the fourth) and a five-run explosion in the third.

That still wasn’t enough to keep the Cubs at bay. They grabbed a handful of runs off of Sean Newcomb — a first-inning blast from Albert Almora Jr., a run-scoring groundout in the third, a bases-loaded walk in the sixth, a pair of runs in the seventh — but nothing they did hinted at the carnage that would follow in the eighth inning.

Luke Jackson hit Jason Heyward to open the eighth, then recovered to whiff Kyle Schwarber for the first out. After Tommy La Stella muscled a single into center field, however, Jackson was pulled for Jose Ramirez. Ramirez was similarly effective; he induced a swinging strikeout from Efren Navarro before also losing his grip on the ball. Kris Bryant was plunked to load the bases, Willson Contreras singled in a run, and Ben Zobrist walked in another.

With two outs and a three-run lead, the Braves still had a chance to exit the inning without any additional damage. That chance slipped away in the next at-bat: Javier Baez worked a full count, then doubled into center to plate Bryant, Contreras and Zobrist and tie the game.

The next four batters took a walk: Ramirez intentionally walked Addison Russell before he was replaced with Sam Freeman, who saw just two of 14 pitches land anywhere close to the strike zone as Heyward, Schwarber and La Stella each took a free pass (and a couple of RBI as well). Peter Moylan quickly relieved Freeman, but even he couldn’t harness whatever strange magic the Cubs were brewing. He lobbed a wild pitch at Navarro, which glanced off of Kurt Suzuki‘s glove and gave Heyward enough room to score the penultimate run. Suzuki was then charged with an error after overthrowing second base, allowing the ball to roll into center field as Schwarber plated the ninth and final run of the inning. (In other words, just your run-of-the-mill two-hit, five-walk, nine-run comeback.)

By the time the dust settled, the Braves had expended four pitchers, 55 pitches and nine runs on three hits and five walks… in the eighth inning alone. With the series now split 1-1 following Friday’s shutout and Saturday’s blowout, the clubs will face off for the deciding game on Sunday at 2:20 PM ET.

This Day in Transaction History: Phillies acquire John Kruk from Padres

John Kruk
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John Kruk is one of the more underrated hitters in baseball history. Kruk, who is currently a broadcaster for the Phillies, had a 10-year career during which he hit exactly 100 homers, batted exactly .300, and posted an excellent .397 on-base percentage. In baseball history, there are only 32 members of the admittedly arbitrary 100/.300/.395+ club. Kruk is one of only 10 members of the club that played after 1963. The others: Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Manny Ramírez, Frank Thomas, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez, and Wade Boggs. Of them, five are Hall of Famers. Trout and Votto will be, and Helton and Ramírez should be.

On this day in 1989, the Phillies made a franchise-altering trade, acquiring Kruk along with infielder Randy Ready from the Padres in exchange for outfielder Chris James. The Padres had just swept the Phillies at home and were hoping to jump into the playoff race. They immediately went into a losing skid, but caught fire at the end of the season, finishing 89-73. However, that wasn’t good enough as the Giants won the NL West with a 92-70 record. James was solid for the Padres, posting a .743 OPS with 11 homers and 46 RBI in 87 games.

Kruk had an interesting but brief major league career with the Padres. His roommate, Roy Plummer, was an armed robber. Kruk was completely unaware of this. In spring training of 1988, the FBI informed Kruk of his roommates’ activities. Kruk feared retribution from Plummer and said that the anxiety affected his baseball performance. In 1988, Kruk batted what was for him a poor .241/.369/.362 with nine homers and 44 RBI over 466 plate appearances.

The Phillies didn’t enjoy immediate success upon Kruk’s arrival in 1989. The club finished the season with a losing record and would do the same in the ensuing three seasons. None of it was Kruk’s fault, though: in aggregate, from 1990-92, he hit .303/.393/.459, earning two All-Star nominations. In this span of time, the only other first basemen to hit above .300 were Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor, Hal Morris, and Rafael Palmeiro. The Padres had used Kruk both in the corner outfield and at first base, but the Phillies made him a full-time first baseman, which turned out to be a good move.

In 1993, everything came together for the Phillies and Kruk had what was arguably the greatest season of his career. He hit .316, which was actually seven points below his average the previous year, but he drew 111 walks to push his on-base percentage up to .430. Kruk hit third in the lineup, creating plenty of RBI opportunities for Dave Hollins in the clean-up spot, Darren Daulton at No. 5, and the trio of Jim Eisenreich, Pete Incaviglia, and Wes Chamberlain in the No. 6 spot. The Phillies shocked the world in ’93, winning the NL East by three games over the Expos with a 97-65 record. They then dispatched the Braves in six games in the NLCS to advance to the World Series against the Blue Jays.

Kruk was productive in the NLCS, contributing six hits including a pair of doubles, a triple, a home run, four walks, five RBI, and four runs scored. But he turned things up a notch in the World Series, registering multi-hit performances in the first three games. He would finish the World Series with eight hits in 23 at-bats along with seven walks, four RBI, and four runs scored. The World Series was winnable for the Phillies as they lost a barnburner Game 4 15-14, and of course, dropped the deciding Game 6 on a World Series-clinching walk-off three-run home run by Joe Carter off of Mitch Williams.

1994 was tough on Kruk in many ways. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in spring training. Knee issues continued to bother him, and then Major League Baseball had a work stoppage. In an abbreviated season, Kruk hit a still-productive .823 OPS. He became a free agent and, when baseball came back, he signed with the White Sox. In the first inning of a July 30 game against the Orioles in ’95, Kruk singled to left field off of Scott Erickson. He reached first base, bowed to the fans, and walked off the field into retirement. Kruk told the media, “The desire to compete at this level is gone. When that happens, it’s time to go.”

Kruk has spent his post-playing days working in sports media as both a broadcaster (Phillies, ESPN nationally) and as a commentator (The Best Damn Sports Show Period, Baseball Tonight). The Phillies inducted him into their Wall of Fame in August 2011. One wonders if Kruk hadn’t been bit by the injury bug, and if there hadn’t been a work stoppage, if he might have been able to accrue some more numbers to have a borderline Hall of Fame case. Regardless, he’ll go down as one of the games’ quietly great hitters.