It’s been a long time since the Cubs and Cardinals played a series at Wrigley Field in late September that mattered.
Or September in general.
Not since a doubleheader infused five-game set in 2003 have the rivals met on the North side in baseball’s final month with playoff implications on the line for both teams – and they’ve acted like it this weekend.
On Friday, it only took seven innings for the series’ first ejections when Cardinals pitcher Matt Belisle and manager Mike Matheny got tossed after the former blatantly threw at Anthony Rizzo.
Matheny and the Cardinals, sour after two Starlin Castro home runs blew open the game, thought it was a good time to “retaliate” from Dan Haren accidentally plunking Matt Holliday in the fifth.
Haren’s reaction and the Cubs’ one-run lead at the time is all the evidence you need to confirm it was unintentional. Something that can happen in any baseball game between any two teams.
But what happened to Rizzo was quite the opposite.
Never played catcher. What does pinky at the batter mean after you look into the dugout? pic.twitter.com/suQigv7GBB
— Kurtis Tucker (@dezigner80) September 18, 2015
Belisle going at Rizzo – almost undoubtedly doing so on instructions from Matheny and the dugout – might as well have been a massive billboard on 55 South that reads:
“HEY, IN CASE IT WASN’T OFFICIAL, CUBS-CARDINALS IS BACK.”
Obviously it was Anthony Rizzo, who said the Cubs would win the NL Central this season (twice) and is the unquestioned captain of Joe Maddon’s blossoming and talented squad.
On Saturday, Maddon and closer Hector Rondon got tossed in the ninth after a Rondon pitch got away from him – something the umpires did in the interest of proactive damage control more than anything.
Earlier this season, when the young Cubs were still figuring things out and miles behind St. Louis in the historically good NL Central, it wasn’t so certain that the National League’s oldest rivalry had returned in earnest.
And if the Belisle-Rizzo incident didn’t make it official, Maddon’s postgame comments sure as hell did.
As a Cubs fan, it’s tough not to love every second of that clip – especially when you consider the clear message plastered all over Maddon’s words.
The Cubs and Cardinals rivalry is back.