ST. LOUIS — Someday, Ian Happ’s major league debut will be remembered best for the 413-foot shot he hit in the seventh inning Saturday against the Cardinals. It was the 22-year-old former Cubs No. 1 draft pick’s first hit and seemed an exciting sign of things to come for a player who raked all spring and hit nine homers in 26 games at AAA Iowa this season.
But forget that noise for now — all the talk after the Cubs’ 5-3 defeat was of a controversial fifth-inning ruling by second base umpire Mike Everitt that cost Happ and the Cubs dearly. The Cubs were trailing 3-1, with runners on first and third and one out, when Happ was called for illegally sliding into second base on what appeared to be a harmless attempt to break up a double play.
Losing pitcher Jon Lester told the newcomer in the dugout, “Next time, do the same thing.”
“That’s baseball, man,” he said. “We’re out there playing with a bunch of pansies right now. I mean, I’m over it. I’m over this damn slide rule and replaying if it was too far and all this other BS, man. We’re all men out there. We’re grown men. These guys have turned double plays their entire lives. They know how to get the hell out of the way.”
Happ slid straight into and slightly beyond the bag at second and brushed the leg of shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who would’ve had no chance whatsoever to throw out batter Anthony Rizzo at first even if Happ were still in Iowa. No matter, it was ruled a bad slide and the call stood after an umpire review. Instead of Kyle Schwarber scoring from third to make it 3-2, both Happ and Rizzo were called out — inning over.
Maddon and Lester shredded the overreaching application of the rule, which was instituted for the 2016 season after a brutal takeout slide by then-Dodger Chase Utley in the 2015 playoffs.
“Don’t tell me that’s protectionism, don’t tell me a middle infielder was protected and don’t tell me a middle infielder was in danger right there,” Maddon said. “None of that holds up. I’d like to see that rule ejected.””
Lester (1-2) allowed three runs, two of them earned, and struck out nine over 5 2/3 innings, just failing to deliver the Cubs’ fourth consecutive quality start. They’ve yet to have more than three in a row this season.
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