You know those YouTube videos showing people who tie ropes to their bumpers and try to uproot trees? Well, the Pirates attempted the Major League Baseball equivalent of that Thursday afternoon.

Did Cubs slugger Javier Báez use a Jedi mind trick on them, or did the Pirates just make themselves walk the plank?

All the Pirates needed to do was step on first base and the top of the third inning would have ended without the Cubs scoring a run. What happened instead might shock you.

First of all, before any of the genuine insanity happened, the Pirates had Willson Contreras picked off at first but couldn’t execute a tag in time. The pickoff throw from left-hander Tyler Anderson handcuffed Will Craig at first base and he was unable to throw to second. Officially just a stolen base. That stuff happens. It happens to the Pirates a lot, but it happens. No matter, Anderson had Javier Báez down 0-2 in the count. Just make the next play, Pirates, and you escape with no damage. But there would be no escape.

Baez bounced the next pitch to Erik Gonzalez, whose throw to first pulled Craig off the bag. Baez, whose nickname is “El Mago” (“The Magician”), pulled a colony of rabbits out of his hat by getting into a rundown — between home and first! 

Báez kept backing up and Craig followed him, when all he needed to do was back up, himself, and tag the first-base bag for the third out.

Contreras, meanwhile, kept running around third as Craig “pursued” Baez toward home. At the last moment, Craig flipped the ball to catcher Michael Perez, whose tag was not in time. The umpire signaled “SAFE” at the plate! And so did Báez, getting caught up in the moment, like everyone else.


Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Will Craig, right, tosses the ball to catcher Michael Perez, left, after Chicago Cubs' Javier Baez (9) hit a fielder's choice third to first and was caught in a rundown between home and first during the third inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, May 27, 2021. Cub's Willson Contreras, top center, scores on the play and Báez reached second on an errant throw by Pirates' catcher Perez. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

“Oh my goodness!” shouted Cubs broadcaster Jon Sciambi on Marquee.

But the run scoring was only conditional, because the Pirates could STILL get Báez at first base if they either tagged him out or got the ball to the bag and tagged it before Báez made it.

Báez had an idea: Run to first! Anderson seemed to be the first person on defense who realized that there was still hope, and he pointed to first base. Perez threw the ball that way, generally, but no one was covering, until Adam Frazier came in late. Perez’s throw was wild, behind Frazier, and Báez made a head-first slide into the bag (for some reason). The play’s not over yet, by the way, because Báez was able to get up and run to second on Perez’s throwing error. He must have been winded.

So was Anthony Rizzo, laughing it up on the bench. The Cubs are laughing not only because of the raw silliness, but from a “Javy made them do it” point of view. Do you believe in magic?

This is the part that Pirates fans hope club owner Bob Nutting sees.

Finally, the play was over. Official scoring: Fielder’s choice, RBI, E-2 on the throw. It was a choice, all right. Because everything is costly to the Pirates, Báez came around to score on a bloop single and the Cubs had a 3-0 lead for right-hander Kyle Hendricks instead of 1-0.

OK, who can we blame?

In postgame interviews, the Pirates rallied around Craig, sort of:

It’s not the first time that a batter managed to get in a rundown between home and first base but perhaps it will be the last time after video of this play gets around. The Pirates’ penance should be a 26-person demotion to Triple-A Indianapolis for at least the next 48-72 hours. If you’re asking why the entire team gets demoted and not just Will Craig: this is a team sport. You win as a team, you lose as a team, you get humiliated as a team. See you back in MLB next week, Pirates.

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