CHICAGO -- It didn't take long for the first highlight to arrive during a 5-4 walk-off victory for the White Sox over the Cubs in Monday's opener of the Crosstown Cup series, with two games at U.S. Cellular Field and two to follow at Wrigley Field.
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant hit what looked to be his 26th home run of the season on the first pitch he saw from White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez with one out in the first inning. But Melky Cabrera slowly moved back toward the left-field wall, leaped and reached over the wall to take away a home run.
Cabrera sat on the ground for a few seconds as applause from the sellout crowd cascaded down, before holding up his glove to show he made the play. He later applauded the catch with his hands over his head, enthusiasm Cubs manager Joe Maddon didn't share.
"I'm revoking Melky Cabrera's membership at my wife's gym in Tampa officially after today," said Maddon, referring to where they both work out. "He went over the wall. He made two great throws."
"I tracked the ball since Bryant made contact with it," said Cabrera through White Sox interpreter Billy Russo. "It wasn't a really hard fly ball, it was more high and I tracked the ball perfectly and when I jumped and I caught it I knew it because it tracked it very well."
This first-inning play was important but not as crucial as Cabrera's ninth-inning throw. Trailing by two, the Cubs opened the ninth with Javier Baez's double, Dexter Fowler's single and Bryant's single to left off of Matt Albers. Bryant tried to stretch the single into a double, but Cabrera nailed him with a perfect strike to second baseman Tyler Saladino to produce the inning's first out.
The Cubs scored two to tie, but the White Sox won it in the bottom half.
"That was a huge play," Saladino said. "If he's safe there, it could change the whole dynamic."
"Cabrera gets in the corner, he throws the ball and it looked like [he was] flat-footed, right on the money and [Bryant] is out," Maddon said. "If that ball is off-line just a skosh, he's safe. That's a great throw from left field. That's one of those aggressive moments. I would never say [Bryant] did anything wrong. Give the defense credit -- they made a great play."