The Top 20 Cub HR Of All Time - #17 Mark Grace 7/30/1989

Just as in 1984, the 1989 Cubs roared out of the gate and gave notice they'd be a team to be reckoned with. A six-game winning streak in early April made them 8-2, and despite some setbacks later in the month and in early May, they took over first place by themselves in the NL East on May 23 and stayed there for a month. Then a sweep at Wrigley Field at the hands of the Expos, followed by getting swept by the Pirates, put them behind the first-place Expos and in close competition with the Mets, as the Mets came into Wrigley Field for a three-game series at the end of July.

The Cubs had recently won an exciting game on July 20 when they came from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th and won in the 10th on a double by, of all people, relief pitcher Les Lancaster (who had a lifetime BA of .098).

After losing to the Giants the next day, the Cubs racked up four wins in a row, then got shut out on two hits by Jose DeLeon in St. Louis, and then took the first two games of a series at Wrigley Field against the Mets, pushing New York into fourth place, before the series finale on Sunday, July 30.

The Cubs blew a 4-2 lead in the 7th when closer Mitch Williams was summoned with two out(see? back then, managers still at times called in their closers before the 9th). Williams gave up a two-run single to Keith Hernandez, tying the game. After wild-pitching Ron Darling (who had come in to run for Hernandez) to second, Williams was replaced by Lancaster.

The game moved on tied into the last of the ninth. Looking at the PBP, the reader from 2007 wonders, "Why didn't Don Zimmer bat for Lancaster?" Well, part of that was because Zimmer was Zimmer, and part of it was that Lancaster had thrown well, 2.1 shutout innings with only 25 pitches, and likely Zim felt he could go another inning, and with the top of the order due up maybe it wouldn't be necessary. Or maybe Zimmer thought he could hit another double, as he had ten days earlier. At the time, I remember thinking exactly that: "Why is Lancaster batting?" He struck out. In many ways, the 1989 Cubs won the division in spite of Don Zimmer, not because of him.

Jerome Walton singled, putting the potential winning run on base, but future Cub Rick Aguilera struck out Ryne Sandberg (while wild-pitching Walton to second base). With the lefthanded hitting Mark Grace due up, Davey Johnson brought in his closer, the pre-Nasty Boy, pre-Cub Randy Myers. Myers, to that date in 1989, had been nearly unhittable -- a .198 BAA, 15 saves, a 6-3 record and a 1.58 ERA. At the time he had allowed only one HR in his career to a lefthanded hitter -- about six weeks earlier to Von Hayes of the Phillies. And Grace wasn't known as a power hitter, even then -- he had hit only 12 career HR before July 30, 1989, in 786 at-bats.

No matter. Grace hit Myers' second pitch onto Sheffield Avenue, his first career walkoff. It finished a series sweep against a key division rival; six days later the Cubs tied the Expos for first place and two days after that they took over first place alone, and never fell out the rest of the season.

Note: Yes, it's just a coincidence that the ranking on this list matches Grace's uniform number.

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