Things can change quickly in baseball. Just a few months after the Astros won the N.L. West and the Cubs floundered to a 90-loss season in 1986, the teams appeared to be flip-flopped when they met in early June, 1987 at Wrigley Field. The Cubs were 29-21, and with new free-agent signee Andre Dawson, looked like they might make a run to the top of the National League East. Houston was struggling at .500.
Bob Knepper faced Rick Sutcliffe in a Wednesday afternoon affair. Knepper managed to finish the first inning, but probably wished his manager, Hal Lanier, had yanked him earlier. The sequence of Cubs events in that inning:
Strikeout, walk, single, walk, grand-slam home run, solo home run, lineout, single, single, bunt single (run scores, runners advance on throwing error), three-run homer, fly out.
That's three homers and nine runs off Knepper, who was mercifully pulled by his manager after just one inning. But there was more, wrote Fred Mitchell in the Tribune:
Houston manager Hal Lanier's "Say No To Home Runs" campaign went in one ear of his pitching staff and right out the other as the Cubs launched six homers -- including two grand slams -- in a 22-7 public flogging Wednesday at windy Wrigley Field. With the Astros contributing one, the three grand slams set a National League record.
For the record, the six homers were hit by Keith Moreland (who hit two), Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Brian Dayett and Jim Sundberg (as a pinch-hitter); Dayett and Moreland hit the slams. Sandberg, pictured here in one of the strange-looking blue-top road uniforms of the era, scored four runs and drove in three; Moreland wound up with seven RBI. The Cubs scored in each of the first seven innings of the game before being blanked in the eighth by Houston reliever Larry Andersen, and wound up with a 22-7 victory. No Cubs team has scored that many runs in a Wrigley Field game since.
Sutcliffe, who got hit pretty hard (seven runs), was lifted after five innings; even so, he ran his record to 8-2. After this win the Cubs were in second place in the National League East and looked like they'd contend for the division title. They immediately went on an 8-15 slide that ruined any chances of contending; in early September manager Gene Michael was fired with the team at 68-68. Frank Lucchesi, who reminded many of one of the College of Coaches, took over and "guided" the club to a 9-17 finish.
But at least we had Andre Dawson's MVP season to soothe the wounds of another losing year.