After the 1984 season ended in playoff failure, it still looked like the Cubs would be strong contenders in 1985, especially after re-signing Cy Young Award winner Rick Sutcliffe to a multi-year contract.
The Cubs started out 1985 strong, too, winning seven of their first eight and 11 of their first 15. One of those games was this crisply-played Tuesday afternoon affair. Just 11,937 watched with a strong wind blowing in at 24 miles per hour. The Tribune's Fred Mitchell wrote about Dennis Eckersley's 1-0 shutout of the Phillies:
Eckersley outdueled 42-year-old Phillies' lefty Jerry Koosman for the triumph. "You feel confident with the wind blowing in the way it was today," Eckersley said. "You can get away with a mistake, although I don't think they hit the ball hard on me. I've been looking for a shutout for the past two years. I finally got one. I had a good fastball and the umpire [Joe West] gave me some pitches here and there, and that's what you have to have to have a good game." Eckersley danced out of a major jam in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Greg Gross led off with a single to left. Jeff Stone sacrificed him to second before Juan Samuel struck out. That's when [manager Jim] Frey ordered [Von] Hayes walked to get to [Mike] Schmidt, who went down swinging.
The Cubs eventually won the game when Larry Bowa, who had been made a utility infielder that spring in favor ofbecoming the starting shortstop, opened the 10th inning with a single. He was sacrificed to second and scored on a Bob Dernier single.
Everything looked great for the Cubs that year, even into June; they won on June 11, running their record to 35-19, four games in first place. But then the starting pitchers began to get injured. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. All five starters -- Sutcliffe, Eckersley, Scott Sanderson, Steve Trout and Dick Ruthven -- spent time on the DL. Rick Reuschel had been allowed to depart as a free agent -- Reuschel would sure have helped, considering he went 14-8 with a 2.96 ERA for the Pirates in 1985. Instead, the Cubs gave starts to guys like Jay Baller, Steve Engel, Reggie Patterson, Johnny Abrego and the 37-year-old carcass of Larry Gura, who posted an 8.31 ERA for the Cubs before being released.
From that 35-19 peak, the Cubs lost 13 in a row -- still the second-longest losing streak in team history -- and went 42-65 the rest of the way.
So Eckersley's shutout was a highlight of a dismal season. Just nine pitchers have thrown a 10-inning (or more) complete-game shutout in the nearly 29 years since that chilly April day at Wrigley Field.