Cubs 2, Mets 1: Nate Schierholtz' Big Day

Jeffrey Phelps

The Cubs were bad for seven innings Tuesday night. Then they were good! And that was enough for a win.

This was the type of game where, two or three decades ago, a starting pitcher who was as dominant as Zack Wheeler would have simply been allowed to keep dealing. Just four Cubs reached base against Wheeler -- two singles (both by Nate Schierholtz) and two walks, and after the second walk, to Luis Valbuena with two out in the seventh, Mets manager Terry Collins lifted Wheeler.

The 107-pitch outing was fairly typical for a starting pitcher these days, win or lose. And the Mets' bullpen couldn't hold their 1-0 lead; Schierholtz came up again in the bottom of the ninth and knocked out his third hit of the day, a line-drive single down the right-field line with Anthony Rizzo on second base, and the Cubs had a walkoff win, 2-1 over the Mets. It was their first walkoff win in nearly a year, since June 13, 2013 over the Reds, a span of 69 home games. And since that one was a 14-inning game, Tuesday's was the first walkoff win for the Cubs in the bottom of the ninth since April 12, 2013 against the Giants, a span of 32 more home games.

A long time coming, and this points up the importance of bullpens. Tuesday night, the Cubs' pen did excellent work, throwing 4⅓ scoreless innings and allowing just two singles after Jake Arrieta had struggled through 4⅔ innings and had to be pulled after throwing 105 pitches, a huge number for not even finishing five innings. Despite giving up seven hits and three walks, Arrieta was touched for just one run, the manufactured sort; Matt den Dekker led off the first inning with a single, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Curtis Granderson.

The Mets kept getting baserunners and stranding them. Arrieta loaded the bases with nobody out in the third on two singles and a walk, but got out of it. The Mets left nine men on base in the first five innings. You should be very familiar with that kind of offense.

Meanwhile, as noted, the Cubs did nothing off Wheeler, but with one out in the eighth, Chris Coghlan lofted a fly ball into left-center field off Josh Edgin that just barely landed in the left-field bleachers for a game-tying home run, Coghlan's first of the year (in fact, his first in more than a calendar year; his last was May 28, 2013 off Jeremy Hellickson). For a time it looked like one of those "neither team can win" games, but Rizzo led off the ninth with a single and moved to second on an infield out.

After Scott Rice struck out Luis Valbuena, the Mets had a choice: pitch to Schierholtz, who had already singled twice, or put him on to set up a force play and pitch to Coghlan.

Wrong choice for them, right for the Cubs as Schierholtz doubled in the game-winner. Schierholtz' overall numbers are still poor, but over his last 13 games he's hitting .298/.365/.468 (14-for-47 with two doubles and two home runs). If he can keep this up, perhaps some team will be interested in trading for him.

Walkoff wins are always satisfying, no matter where your team is in the standings. It would be nice to see more of these. (It would be nice to see more wins no matter where the Cubs are.)

During a couple of the inning breaks, a large sign saying, "Thanks Curtis" was displayed in the right-field bleachers in front of Granderson. Granderson, as you might know, donated $5 million to UIC for construction of a new baseball park there; I didn't have a chance to get over to right field but I'm assuming those were members of the UIC baseball team. The sign looked professionally printed. Granderson, a Chicago native, has always been good to his home town and done much charitable work; this line from that link sums it up:

Granderson’s gift of $5 million to UIC is the largest known one-time donation from a professional athlete to their alma mater, according to Sports Illustrated.

The Cubs will go for two in a row against the Mets tonight, with Edwin Jackson facing Daisuke Matsuzaka.

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