It's nearly the end of the calendar year and I, too, have succumbed to the year-end ritual of writing about the "best of" 2014.
Thus this post with my choices for the five best Cubs games of the past season. Your choices might be different; feel free to weigh in with yours, and also make your selection for the best game of the year. I'm listing these in the traditional reverse order, with the "best" game listed last.
5) September 16 at Wrigley Field: Cubs 7, Reds 0
Jake Arrieta took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Brandon Phillips got the Reds' only hit, a line-drive double to left-center, to break it up with one out in the eighth. Arrieta also hit a double, struck out 13 and became the first Cubs pitcher to throw a complete-game shutout at Wrigley Field in almost five years (Ryan Dempster over the Pirates September 29, 2009).
4) August 29 at St. Louis: Cubs 7, Cardinals 2
Jorge Soler hit two home runs, the second of which was a colossal blast onto the conncourse behind the bleachers:
It was a great way to announce to the Cardinals that they'll have Soler to deal with for many years to come. Kyle Hendricks threw six solid innings in this win.
3) June 30 at Boston: Cubs 2, Red Sox 0
Arrieta again makes an appearance on this list. This is the game where he took a perfect game into the eighth inning, retiring the first 23 batters he faced before Stephen Drew singled. He struck out 10 Red Sox and left to a warm ovation from the Boston fans.
2) July 29 at Wrigley Field: Cubs 4, Rockies 3, 16 innings
This, of course, is the John Baker Game. The Rockies scored three off Edwin Jackson in the first inning -- and then did not score again. Jackson threw 105 pitches in just four innings, and the Cubs tied the game when Emilio Bonifacio hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth. (Turned out that was Bonifacio's last game as a Cub; he was traded two days later after sitting out the next day's game.)
No one scored for the next 11 innings. When the Cubs ran out of relievers, Baker took the mound. He got the first hitter he faced on a foul popup and then issued a walk. The next batter, Cristhian Adames, hit into an inning-ending double play.
Baker led off the bottom of the 16th with a walk and was sacrificed to second. A hit batsman and a single loaded the bases and Baker scored the winning run, jubilantly, on a sacrifice fly by Starlin Castro. The game time of six hours, 27 minutes is the longest by time in Cubs history, and the 18th-longest in major-league history.
Baker might not have been a very good hitter and he won't be back with the Cubs. But this game forever etches him into Cubs lore, and made this perhaps the most fun game of the year.
1) September 15 at Wrigley Field: Cubs 1, Reds 0
Outstanding pitching by Travis Wood, Neil Ramirez, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon held the Reds to just three hits before Anthony Rizzo hit a walkoff home run on the second pitch he saw leading off the bottom of the ninth. Rizzo had missed 18 games with back problems and this was his first game back in the lineup.
It's a close call between the Baker Game and Rizzo's walkoff for the top spot here, but given Rizzo's importance to the Cubs going forward and the fact that the three top relievers (Ramirez, Strop and Rondon) all threw excellent innings in this game makes it the one that gives me the most hope for the future.
What's your favorite game from 2014? Vote in the poll. And let's hope there's a much longer list to choose from in 2015.