Since we have a little time before the playoffs start, I took some time to remember some games from the past season. I came up with seven off the top of my head. These aren’t necessarily the best games, although some of them are, but they are games that stuck in my head for one reason or another.
April 7, 2016: Cubs 14, Diamondbacks 6.
This was John Lackey’s first game as a Cub and since his signing was somewhat controversial around here, he didn’t make a good first impression as he gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Jean Segura. Then he went on to give up three total runs in the first, another in the second and two in the third. Sure, he went on to throw three scoreless innings after that rough start and would get the win. Anthony Rizzo had a home run and six RBI in this game.
You know that’s not the reason I remember this game. The run in the second inning scored on Jean Segura’s second home run in as many innings: an inside-the-park home run after left fielder Kyle Schwarber and center fielder Dexter Fowler collided. Schwarber tore his ACL and his LCL and would miss the rest of the season. Hey, at least the Cubs won.
April 21, 2016: Cubs 16, Reds 0.
The Cubs pounded out 16 runs. Kris Bryant, who destroys the Reds seemingly every time he faces them, hit a grand slam and a two-run home run. Ben Zobrist, David Ross and Anthony Rizzo also homered. Almost no one remembers any of that.
This was Jake Arrieta’s second career no-hitter. He wasn’t nearly as dominant as he was in the no-hitter against the Dodgers the year before, but he was dominant enough. He walked four and only struck out six, but the Reds never really hit a ball hard against him. Arrieta has certainly had a few more stinkers this season than he did last year, but this wasn’t one of them.
May 6, 2016: Cubs 8, Nationals 6.
I remember this one not for the game, although it was a good one, but because I was running errands during this Friday day game and I caught bits and pieces on the radio (OK, streaming on my phone and hooked up to my car speakers by Bluetooth). Every time I restarted the stream, the game had changed in some way.
John Lackey (again!) gave up a run in the first on an Anthony Rendon and another run in the second on a single by the opposing pitcher Max Scherzer. But then he settled down (this seems like a trend) and didn’t give up another run over the next five innings.
Meanwhile, the Cubs hit four home runs off of Scherzer, who is probably the slight favorite to win the Cy Young Award this season. Tommy La Stella tied up the game 2-2 with a two-run blast in the bottom of the second. Rizzo had a solo home run in the third and the Ben Zobrist gave the Cubs a big 8-2 lead with a solo home run later in the third and a three-run home run in the fifth. The Cubs bullpen made us all sweat when the gave up four runs in the eighth (and Daniel Murphy gave us all flashbacks of last October), but Hector Rondon shut them down in the ninth for the win.
May 8: Cubs 4, Nationals 3, 13 innings.
The Cubs swept the second-best team in the National League (at the time) with this 13 inning Mother’s Day marathon. It was when the Cubs swept the Nationals that I knew that no one was going to catch the Cubs in the NL Central this season.
The Cubs bullpen pitched eight scoreless innings (3 for Trevor Cahill, 2 for Adam Warren, 2 for Justin Grimm and 1 for Travis Wood) after taking over for Jake Arrieta. But what everyone, including me, will remember about this game is the walk-off home run by Javier Baez with his pink bat.
June 27: Cubs 11, Reds 8.
This is the Bryant Game. As I mentioned before, Kris Bryant loves to torment the Reds and this was the game when he became the first player in history to hit three home runs and two doubles in one game. It got to the point in this game when he hit his third home run in the eighth, I was just laughing on my couch in disbelief.
Rizzo and Jake Arrieta also homered in this game, but no one remembers that. The game was surprisingly closer than it should have been because the Cubs didn’t pitch well, but no one remembers that. This will always be remembered as the Bryant Game.
July 10: Cubs 6, Pirates 5.
This game wasn’t all that memorable, even though it was pretty close. Albert Almora hit a home run. Matt Szczur hit a pinch-hit double in the eighth inning and scored what would turn out to be the winning run on a Kris Bryant single.
What makes this game memorable for me is that it was the last game before the All-Star Break. As I’m sure you remember, the Cubs were slumping heading into the break. The Cubs had lost nine of ten games coming into this game and I didn’t want to face the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing around here for a week if the Cubs went into the break with a six-game losing streak. Plus, Eloy Jimenez would go on to have a great game in the Futures Game later that day after this game ended.
September 12: Cubs 4, Cardinals 1.
The Cubs had one no-hitter already this season, could they make it two? Kyle Hendricks no-hit the Cardinals through eight innings. He had walked Yadier Molina in the second inning, but erased him in a double play. Hendricks then walked Jedd Gyorko in the eighth and had faced only one batter over the minimum when Jeremy Hazelbaker came to bat to lead off the ninth.
We all know what happened then. Hazelbaker homered, ending the no-hitter and the shutout with one swing. It was really the only well-hit ball that Hendricks allowed all game.
This game was Hendricks at his best Everything seemed effortless for him in this game. He located his pitches and while he did get seven strikeouts, he mostly induced weak contact that the Cubs defense had no problems fielding. Hendricks isn’t really as good as his 1.99 ERA would indicate—he gets a lot of help from the Cubs’ stellar defense—but he is a lot better than I thought he’d be when I pegged him as a 5th starter a few years ago. He’s been one of the biggest reasons for the outstanding season the Cubs have had this year.
So those are the games that most stick in my head as we head to the postseason. What games do you remember?