The Cubs finished the home season with an emotional tribute to David Ross — who homered — and won their 99th game. They were 99-56 and led the N.L. Central by 18 games.
Who writes these scripts, anyway?
David Ross has been the Cubs’ backup catcher for two years, spending the bulk of his career with six other teams.
You’d have thought he was heading to the Hall of Fame after Sunday night’s game, when he received standing ovations every time he came to the plate. Here’s the first one:
The second time Ross came to the plate, this happened:
The home run, just another of the dozens of magical moments at Wrigley this year, gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
The end of that video includes Ross’ third moment, when Joe Maddon came out to the mound with two out in the seventh inning. Carl Edwards Jr. had been warming up and at first it appeared that might be the end of Jon Lester’s evening. Made sense, right? Lester had thrown 85 pitches at that point and Maddon’s trying to limit pitch counts and...
No. That was for Ross, who left the game to yet another ovation.
Those videos don’t give you an idea of just how loud it was at Wrigley Field Sunday night. I don’t think I’ve heard the ol’ ballyard rocking that loud except during postseason games. And we have Lester to thank for that final ovation for Grandpa Rossy:
It was Lester's idea to take Ross out of the game so he could be saluted by the fans. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 26, 2016
Lester and Maddon talked about it on Saturday. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 26, 2016
Well done, Jon and Joe.
David Ross certainly is not headed to the Hall of Fame. But in his two seasons in Chicago, what he has meant to the Cubs is beyond statistical measure. Cubs announcer Len Kasper explains it best, I think:
This David Ross Night thing is A THING. Incredible how much he is loved here. Calling that HR on radio just now 1 of greatest things ever.— Len Kasper (@LenKasper) September 26, 2016
And for those who don't know David Ross personally, he's probably the best teammate I've ever seen. He will be managing in MLB within 5 yrs— Len Kasper (@LenKasper) September 26, 2016
I know Ross has expressed the wish to take a year away from the game to spend with his family. He’s certainly earned that. I hope that after that, he’ll return as a member of the Cubs coaching staff, and perhaps, someday, succeed Joe Maddon as Cubs manager. He’s had a fine year at the plate: .233/.343/.454 with 10 home runs and 1.9 bWAR. He could have started for a lot of teams with those numbers.
On a night when forecasts of thunderstorms created uncertainty as to whether this game would be played, or interrupted, nothing of the sort happened. The storms scattered themselves over parts of the Chicago area, but at Wrigley Field, it got breezy but never rainy, as that festive full house saw yet another outstanding effort from Lester, who was, finally, removed from the game after he allowed a hit and a walk in that seventh inning following Ross’ departure. Edwards entered and struck out Randal Grichuk to end the inning. Lester threw 6⅔ shutout innings, allowed just two other hits and struck out seven. The seven K’s gave him two of the top four K seasons for a Cubs lefthander (with, probably, one start to go):
Most strikeouts in a season by a #Cubs lefty— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 26, 2016
207 Jon Lester 2015
202 Ken Holtzman 1970
195 Hippo Vaughn 1917
191 Jon Lester 2016
And here are some other fun and amazing facts about Lester’s terrific 2016 season, arguably the best year of his 11-year career — and one of the best seasons by any pitcher in Cubs history:
Most starts allowing 1 or 0 runs (min 5 IP) in a season#Cubs (1913-present)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 26, 2016
20 Jon Lester 2016
20 Jake Arrieta 2015
20 Hippo Vaughn 1919
Jon Lester:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 26, 2016
- 0.64 ERA in last 8 starts
- 1.74 ERA this season at Wrigley Field
- 2.28 ERA this season (2nd in MLB behind Hendricks)#Cubs
Jon Lester post all-star break:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 26, 2016
13 starts, 1.34 ERA, 87.0 IP, 56 Hits, 83 K, 4 HR, 0.885 WHIP#Cubs
Best career ERA with #Cubs (1920-present; minimum 50 starts)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 26, 2016
2.44 Jake Arrieta
2.82 Jon Lester
2.84 Lon Warneke
2.91 Kyle Hendricks
Yes, that’s a lot of Twitter embeds. Yes, they are all worth it to describe the incredible things that have been done this season, with hopefully more to come in October.
The Cubs scored their second run of the evening on a pair of doubles by Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell in the sixth. Russell’s had to go to video review after it was initially called foul:
You can see the ball kick up the chalk on the foul line, and Russell was given his double, his 25th of the season.
Later in that inning, with two out, Ross was intentionally walked. The crowd booed. Loudly.
The Cardinals plated a run in the eighth. Edwards walked the leadoff hitter, and then the long-missing Justin Grimm (hadn’t appeared in 10 days) entered. He allowed two singles that scored the run, but got out of the inning with a fly ball to center that maintained the Cubs’ lead at 2-1.
The Cubs got the run back in the bottom of the eighth. Zobrist singled and Russell walked. Jason Heyward attempted a bunt and struck out. I’m not sure why Heyward did that — was that playoff practice? — but Javier Baez then was hit by a pitch (confirmed on review) to load the bases.
Willson Contreras, who replaced Ross, looped a single to right, scoring Zobrist, but the rest of the baserunners seemed a bit confused as to how far that ball got into right. Russell eventually wound up heading home but was tagged out.
That left it up to Aroldis Chapman, who issued a two-out walk before striking out Jose Martinez to end it. For Chapman it was his 36th save, and 16th as a Cub.
Here’s what Ross said after the game about his big night:
Credit where credit is due: Thanks to Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina not only for his applause for Ross when he left the game, but also earlier when Ross was given ovations before his at-bats. Molina stepped away from his catcher’s position to slow the game down for a bit so Ross could enjoy the fans’ salute. So often, we here are quick to criticize Molina for one action or another he’s taken on the field in a game against the Cubs, but clearly, he understands and appreciates the game’s history and meaning. I salute him for being a class act Sunday night. Ross said much the same thing:
#Cubs Ross really appreciated how Molina gave fans time to cheer and the response from other Cards during game.— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 26, 2016
Ross: "To get that respect from the other side, you guys have no idea what that means to me." #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) September 26, 2016
There was a bit of extracurricular activity in the bleachers late in Sunday’s game, enough so that even some of the players turned around and looked. A large fight broke out in left-center field and I saw one man being led out with his nose bloodied. Seriously... don’t do that, just don’t. There are so many wonderful things happening on the green grass of Wrigley Field, just soak them in and enjoy them, you never know when we’ll walk this way again.
For me, too, it was a special night, 21 of my friends sharing the back four rows of section 301 in the bleachers. For all the nights when my section’s been mostly empty and I’ve been there with just two or three others, it was great to have close friends, most of whom I met right there in the bleachers, there to share this final regular-season game of the best Wrigley season any of us has ever seen.
That last part isn’t hyperbole. The win was the Cubs’ 57th at Wrigley in 2016. That’s the most victories for any Cubs team at home in the 101 seasons of Wrigley baseball, breaking the previous record set in 1933, tied in 1935, the latter also being the last Cubs 100-win season, a mark they could tie Monday night in Pittsburgh.
And, the victory gave the Cubs the season series over the Cardinals, 10 wins to nine, with the possibility still existing that we could see them again in the division series.
One other game note: Before the contest the Cubs held a moment of silence for Jose Fernandez, hung a Cubs jersey with his number in the dugout, and posted his number 16 next to “MIAMI” on the Wrigley scoreboard as a tribute. I took this photo not long after the gates opened, when no other scores were posted on the board:
On the walk watch: Five walks Sunday night made the season total 623. The Cubs need 28 walks in the final seven games — exactly four per game -- to break the franchise record.
On the run watch: The Cubs have scored 767 runs. They need 33 more in the final seven games — 4.71 per game — to get to 800 runs for just the third time since 1937 (806 in 1970, 855 in 2008).
Leaving Wrigley Field for the 81st time this year wasn’t a sad occasion, as departing the park after the final regular-season game is in many years. Instead, it was a hopeful feeling, expressed to many friends and ballpark employees: “See you next week!” ... as we know we’re coming back in just 12 days for the beginning of what we all hope is the greatest postseason run for any Cubs team in more than a century. Sunday was a joyful evening, a perfect climax to a wondrous summer... with perhaps even more thrilling, winning baseball to come over the next five weeks.