After Kris Bryant hit what turned out to be the game-winning homer in extras, you could hear “MVP!” chants at Dodger Stadium. Loudly.
The Cubs were 82-45 after this win and led the N.L. Central by 14 games.
Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies called it!
Dexter Fowler singled to lead off the 10th inning, and when Kris Bryant came to the plate after having already hit a long home run in the eighth inning, JD said, "[Adam] Liberatore has not allowed a home run yet this year." Len responded, with a bit of a lift in his voice, "Oh, really?" To which JD replied, "Seems like sooner or later... the odds would catch up with him."
After JD further noted that Liberatore's not "an extreme ground-ball pitcher," the next sound we all heard was the crack of a bat, the roar of thousands of Cubs fans still left in the Dodger Stadium crowd, and... of course you want to watch it again!
Bryant's liberation of a Liberatore fastball, just after 12:30 a.m. Chicago time, resulted in a two-run opposite-field home run that gave the Cubs an improbable 6-4 come-from-behind win over the Dodgers. The win reduced the Cubs' magic number to clinch the N.L. Central title to 22 and the 82nd win of 2016 clinched a winning season. Here are some fun facts about Bryant's incredible hot streak on this road trip:
Kris Bryant hit 5 HR on road last season.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 27, 2016
He's now tied for MLB lead with 20 road HR this season. #Cubs
Kris Bryant current 8-game hitting streak:— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 27, 2016
.486/.514/1.143, 15 Runs, 7 HR, 16 RBI#Cubs
This game did not start out feeling like the Cubs would win, even after they took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a single by Fowler, a walk drawn by Anthony Rizzo and another single from Addison Russell. Mike Montgomery didn't pitch badly, though he didn't throw particularly well, either. He got touched up for single runs in the second, third and fourth innings, putting the Cubs behind 3-1. Montgomery walked four and hit a batter, and two of those walks wound up scoring. He's likely going to get one more start before John Lackey returns; hopefully his control will be better in the next one.
They got one of those back in the fifth when Miguel Montero walked (his second of the game). Montgomery tried to bunt him to second, but Montero was thrown out at second. Montgomery wound up on base on the force play, where he advanced to second on a Bryant walk and scored on a single by Rizzo.
The score was 3-2, but somehow the Cubs didn't seem that close to winning. They got even further away when Justin Grimm served up a home run ball to Adrian Gonzalez in the seventh. That wasn't good, but Grimm hadn't allowed a run in his previous 18 appearances and hadn't given up a long ball since June 6.
Bryant got that run back with his first homer of the game (this video includes both homers):
That first homer was crushed:
So it's 4-3 Dodgers going into the ninth and Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers' usually lights-out closer, was on the mound. Going into this game, Jansen had allowed one run in his career to Cubs teams in 16 appearances totaling 17⅓ innings. (Interestingly, that was a home run by Rizzo in this 2012 game, which the Cubs wound up losing anyway.)
Despite having overall good numbers this year, Jansen came into the game having blown five saves, and give some credit to Jason Heyward, who laced a double down the right-field line on Jansen's first pitch, putting the tying run on second base. Jansen then threw a wild pitch on strike three to Jorge Soler. Soler was thrown out, but Heyward advanced to third, where he scored the tying run when Jansen threw a second wild pitch -- on consecutive pitches, those were! -- while Montero was at bat.
Heyward had two hits on the night, and since returning from being benched in Colorado, is 5-for-18 (.278) with two doubles and a home run. It's a start, anyway.
Joe Maddon then made what turned out to be a wise decision. Aroldis Chapman had been warming up, but Joe brought Travis Wood into the game instead. Wood must have gotten ready quickly, because we never did see him warm up. Wood threw only 11 pitches and recorded a 1-2-3 ninth, which saved Chapman for a save opportunity after Bryant's homer in the top of the 10th. Chapman did give up a leadoff single to Charlie Culberson, but retired the next three hitters, striking out Chase Utley to end it for his 30th save (10th as a Cub). About Chapman (this doesn't include Friday's game):
Aroldis Chapman's average fastball velocity this year is 100.7 MPH... Highest of his career.— Daren Willman (@darenw) August 26, 2016
That number should actually go up after Friday, because Chapman threw 14 pitches (of 19) at that speed or faster.
Bryant took the N.L. home run lead back from Nolan Arenado with the two blasts; he's now got 35, and his 89 RBI took over the team lead from Rizzo. That's why this happened:
And yes, those were M-V-P, M-V-P chants at Dodger Stadium for #Cubs Bryant— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 27, 2016
There are other candidates, to be sure, and we've still got five weeks left in the 2016 season. But right now, Bryant has to be the favorite, and he nearly singlehandedly won this game for the Cubs, a game I was chalking up to the loss column until very late in the evening. (Thankfully, this one was the last late-night Chicago time start for 2016.)
In addition to winning the game, this win gave the Cubs the season series over the Dodgers, which could turn out to be important for determining home-field advantage in a possible postseason series between the clubs. The Cubs currently lead the Dodgers by 11½ games and the Nationals by 7½ in the race for the league's best record, and now own the tiebreaker over both clubs.
More Bryant: he scored three runs in this game, increasing his major-league-leading total to 107. That puts him on pace for 136 runs. Only one Cubs player has scored that many runs since 1970: Sammy Sosa, 146 in 2001.
And still one more fun fact about Bryant:
For at least one day, Mike Trout has been dethroned. Kris Bryant’s night gives him the MLB lead in WAR. https://t.co/L1y9ZstA6J— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) August 27, 2016
The Cubs are also assured of a winning road trip; with two games to go they're 5-2 on this western swing, and have won four straight overall.