“There are games we could have lost that we won,” Maddon said Sunday after a 2-0 victory that completed a four-game sweep of the Mets. “That’s what you should be saying when you’re good. When you break it down, it went in your favor because you did those little things well. That’s what we’re talking about. That’s what gets you over the top.”
No doubt, the Cubs could have lost Wednesday’s game, but instead won in thrilling fashion. Between questionable managing decisions, a rare bullpen failure and inability to blow the game open in the early innings, the Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth trailing by two.
Usually, these recaps talk about the game in more or less chronological order, but this one ended in such surprising and amazing fashion that I’m going to start at the end.
Kyle Schwarber drew a four-pitch walk to begin the last of the ninth, and one out later Albert Almora Jr. singled and Ian Happ walked to load the bases. Now, there would seem to be a chance to at least tie the game. But Ben Zobrist hit a comebacker that turned into a force play at the plate.
That brought up Jason Heyward, who had been 0-for-4 on the night and who entered the game 5-for-36 (.139) against lefthanded pitchers with no extra-base hits.
That’s what made what happened next against lefty Adam Morgan so unusual, surprising, shocking, incredible... here, watch [VIDEO].
Here is just how rare Heyward’s game-winning grand slam was:
- It was the first walkoff home run of Heyward’s career, of a total of 118 homers.
- It was just the second slam of Heyward’s career and the first in almost seven years. The other one? Off Cubs righthander Casey Coleman, August 23, 2011 at Wrigley Field.
Jason Heyward's walkoff grand slam came on the 2 year anniversary of his 100th career home run.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 7, 2018
Both were off Adam Morgan
Morgan also allowed David Ross's 100th career HR (5/27/16)#Cubs
.@Cubs Jason Heyward's walk off grand slam was off a 97.2 MPH fastball... That's the 3rd hardest pitch he's ever hit for a home run.— Daren Willman (@darenw) June 7, 2018
And, to cap that all off, this:
Jason Heyward: first #Cubs walkoff grand slam **hit when team was trailing** since Ron Santo 9/25/1968— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 7, 2018
Here’s the boxscore from that game. The Cubs had been behind 1-0 that day and had only two hits until the ninth inning, when a walk, double and intentional pass loaded the bases for Santo, who walked it off.
Wednesday night’s game started off far better than that. Jose Quintana walked the first hitter he faced, then allowed a hit... and then got into a really nice groove, retiring 15 of the next 16 hitters until a leadoff walk in the sixth.
Meanwhile, the Cubs were fashioning a 3-0 lead. That began with Anthony Rizzo leading off the second [VIDEO].
Fun fact about Rizzo’s blast:
Anthony Rizzo's home run tied him with Andre Dawson for 13th on #Cubs career HR list with 174— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 7, 2018
The Cubs put two more runners on base in that inning, but Almora hit into a double play to end that scoring chance.
In the fourth, a pair of walks to Kris Bryant and Rizzo began the inning. Bryant had taken off for second on what turned out to be ball four, and then took third when he realized no one was covering the base [VIDEO].
Willson Contreras singled in Bryant, who probably would not have scored from second on the hit, and Rizzo eventually wound up on third when Schwarber grounded out. Javier Baez hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
That looked like it would hold up with Quintana dealing, especially after he struck out a pair of Phillies following that sixth-inning leadoff walk, giving him 10 on the night. But an infield hit ended Q’s night.
That was the “questionable managing decision” I spoke of earlier. Aaron Altherr, who entered the game hitting .184 with 55 strikeouts in 147 at-bats, and Q had handled him easily in his first two trips Wednesday night, and Q had thrown only 91 pitches.
But no, the platoon advantage overruled all that, so Steve Cishek was summoned. Me? I think I’d have left Quintana in the game. He was dealing, and needed just one more out to get out of the inning.
Altherr drove Cishek’s first pitch into the basket in center field for a three-run homer.
Now, would Quintana have retired him? We’ll never know, but I liked the odds given the previous at-bats.
The game remained tied until the ninth, when Brandon Morrow entered. He immediately gave up a single to Altherr, who is 3-for-7 in this series after going 3-for-30 in his previous 10 games. Next up was Dylan Cozens, who replaced Nick Williams in left field in the fifth inning, reportedly because Williams hurt his wrist when running into the wall making a play earlier in the game.
For Cozens, this was his sixth big-league at-bat. Morrow had not allowed a home run since September 8, 2016.
Of course, you know what’s next. Cozens smashed a two-run shot that gave the Phillies a 5-3 lead. Cozens showed power in the minors (40 homers in Double-A in 2016, 27 in Triple-A last year), but for Morrow, it was his worst outing as a Cub. It got worse after the homer; he struck out the next Phillie, then hit a batter and issued a walk — the walk going to Phillies reliever Seranthony Dominguez, who was at the plate for the first time in his professional career.
That brought Joe out to lift Morrow, the first time Morrow had been taken out of a game during an inning this season. Cory Mazzoni retired the next two hitters without incident.
And that led to one of the better Cubs game-winning rallies any of us has seen, during a regular-season game, anyway.
The win thrilled us all, and I couldn’t be happier for Heyward. We don’t have to rehash the struggles he’s had since he’s been here, but the work he’s done this season to revamp his swing appears, at last, to be paying off. Since May 5: .318/.352/.455 (21-for-66) with two doubles, two triples, Wednesday’s home run, 11 RBI and only four strikeouts. If J-Hey can get back to the level at which he hit in Atlanta, or even in his one year in St. Louis, that’s a huge boost to the Cubs offense.
The Cubs did pretty well against Aaron Nola, too; he figured to be the toughest starter they would face in this series and they touched him up for three runs and four walks. Just one other team this year has walked four times against Nola and just two others have scored at least three runs, in 13 starts. So they did what they had to against Nola, and thankfully, Heyward’s slam got the bullpen off the hook and produced an incredible ending.
With the Brewers losing again Wednesday, the Cubs moved to within one game of first place, and also now have one fewer defeat (24) than the Brewers do (25). They can pick up another half game on idle Milwaukee Thursday afternoon, when they go for the series win over the Phillies at 1:20 p.m. CT. Tyler Chatwood will start for the Cubs and Nick Pivetta goes for the Phillies. TV coverage Thursday will be via NBC Sports Chicago.