And so it was written that on the 33rd day since Anthony Rizzo’s last home run, that he would slam a ball to the very back of the right-field bleachers at Wrigley Field to send a full house into ecstasy with a walkoff 7-6 Cubs win over the Diamondbacks.
It was the fourth walkoff homer of Rizzo’s career, but his first in almost four years, since September 15, 2014, when he won a 1-0 game against the Reds with a homer.
And it came two pitches after David Bote, just recalled from Triple-A Iowa to replace the injured Kris Bryant on the roster, did his best Bryant imitation by smacking his second homer of the season with Ben Zobrist on base to tie the game.
I couldn’t remember the last time back-to-back homers won a game for the Cubs on a walkoff. Turns out it’s been more than 14 years:
#Cubs hit back-to-back HR with the second one being a walkoff for first time since 4/16/2004 vs Reds - Sammy Sosa & Moisés Alou— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 26, 2018
Let’s look at both of those homers before we unpack this busy game. First, Bote’s [VIDEO].
That one was smoked:
Barrel: David Bote (4) [CHC] off Brad Boxberger [ARI]: 104.9 mph, 22 degrees (Home Run - 417 ft)— MLBExitVelocity (@MLBExitVelocity) July 26, 2018
And then, Rizzo’s walkoff [VIDEO].
And that one was a majestic blast to the last row of the right-center field bleachers:
Barrel: Anthony Rizzo (13) [CHC] off Brad Boxberger [ARI]: 106.9 mph, 30 degrees (Home Run - 453 ft)— MLBExitVelocity (@MLBExitVelocity) July 26, 2018
What a finish! Now, let’s rewind back to the beginning of this contest.
Tyler Chatwood got out of the first inning unscored-on, and without a walk! (The latter wouldn’t last long, though.) He got help on a play that was reviewed, after plate umpire Mike Estabrook ruled that A.J. Pollock got hit by a Chatwood pitch:
.@Cubs challenge call that A.J. Pollock is hit by pitch in the 1st; call overturned, no hit by pitch.— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) July 26, 2018
Powered by @Mitel. pic.twitter.com/IdssM38zPP
You can see the ball go off the knob of the bat, and since Willson Contreras caught it, it was ruled a foul tip strike three.
Chatwood walked two in the second but got out of the inning, in part thanks to a nice play by Bote on a grounder by David Peralta that ended the frame.
The Cubs got on the board in the bottom of the inning. Contreras led off with a single, and one out later, Kyle Schwarber hit a line drive single down the right-field line [VIDEO].
Brian Butterfield tried to stop Willson, but there is no stopping Willson when he can see an opportunity to be aggressive. He could see the D-backs fielders nonchalant the ball into the infield, so he took off and scored all the way from first base on Schwarber’s hit.
Chatwood issued another walk in the third, but got out of it with a double play. In the fourth, it was hits that got him in trouble, a one-out double by Nick Ahmed, followed by a two-run homer by former Cub Alex Avila.
I mean, seriously. Walk the guy! Avila came into the game hitting .148 with 61 strikeouts in 122 at-bats. He’s having a horrific season. How you can throw this guy anything he can hit out of the park (yes, he had four homers coming into Thursday, somehow) is beyond me.
So it’s 2-1 D-backs, and then Chatwood got himself in more trouble with walks in the fifth. Two walks led off the inning, but he got Steven Souza Jr. to hit into a double play. Runner on third, two out, not too bad a situation... until another walk. Joe had seen enough at that point and brought in Brian Duensing to pitch to Daniel Descalso. Somehow, some of the walk things had been left on the mound, because Duensing walked Descalso to load the bases.
Ahmed was next. Seriously, almost anything would have been better than what happened, a grand slam. Ahmed, not really a power hitter, is hitting them this year — that was his 13th, in 330 at-bats.
So the D-backs are leading 6-1. But there are still five innings left for the Cubs to bat, and you know they have been good at comeback wins this year.
Tommy La Stella singled with one out in the fifth. That was his 15th pinch hit this year; he’s five away from tying the club record. Bote followed with a single, and Rizzo singled in TLS for his 600th career RBI.
Albert Almora Jr. was next. He hit a ball that probably should have been an inning-ending double play. But D-backs regular third baseman Jake Lamb had left the game after a diving stop on an Addison Russell grounder in the second with a possible shoulder injury, and Descalso had moved to third. Descalso booted the ball, Bote scored, and it was 6-3.
Now we’re talking... that’s a do-able deficit.
The Cubs plated one more run in the sixth. Schwarber’s pop fly into short left dropped in between a couple of Arizona fielders, and D-backs starter Zack Godley, still in the game, wild-pitched Schwarber to third while Russell was batting (he eventually struck out) and wild-pitched him across the plate while Javy Baez was batting for Duensing. That wild pitch came on strike three, and Baez reached base. No further runs scored, but when Bote struck out, that meant four K’s for the D-backs in the inning. As far as I can tell from this list, that’s happened only one other time in major-league history, a team having four K’s in an inning from two different pitchers. The Mets did it in the ninth inning of this game, April 17, 2016, with pitchers Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed combining. a little bit of baseball history trivia for you.
The Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the seventh, and Contreras was hit by a pitch (and seemed pretty unhappy about it, slamming his bat down) to lead off the eighth, but was erased on an inning-ending double play.
Meanwhile, the Cubs bullpen was putting together some excellent work after Duensing left. Jesse Chavez, Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson and Eddie Butler combined for four shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks, and striking out two. Fun fact about Cubs relieving:
Jesse Chavez allows his first hit in a #Cubs uniform.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 26, 2018
That leaves Anthony Rizzo as the only Cub to pitch and not allow a hit this season.
Always fun to laugh at stuff like that after a win like this. Cishek got helped out in his inning by a terrific throw from Schwarber [VIDEO].
Give Ketel Marte some credit. That was nice work getting his hand out of the way of Bote’s tag, but Bote stayed with the play and tagged him out just before Marte’s hand came down on second base.
And all that great relief work and defense set the Cubs up for the winning rally. Give some credit to Zobrist, too, because he worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch that was pretty close. And in Rizzo’s at-bat, he looked at a first-pitch changeup for strike one. Brad Boxberger, who had his fifth blown save of the year in this one, followed up with another changeup and Rizzo was ready for it. He likely won’t hit a bigger home run all season.
I could say something here about Chatwood’s walks, but really, the complaint department has to be closed after such an exciting win. Just a note that the Cubs really, really, really have to do something to fix that. The win makes the Cubs 11-8 in games started by Chatwood, and that might be the weirdest stat of all for him in 2018.
It was the Cubs’ 33rd come-from-behind win this year, most of any team (the Phillies are second with 31).
And one more thing. On my way home I was thinking that the Brewers, likely having just arrived in the visitors clubhouse at AT&T Park in San Francisco, might have been watching that ninth inning. Hope so! The win puts the Cubs three full games ahead of the Brewers, with Milwaukee’s late-night game against the Giants scheduled at 9:15 p.m. CT tonight.
The Cubs thus head to St. Louis on what will be a very happy flight, to begin a three-game set against the Cardinals Friday evening. Mike Montgomery will go for the Cubs Friday against Luke Weaver . Game time is 7:15 p.m. and TV coverage Friday is via NBC Sports Chicago.