I could let you look at my choices for the five best Cubs games of the season just ended and then you’d likely notice the one significant thing they have in common, but instead I’m just going to tell you: All five of them happened before the All-Star break — in fact, all five are before the end of May.
That’s largely because the second half, in which the Cubs went 37-35, was devoid of memorable performances or games. We will remember the second half, unfortunately, for blown leads and losing streaks, and that’s not what I’m trying to celebrate here.
In chronological order, here are the games I found most memorable from 2019.
This game’s here primarily because of this go-ahead home run hit by Kyle Schwarber in the eighth inning [VIDEO].
As Harry Caray might have said, “Listen to that crowd!” I was at that series in Seattle, and they felt like home games, there were so many Cubs fans at T-Mobile Park. Even Mariners players noticed that:
Asked a Mariner today about the crowd split, said he REALLY heard it on the Schwarber HR, usually you can hear a "pin drop" when opponent hits a go-ahead 8th inning homer he said— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) May 1, 2019
I thought about including the other game in this series, the 11-0 win on May 1, a combined one-hitter (Jon Lester, Allen Webster, Dillon Maples), but the Schwarber home run and the reaction have that beat.
Kyle Hendricks threw an 81-pitch, nine-inning four-hit shutout.
I mean, do you realize how impossibly rare that is, throwing a CG shutout with 81 or fewer pitches? It’s happened only nine other times since 1908!
|1||Kyle Hendricks||2019-05-03||CHC||STL||W 4-0||SHO, W||9.0||4||0||0||0||3||81|
|2||Aaron Cook||2012-06-29||BOS||SEA||W 5-0||SHO, W||9.0||2||0||0||0||2||81|
|3||Aaron Cook||2008-07-01||COL||SDP||W 4-0||SHO, W||9.0||5||0||0||0||4||79|
|4||Rich Harden||2005-07-14||OAK||TEX||W 6-0||SHO, W||9.0||2||0||0||0||8||80|
|5||Jon Lieber||2001-05-24||CHC||CIN||W 3-0||SHO, W||9.0||1||0||0||1||2||78|
|6||Doug Drabek||1990-09-30||PIT||STL||W 2-0||SHO, W||9.0||3||0||0||0||2||80|
|7||Bob Tewksbury||1990-08-17||STL||HOU||W 5-0||SHO, W||9.0||1||0||0||0||3||79|
|8||Kevin Brown||1990-06-20||TEX||MIN||W 8-0||SHO, W||9.0||4||0||0||0||4||79|
|9||Steve Rogers||1976-08-29||MON||SDP||W 3-0||SHO, W||9.0||4||0||0||0||2||80|
|10||Carl Willey||1963-06-23 (1)||NYM||PHI||W 5-0||SHO, W||9.0||2||0||0||0||6||81|
That’s one of the best-pitched games by any Cub over the last 20 seasons, since Jon Lieber’s one-hitter, noted in the list above.
Hendricks threw strikes — 63 of them! — and did have quite a bit of help from his defense, as you can see in the video.
I have always been a big fan of Kyle Hendricks. As you know, he doesn’t overwhelm hitters with velocity, topping out at (maybe) 90. He gets outs by changing speeds, locating perfectly, and with a devastating changeup. I’m glad the Cubs signed him to a long-term deal. He’s already one of the best pitchers in franchise history.
Just a day later, we got ourselves a moment for the ages.
Taylor Davis, who was only on the roster because of an injury to Victor Caratini, got the start because Willson Contreras needed a day off.
The Cubs trailed 5-1 in the bottom of the fourth. They had runners on second and third with one out and the Cardinals chose to give Kyle Schwarber a Manfred to pitch to Davis.
Davis might never play in another MLB game after 2019. He has played in just 20 such games and has a lifetime slash line of .222/.256/.333. He was drafted by the Marlins in 2008 in a round that doesn’t even exist anymore (49th)... and they didn’t sign him. The Cubs signed him three years later as an undrafted free agent. He spent seven years in the Cubs system before getting even one MLB at-bat.
That grand slam — man, that’s one of my favorite baseball moments ever, not just this year. To see a guy like that do something like that, in front of a full house at Wrigley Field against the Cubs’ biggest rival — you couldn’t write fiction like that, people would laugh at you.
But it really happened, and Davis and all Cubs fans should cherish that memory forever.
The Cubs won the game when Javier Baez homered in the eighth — but not until after a replay review gave him a couple of extra pitches to see [VIDEO].
It was cold, and wet, and the Cubs left RISP in the eighth, 11th and 13th innings. The game stretched through the dinner hour, in part because Tyler Chatwood threw four no-hit innings in relief with seven strikeouts.
Chatwood, in my opinion, should stick in the bullpen in 2020 and be used in high-leverage situations. That fastball is electric.
Willson Contreras finally sent everyone home for dinner with this walkoff homer [VIDEO].
Just two days earlier, Javier Baez had suffered a heel injury in Washington (and in my opinion, he never took enough time off for it to fully heal).
He didn’t start the game the previous night, nor this one.
The Cubs trailed 2-1 heading to the bottom of the ninth. Kris Bryant led off with a walk and Anthony Rizzo doubled him to third. Contreras hit a fly ball to right that wasn’t deep enough to score a run, and Jason Heyward was intentionally passed.
Albert Almora Jr. hit a ball about 30 feet, toward the mound. Phillies pitcher Juan Nicasio tried for the force at the plate. “Safe” was the call on the field, it was upheld on review, and the game was tied.
Even though he could barely run, Baez was sent up to pinch hit and he delivered a game-winning single on the first pitch he saw [VIDEO].
Those are my picks for the five best games of the year. Perhaps you have a different choice. Let us know.
The best Cubs game of 2019 was...
This poll is closed
April 30: Kyle Schwarber’s go-ahead homer in the eighth vs. the Mariners
May 3: Kyle Hendricks’ 81-pitch, four-hit CG shutout of the Cardinals
May 4: Taylor Davis’ grand slam helps the Cubs beat the Cardinals
May 11: Willson Contreras’ walkoff homer in the 15th beats the Brewers
May 21: Javier Baez’ walkoff single against the Phillies
A different game (leave in comments)