There’s a reason I am limiting this companion piece to last week’s 10 worst games of the 2010s to “regular season” games.
That’s because for the playoff seasons (save 2018), it would be way too easy to pick the 2015 game where the Cubs clinched the NLDS against the Cardinals, or Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, or the clinching game against the Nationals in 2017.
This way, we look at the entire body of work of the regular season and remember some games you might have forgotten.
This was ESPN’s featured Sunday Night Baseball game and they got a great pitcher’s duel between Ted Lilly and Gavin Floyd.
Neither team had a hit through the top of the seventh, though there had been a handful of baserunners on walks and hit batsmen.
With two out in the bottom of the seventh, Alfonso Soriano doubled and Chad Tracy (remember him?) singled him in to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
Lilly retired the Sox again in the eighth. There hadn’t been a no-hitter at Wrigley Field in 38 years, since Milt Pappas did it in 1972.
Carlos Marmol came in and... it was not pretty. He walked the next hitter, then balked both runners up. Marmol struck out Alexei Ramirez and then an intentional walk was issued to load the bases. Marmol then got Paul Konerko to hit into a force at the plate and Carlos Quentin to fly to center to end the game.
The Cubs wouldn’t throw another one-hitter until 2014. And there still hasn’t been a Cubs no-hitter at Wrigley Field since 1972. Both of Jake Arrieta’s were on the road.
The game went into extras tied. Carlos Zambrano had to leave after one inning with a minor back injury and Marcos Mateo put together a great relief appearance after that: five shutout innings, two hits, six strikeouts, by far the best outing of his 70-game MLB career.
John Grabow served up a home-run ball to Pablo Sandoval in the top of the 13th and the Cubs trailed 2-1. In the bottom of the inning, Jeff Baker doubled with two out and Darwin Barney singled him in to tie the game. Barney had advanced to second on the throw in, so Starlin Castro was intentionally walked.
Geovany Soto batted for Grabow:
It was Geo’s only walkoff homer as a Cub.
Doesn’t it seem like longer than eight years ago that those guys played for the Cubs?
I chose this game because it ended a 12-game losing streak, the team’s longest since 1985 and tied for second-worst in Cubs history. They were 15-32 (!) going into this game and completely demolished Padres pitching, including four home runs: Darwin Barney, Ian Stewart, Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro. It was Stewart’s last HR as a Cub.
One of the Padres pitchers that afternoon in San Diego was Alex Hinshaw, who you also read about here recently, and recent Cubs coaches Will Venable and Chris Denorfia also played for the Padres that day.
The Cubs swept that series in San Diego, then lost 16 of their next 24.
Those were dark times.
Wins over the White Sox are always fun, especially when the Cubs in general aren’t doing well.
Jeff Samardzija threw a two-hit shutout that night, both singles. He struck out eight.
Meanwhile, Anthony Rizzo had one of the better days of his young career to that date, 2-for-4 (a double and a triple!) with a pair of RBI and Julio Borbon homered, the only one he hit as a Cub.
Check out who started for the White Sox, too.
There were a number of games I could have picked from this season. The debut games for Javier Baez and Jorge Soler both were significant moments in the history of the franchise.
But this one also showcased a player who was beginning to show greatness — Jake Arrieta.
Arrieta had made nine starts for the Cubs in 2013 and some of them showed promise. This was just his 11th start of 2014 and in the five previous to this one, he’d posted a 1.14 ERA and struck out 38 in 31⅔ innings and walked just five, presaging his great 2015 season.
On this night in Fenway Park, Jake took a perfect game into the eighth inning. With two out in the eighth, Stephen Drew came to bat:
Check out the crowd reaction. It’s not just Cubs fans applauding Jake as he was removed from the game. That was just a taste of what we were to get over the next couple of seasons.
This was a makeup game from a day in June when the Cubs and Tribe were postponed due to severe thunderstorms, squished in at the end of a homestand just before a West Coast trip (the trip where Jake threw the no-no).
Jon Lester was magnificent on this afternoon. Through eight innings he’d allowed just four hits and the Cubs led 1-0 on an Anthony Rizzo RBI triple.
But in the ninth, Jon hit the first batter, then gave up a single sandwiched around two strikeouts. One out away from a complete-game shutout, Lester gave up an RBI single to Carlos Santana, and the game was tied.
Chris Coghlan and Rizzo struck out to begin the last of the ninth and it looked like we were headed to extras, something no one on the team wanted with the long flight ahead.
Kris Bryant took care of that on the first pitch he saw from Zach McAllister.
That was the “Strop Strut” home run — check out Pedro Strop strutting to home plate beside KB as he plates the winning run.
Here’s why this one was special. It had been a foregone conclusion that the Cubs would clinch the N.L. Central sometime in late August. And, in fact, they had done so when the Giants defeated the Cardinals late the previous evening after the Brewers defeated the Cubs at Wrigley. So the team didn’t get a chance to party with fans.
It looked like this one wouldn’t give much of a chance for a celebration, either, as the Cubs trailed 4-2 going to the bottom of the ninth. Then Chris Coghlan and Addison Russell hit RBI singles in that inning to tie it, and after Aroldis Chapman struck out all three hitters he faced in the top of the 10th, Miguel Montero started the party:
Here’s who caught that ball:
That allowed the Cubs to celebrate the division title in style with fans at Wrigley. More celebrations, of course, were to come.
The Cubs had clinched the N.L. Central the previous night and so sent out the traditional “day after” lineup, featuring only one regular player (Kyle Schwarber). Kyle Hendricks held the Cardinals in check pretty well, and the game went to extra innings tied.
Taylor Davis — who would later become famous for a grand slam hit against the Cardinals at Wrigley — doubled in the lead run in the top of the 10th.
Jen-Ho Tseng got the first two outs of the 10th easily. Then Paul DeJong came to bat [VIDEO].
The catch won the game for the Cubs and eliminated the Cardinals from postseason consideration. The looks on the faces of the Cardinals in the dugout is worth it.
For all the details of this game, check out the recap I wrote that evening. I think I’m still thawing out.
This is one of the best highlights from this amazing comeback win [VIDEO], Javy Baez’ hit (on a 3-2 count with two out, no less) that likely should have just been a single rolling all the way to the wall and clearing the bases, tying the game.
That ball was crushed!
Javier Baez double to tie the game was hit 111 MPH... #clutch— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 14, 2018
This sums up the whole thing:
Nothing better than weird baseball at Wrigley Field.— Cubs No-Hit Streak (@CubsNoHitStreak) April 14, 2018
Cubs trailed by 8. Now it's not even a save situation.
And the wind chill is below freezing.
I could have picked the Willson Contreras 15th-inning walkoff homer, but seriously, what could be better or more fun than Taylor Davis, a baseball lifer in the major leagues only because Victor Caratini got hurt, hitting a grand slam for his first big-league homer at Wrigley in front of a full house against the Cubs’ biggest rival?
Honorable mention to the game the previous day, Kyle Hendricks’ 81-pitch masterpiece shutout of the Cardinals.
Got some other favorites, regular-season variety? Let us know in the comments.
The best of these 10 2010s games is...
This poll is closed
June 13, 2010: Ted Lilly near no-hitter
June 30, 2011: Geovany Soto walkoff homer
May 28, 2012: Big win over Padres breaks 12-game losing streak
May 27, 2013: Jeff Samardzija two-hit shutout of White Sox
June 30, 2014: Jake Arrieta near perfect game
August 24, 2015: Kris Bryant walkoff homer ("Strop Strut" game)
September 16, 2016: Miguel Montero walkoff homer, Cubs celebrate division title
September 28, 2017: Leonys Martin catch wins game, eliminates Cardinals from postseason consideration
April 14, 2018: Cubs 14, Braves 10: Comeback from eight runs down on a brutally cold and wet afternoon
May 4, 2019: Taylor Davis grand slam for his first MLB home run vs. Cardinals