That, my friends, is about as close as I’m probably ever going to get to a walkoff home run.
That’s my friend Matt, standing across the aisle in the light blue jacket. He got his hand on the ball, but couldn’t grab it. It rattled around on the back of the concourse and Mike Bojanowski nearly got it, but he was outrun for it.
We’re all happy anyway, as Contreras’ homer, the third walkoff homer in the Cubs’ last five games, gave them a 2-1, 15-inning win over the Brewers on a miserable, cold, rainy afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Oh, and three Cubs walkoff homers in five games? Here’s the last time they did that... in a month:
#Cubs: first time with 3 walkoff home runs in a month since April 1961— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 11, 2019
And because you’re going to ask:
- April 14, 1961, 3-2 over the Braves, Sammy Taylor
- April 15, 1961, 9-5 over the Braves, Al Heist (grand slam!)
- April 26, 1961, 3-2 over the Reds, Don Zimmer
Needless to say, we hope this year’s team is far better than that 94-loss 1961 Cubs ballclub. I think that’s a pretty safe bet. Also, those are not, as you surely know, some of the bigger names in franchise history, unlike the three guys who hit walkoffs this week.
This game, which was played in a steady precipitation that ranged from drizzle to moderate rainfall, started out like Friday’s. Cole Hamels was solid over the first four innings, striking out the side in the first, then allowing one baserunner over each of the next three, but getting double plays from his defense each time.
Meanwhile, the Cubs got a leadoff triple from Jason Heyward but, inexplicably, Heyward broke for the plate on a bouncer to short and was thrown out fairly easily [VIDEO].
I mean, I understand runs have been at a premium in this series, but why take the chance with nobody out in the first inning?
The Brewers also turned a double play in the second, and so the game went to the fifth scoreless. Then, after yet another double play, Hernan Perez homered off Hamels, which prompted me to ask Mike, “Didn’t we see this game yesterday?”
We had, nearly, but the Cubs tied up the score in the last of the fifth. With two out, David Bote singled and Albert Almora Jr. sent one into right-center [VIDEO].
That was a fantastic, Javier Baez-style swim slide and Bote just got his hand on the plate before the tag from Yasmani Grandal, tying the game 1-1.
Little did we know that would be the last run scored for nine-plus innings.
Hamels finished up with seven strong innings, allowing three hits and three walks, striking out five. And the Cubs had plenty of chances to win this game along the line. I managed to keep score until the middle of the eighth, when my card slipped and fell into the water on the bench below me. I put it away, to find when I got home that it had survived. The paper the scorecards are made on this year have some sort of coating that (mostly) resists water. It’s a bit warped, but I can finish it up.
In the ninth, the Cubs turned yet another double play — they wound up with six on the afternoon — and had a chance to score when Kyle Schwarber walked with one out. But Bote lined to left and Almora struck out, and on to extras we went.
Steve Cishek threw a scoreless 10th and Mark Zagunis, pinch-hitting, led off with a walk. Say what you want about Zagunis, he does have good on-base skills. But Heyward hit a line drive speared by Mike Moustakas at second base, and Zagunis, too far off the base, was doubled off. The Brewers turned four double plays in this marathon.
Brad Brach threw a scoreless 11th. In the bottom of the inning, Anthony Rizzo led off with a walk and Baez singled, but Contreras hit into a double play (sensing a theme here?) Schwarber was given a Manfred and Bote walked, loading the bases, but Almora grounded out.
Xavier Cedeno began the 12th, and his Cubs career, by issuing a walk.
And that’s when it was Tyler Chatwood’s turn. He was the last pitcher left in the bullpen, as Carl Edwards Jr., Brandon Kintzler, Kyle Ryan and Xavier Cedeno had also thrown in this game and Mike Montgomery, with a 70-pitch outing two days ago, wasn’t available.
Chatwood got a double-play ball and then struck out Ryan Braun — that one got a loud ovation from the remnants of a full house. In the bottom of the inning, Kris Bryant walked with two out, but Rizzo grounded out to end that frame.
On to the 13th and more Chatwood, and he was firing fastballs at 95-96 miles per hour. He issued a pair of walks, but also got a pair of strikeouts to end that inning. Baez doubled to lead off the bottom of the inning, and one out later Manfreds were given to Schwarber and Bote, bringing up Chatwood, as, again, he was going to be pitching even if this game had gone into tomorrow.
Now, how great would that have been if Chatwood, who is a decent hitter, won the game with a walkoff hit? Alas, he didn’t, he struck out. That brought up Addison Russell, who was booed each time he batted. That would have resulted in mixed feelings, I suspect, had Russell walked it off, but he, too, struck out.
Chatwood issued another walk in the 14th, but ended that inning with two strikeouts. The Cubs went 1-2-3 in that frame, so on we went to the 15th, the game now equalling the longest Cubs game of 2018 (the April 28 game at Arizona). Chatwood struck out two more and got an easy groundout for the final out, and then with one out in the bottom of the 15th, Contreras hit his blast and that’s where we came in.
Kudos to Chatwood. He threw 41 strikes in 68 pitches over four innings, issuing three walks but striking out seven, and he gave up no hits over those innings. That’s very, very good bullpen work from him and I hope it really helps his confidence. It surely was a huge boost to the team, even though now everyone in the pen was used (except Montgomery) in this four-hour, 56-minute game, the longest by innings and time at Wrigley Field this year. Maybe 2,000 of the announced 39,598 stuck around to see the excitement of Willson’s walkoff. Fun fact about this game:
Cubs announce that this is now the longest Cubs-Brewers game (in terms of innings) in Wrigley Field history. Previous was 14 innings on Sept. 18, 1999.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 11, 2019
All’s well that ends well, right? The Cubs even up the series and move back to one game ahead of Milwaukee in first place in the N.L. Central. The Pirates defeated the Cardinals Saturday afternoon, so St. Louis trails by 2½ games and Pittsburgh by 3½.
Sunday, the Cubs are once again featured on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. It will be the Brewers’ first Sunday night appearance since 2013, and even Brewers manager Craig Counsell knows why the Brewers are on SNB:
“It’s Milwaukee. We’re not a major media market, so they’re not going to put us on Sunday night,” Counsell said. “We’re playing a big media market. It’s because we’re playing the Cubs.”
Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and Jhoulys Chacin goes for the Brewers. Game time Sunday is 6:05 p.m. CT. And, unfortunately... there’s a chance of rain again.