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Cubs 3, Marlins 2: Jason Heyward walks it off

The Cubs beat the Marlins... and the rain.

Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

I could get used to this kind of excitement. You?

For the second straight night, the Cubs won on a walkoff home run. Jason Heyward’s blast sent the Cubs to a 3-2 victory over the Marlins in 11 innings. If you think it’s been a while since a Cubs team has done that twice in a row, you’re right:

(Incidentally, I wrote about those walkoffs on their 20th anniversary last September.)

And sure, you want to see Heyward’s homer right away, so let’s again start this recap with that [VIDEO].

And now, let’s go back to the beginning and unpack the Cubs’ second straight win and ninth in their last 10 games.

Kyle Hendricks made an uncharacteristic throwing error on a comebacker by the game’s leadoff hitter, Curtis Granderson. How uncharacteristic? He’s had 213 fielding chances in his career, including Wednesday’s game. That was his third error. He made one last year and one the year before. So, that should be it for fielding errors for Kyle this season, if that pattern holds. It helped lead to the Marlins’ first run.

They held that 1-0 lead through the third, helped out by a pair of double plays. But the Cubs also turned a double play of their own in the fourth, and then in the bottom of the inning broke through for a pair of runs. Kris Bryant walked, and singles by Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez tied the game. Then Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro committed a passed ball with Rizzo on third and he scored, Cubs had a 2-1 lead.

Hendricks nursed that lead all the way through the eighth inning. After his error, he was nearly as good as he had been in his last start Friday, though not quite as pitch-efficient. Hendricks allowed just one further baserunner after the fourth inning and threw eight innings overall, giving up just five hits and no walks, striking out seven. He threw 74 strikes in 96 pitches, averaging 12 pitches per inning, which is excellent. Only three Cubs starting pitching outings have been of eight innings or more in 2019: two by Kyle, one by Cole Hamels.

The Cubs could not break through offensively against Jose Urena, though, and reliever Tayron Guerrero threw two shutout innings, hitting 100 miles per hour a couple times on the Wrigley pitch speed meter. And then Kyle Ryan entered to throw the ninth and allowed a leadoff single, after which he was replaced by Steve Cishek. Cishek retired Alfaro, then gave up a single to Starlin Castro. He wild-pitched the runners up a base, which proved to be important when Miguel Rojas grounded out. The remnants of an announced crowd of 37,241 (maybe 25,000 in the house) cheered the out, perhaps not realizing the tying run had scored.

The Cubs couldn’t score in the last of the ninth, so on the game went to extras, something no one wanted on a night when management had moved the starting time up 30 minutes to try to beat showers and thunderstorms predicted to hit the area. Incidentally, thanks to Cubs management for being proactive for the second time this season and moving a start time up to try to beat incoming weather.

Tyler Chatwood entered to throw the 10th. He allowed a leadoff single and when pinch-hitter Jon Berti tried to sacrifice the runner to second, Rizzo made one of the smartest plays you’ll ever see. Berti popped the bunt up and... well, watch [VIDEO].

Rizzo realized he had two inexperienced players (Berti and baserunner Rosell Herrera) involved. He deliberately let the bunt drop, just barely beat Berti to first base and hung Herrera up in a rundown, where a double play was completed. The next hitter, Curtis Granderson, hit a rope off Chatwood... but David Bote was positioned perfectly [VIDEO].

The Cubs couldn’t score in the bottom of the 10th, and Carl Edwards Jr. entered to throw the 11th. CJ looked very good in retiring the Marlins in order, striking out two of the three hitters he faced. This is very encouraging, especially with Pedro Strop out possibly for up to four weeks. If CJ can throw like this, he’ll be in the mix to close games. And Chatwood’s outing was solid, eight strikes in 12 pitches, helped out by his defense.

And then, Heyward led off the bottom of the 11th with his walkoff homer, and that’s where we came in. Fun fact time!

It was also the second walkoff homer of Heyward’s career. I’m sure you remember the other one, his walkoff slam last June against the Phillies.

Heyward had been in a 1-for-20 slump before the home run, so in addition to noting that he’s far ahead of his previous home run pace as a Cub, it’s good to see him break out of a tailspin that had his BA drop from .329 after he went 3-for-4 last Wednesday in Seattle all the way down to .279 as he stepped into the batters box in the 11th inning.

So all’s well that ends well, even after Ryan and Cishek blew the lead in what was yet another masterpiece thrown by Hendricks. In four starts at Wrigley Field this year Kyle has allowed two earned runs in 29 innings — an ERA of 0.62. The outings of Chatwood and Edwards are also very encouraging.

And the game ended a good 90 minutes before rain hit the area around Wrigley Field, and it looks like the rain will exit the area this morning and it’ll just be cloudy and in the mid-60s during the afternoon. Despite dire forecasts of rain all week, it looks like the Cubs and Marlins will play their entire four-game series without a rain delay and with only a couple of spotty little showers on the first two dates.

Regarding Addison Russell’s return to the active roster and starting lineup, he went 0-for-3 with a walk and was greeted with a mix of boos and cheers each time his name was announced. Sara Sanchez, who was also at Wednesday’s game, will have more on reaction to Russell either later today or tomorrow. I’ve previously made my position on Russell clear — I’d like to see the Cubs cut ties — and I don’t really have much more to say other than I hope they will, at some point.

The Brewers won Wednesday and are off Thursday before they hit Wrigley for a three-game series beginning Friday. The Cubs lead them by half a game, and the Cardinals, who lost again Wednesday, trail the Cubs by 1½. The Cardinals, who a week ago had a three-game lead in the N.L. Central, have lost six of seven, while the Cubs have increased their run since their 2-7 start to 19-6, the best record in MLB since April 7.

The Cubs go for the series win Thursday afternoon. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs and Trevor Richards goes for the Marlins. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.