Last time our trip back to 1989 found the Cubs heading to the west coast for the first time of the season. If you are a longtime Cub fan, you know very well that those trips west often turned into horror stories. But on this particular trip, the Cubs headed west having just escaped a mini-tailspin. They won three of their last four before departing. Then they went west and won five of seven.
April and May can be a seesaw in baseball. The Cubs dropped from first to fourth during that spin. Then they bounced back up into a first place tie with eight wins in 11 games. The Cubs were sitting four over .500, tied for first and opening an eight-game homestand and looking to solidify their standing in the division. Let’s see how they did in what was a slow week with only five games played.
Game 31, May 9: Giants 4 at Cubs 2 (17-14)
Paul Kilgus got the start for the Cubs and continuing a run of facing pitchers who were either ex- or future Cubs, they faced Mike Krukow. The game was scoreless until the third inning when Will Clark stepped to the plate with runners on first and second and two outs. Clark laced a single to center and the Giants were on the board. In the sixth, the Giants added two more runs. The first came on a two-out RBI triple by Robby Thompson. He later scored on an error by Mitch Webster along with Kirt Manwaring who had walked.
The Cubs did put together a rally in the seventh inning with a pair of singles by Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace. That was followed by a sacrifice fly off the bat of Damon Berryhill and then a Giants error allowed a second run to score. But another ex-Cub closed the door as Craig Lefferts pitched the final two innings for his fifth save.
- Superhero: Ryne Sandberg (.084). 3-4, R
- Hero: Mitch Webster (.050). 0-3
- Sidekick: Pat Perry (.047). ⅔, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 0K
- Billy Goat: Damon Berryhill (-.129). 0-3, SF, RBI
- Goat: Paul Kilgus (-.109). 6IP, 5H, 2BB, 3R (2ER), 2K (L 3-3)
Game 32, May 10: Giants 4 at Cubs 3 (17-15)
This one started out better. Mike Bielecki started for the Cubs and Scott Garrelts for the Giants. Mark Grace drove in a run in the first inning with a successful squeeze bunt. He then scored the second run in the fourth inning when he singled and eventually scored on a Damon Berryhill RBI-single. Berryhill then doubled and scored on a Shawon Dunston RBI-single in the sixth and the Cubs were up 3-0.
Robby Thompson delivered a big hit for the second straight day. This time it was a two-out, two-run double in the seventh inning. Bielecki not only allowed both of those runs, but he went back out for the eighth inning, allowing a leadoff single before departing. Mitch Williams was summoned and allowed a bunt single to Brett Butler. After a sacrifice, Will Clark singled in the tying run. Mitch WIlliams then balked in the go-ahead and eventual winning run. Craig Lefferts closed out the game for the second straight game in an unusual finish. Jerome Walton reached with two outs on an error. Then when Domingo Ramos singled, Walton was thrown out trying to reach third. That is exactly how a batter can have a hit in his only at bat and end up on one of the Goat podiums.
- Superhero: Mike Bielecki (.150). 7IP, 6H, 1BB, 3R (1ER), 3K
- Hero: Pat Perry (.062). ⅔IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 0K
- Sidekick: Damon Berryhill (.055). 2-4, 2B, RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Mitch Williams (-.384). 1⅓IP, 2H, 3BB, 1R, 2K (L 0-2)
- Goat: Shawon Dunston (-.102). 1-4, RBI
- Kid: Domingo Ramos (-.097). 1-1
Game 33, May 12: Astros 3 at Cubs 1 (17-16)
After getting swept in a two-game set by the Giants, the Cubs looked to bounce back against the Astros with Rick Sutcliffe on the mound. Some of you might be familiar with his opponent that day, Jim Deshaies. On that day Jim went the distance allowing the Cubs only four hits and three walks and picked up his fifth win in seven decisions.
The damage done by the Astros was largely done in the third inning and didn’t start until two were out. Then Gerald Young singled and went all of the way to third on an error. Then Billy Hatcher walked and the Astros pulled off a double steal for their first run. Bill Doran came through with a two-out RBI single and the Astros had all of the runs they’d need.
Oddly, the Cubs also executed a double steal in the sixth inning, with Darrin Jackson stealing home and Mark Grace stealing second. You don’t see a lot of executions of the double steal and certainly not two in one game. Deshaies added a single for good measure in the seventh and that ultimately helped a run to score on a Gerald Young sac fly to cap the scoring.
- Superhero/Hero: Mark Grace/Darrin Jackson (.088). Grace 1-3, BB, SB; Jackson 0-3, BB, R, SB, K
- Sidekick: Jeff Pico (.045). 2IP, 1H, 1BB, 0R, 1K
- Billy Goat: Vance Law (-.165). 1-4, K
- Goat: Mitch Webster (-.153). 0-4
- Kid: Doug Dascenzo (-.148). 0-4
Game 34, May 14: Astros 1, Cubs 0 (17-17)
Greg Maddux went the distance in this one, allowing only three hits, two walks and a single run. But that was enough for him to be tabbed with the loss in this one. Bob Knepper and two relievers combined on a three hit shutout despite allowing six walks. This one was actually scoreless until the eighth inning. In the eighth, Maddux allowed a leadoff double to Rafael Ramirez. He coaxed back to back ground balls out of Astros hitters. Unfortunately, only one of those resulted in an out thanks to a Vance Law error. It probably didn’t matter as Ramirez scored from second on Gerald Young’s single. Future Cub Dave Smith closed out the game for his sixth save. Am I the only one who feels like every 1980s closer in the NL eventually pitched for the Cubs?
- Superhero: Greg Maddux (.281). 9IP, 3H, 2BB, 1R, 3K (L 1-5)
- Hero: Mark Grace (.063). 0-2, 2BB
- Sidekick: Shawon Dunston (.005). 0-1, 2BB, 2SB
- Billy Goat: Darrin Jackson (-.174). 0-4
- Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.134). 0-4, K
- Kid: Vance Law (-.127). 0-2, BB, DP, E
Game 34, May 15: Astros 5, Cubs 1 (17-18)
The Cubs did the unthinkable, losing five straight at home. That dropped them back under the break even mark. The Cubs actually had an early lead in this one, scoring in the first inning off of Mike Scott. That run was unearned as leadoff hitter Doug Dascenzo reached on an error. Such an old school thing that Dascenzo and his .234 on base percentage led off. Doug did eventually have a couple of less awful seasons from 1990-1992 but produced a wRC+ of 20(?!?) in 1989.
Paul Kilgus held the Astros scoreless until the fifth, but then he got roughed up a bit. Billy Hatcher led off with a single and Kevin Bass followed with a walk. Ken Caminiti then hit a two-run triple. Future Hall of Famer Craig Biggio made it 3-1 with a sac fly. A Jeff Pico error after he was summoned with the bases loaded and no outs led to another run. Bass then finished the scoring with a solo homer off of Mitch Williams in the ninth.
- Superhero: Jeff Pico (.055). 2IP, 0H, 2BB, 0R, 0K
- Hero: Gary Varsho (.032). 1-1
- Sidekick: Dwight Smith (.028). 1-4
- Billy Goat: Paul Kilgus (-.200). 6IP, 5H, 3BB, 4R, 4K (L 3-4)
- Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.111). 0-4, K
- Kid: Doug Dascenzo (-.084). 0-4, R, DP
Some weeks are tons of fun to write up and some not so much. This wasn’t a good week of baseball for the Cubs. The pitching wasn’t awful, but the bats were largely dormant. Seven runs in five games just doesn’t get the job done. There have been many, many instances in baseball history where a team allowed 17 runs in five games and won four or more games. But with just seven runs, the recipe for ineptitude was there.
After climbing back up into a first-place tie on the final Sunday of the road trip, this series quickly knocked the Cubs back to fourth place. That kind of movement can happen early in the year when the teams are bunched. In this instance, they fell three and a half games out of first. This won’t be the last time they are that far from first, but it is the farthest they will get from the top spot. In other spoiler alerts, at one game under .500, that was the furthest they would fall below break even.
Historical Heroes and Goats Player of the Week: Mark Grace
Mark Grace is one of the most polarizing figures in recent Cub history. A Cubs draftee who spent 13 productive seasons at first and participated in two different post seasons with the team, he is beloved by many. There was always a bit of noise around Grace, most of it for off-the-field things and by the time he left he rubbed some the wrong way. Certainly, he had some problems away from the field that became public after his time in Chicago. He also had a weird stint as a third man in the booth on Marquee broadcasts this past year that were mostly unwatchable.
We’re not going to talk about or get into off-the-field or even broadcasting stories here, though. Instead, we’ll talk about the player that Mark was. A very talented and productive one. He was originally drafted in 1984 by the Twins but did not sign. A year later, the Cubs grabbed him in the 24th round and he did sign. He would then be in the Cubs organization until after the 2000 season.
Mark debuted with the Cubs in 1988 and quickly took over the regular first base job. He played in 134 games as a rookie and had 550 plate appearances with a .774 OPS. For that, he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Chris Sabo. That rookie class included some great names Tim Belcher, Ron Gant and Roberto Alomar rounding out the top five.
Grace received MVP votes in four different seasons, though he never cracked the top 10. He was selected to three All-Star teams and won four gold gloves. He led the NL in at bats in 1991 (619), doubles (51) in 1995 and sacrifice flies (10) in 1999. He also led the ML in double play grounders (25) in 1993.
He wasn’t much of a power hitter, notching only 173 homers in 8,065 career plate appearances. But he was a prolific doubles hitter, with 511 of them. He notched 2,445 hits and a career batting average of .303. His finest season was in 1995 when he put 16 homers with those 51 doubles and drove in 92 runs. From his debut in 1988 until his age-37 season with the Diamondbacks, he had an OPS+ over 100 every single year.
In 1989 he had a line of .314/.405/.457 with 13 homers and 79 RBI. He was one of those sneaky base stealers, stealing 14 in 21 attempts. He also drew 80 walks while striking out only 42 times. Mark was always good at putting the ball in play. He finished 14th in MVP balloting that year.
I’ll ask that question again that I asked in an earlier part of this season. In our hypothetical, the Cubs are opening a Cubs Hall of Fame. You are given a vote on who should be added to that Hall. This means you get to be part of the decision. Will it be a small, elite Hall? Or an expansive one? Does Mark Grace make the cut for your Cubs Hall of Fame? There have been many great seasons at first base for the Cubs dating back to Frank Chance and Cap Anson before and through to today with Anthony Rizzo. Some of them had only a few very elite seasons and some have spent a decade or more there.
I don’t think Mark can be included if you are selective. There are just too many good choices. But this is a man who is in the top 10 in Cubs history in hits, total bases, doubles, runs scored, walks, and runs batted in.
Mark Grace - Cubs Hall of Fame?
This poll is closed
Just barely, but yes
Close, but no