After the Cubs clinched the N.L. Central in 2016, they went just 9-6 the rest of the regular season. Many regulars got rested through that 16-game stretch (yes, 16, there was a tie game in addition to the nine wins and six losses) and then the Cubs had four days off before they began the 2016 postseason Friday, October 7 against the Giants at Wrigley Field.
It was a chilly, windy evening. The boxscore says the wind was blowing at 10 miles per hour, but I was sitting in the left-field bleachers and I can tell you it was much stronger than that. Gusts might have been up to 20 miles per hour — blowing straight in from left field.
The pitching matchup also held hitting down. Jon Lester had his best year as a Cub in 2016, with a 2.44 ERA, 1.016 WHIP, 5.6 bWAR and a second-place finish in Cy Young voting. Johnny Cueto, who also had an outstanding season in 2016 (2.79 ERA, 1.093 WHIP, 5.5 bWAR, sixth place in Cy Young balloting), had held the Cubs to just five hits in a 3-2 Giants win September 4 at Wrigley Field.
The Giants threatened early but did not score. The Cubs were held hitless by Cueto until Kris Bryant doubled with one out in the fourth. He was the only Cub to get past first base in the first seven innings and the only other Cub hit through seven was a single by Javier Baez in the fifth. Meanwhile, Lester retired 13 Giants in a row after a two-out double in the fourth.
It was a classic pitchers’ duel. No runs scored through seven and a half innings.
Jason Heyward led off the bottom of the eighth and popped up.
You can hear the Fox announcers talk about Javy’s blast. They said the ball was headed to Waveland. I can confirm that. I was sitting directly underneath the ball’s arc. It looked like it was soaring over our heads onto the street. Then the wind got it. I thought it might land right near us. Instead, the wind pushed it even farther back — nearly enough to put it in play, but it landed in the basket beneath the ribbon board, in front of a forlorn Angel Pagan, the Giants left fielder.
Seeing that ball’s path made me understand how Hank Aaron’s ball on August 19, 1969, also headed for Waveland, could have been blown back far enough so that Billy Williams caught it, helping to preserve Ken Holtzman’s no-hitter.
Back to Javy’s blast, here’s the Statcast data [VIDEO].
Statcast says 381 feet, but I dunno. The distance posted on the wall in the left-field corner at Wrigley Field is 355 feet from home plate. The wall runs relatively straight until it gets to the well in left-center, and 26 more feet? Maybe.
As you can hear on the video, the ballpark erupted. It was loud, but Miguel Montero’s NLCS grand slam was orders of magnitude louder.
Cueto retired the next two Cubs and so the game went to the ninth with Aroldis Chapman charged with holding that 1-0 lead. He allowed a two-out double to Buster Posey, but then got Hunter Pence to ground out to end the game and the Cubs’ first 2016 postseason game went into the books as a win.
If Javy doesn’t hit the homer? No one else on the team was hitting at all that night — Baez had two of the team’s three hits. Maybe it still ends in a Cubs win if the game goes to extras and the bullpens take over, but that wound up a very, very important home run during the Cubs’ World Series run in 2016.