Every season includes one or two of those really long stretches of consecutive games for every team. A lot of those necessarily occur in the summertime when the owners want to squeeze more and more games in where the attendance figures are greatest. The last two parts of this series have focused on one such stretch that the 1989 Cubs had. It started on June 2 in St. Louis and it ended on June 18 in Montreal. So far, the Cubs took two of three in St. Louis, and split eight home games against the Mets (won three of four) and Cards (lost three of four).
With 11 games in the books in this stretch, the Cubs had won six of 11, all against competitive division foes. In this edition, we’ll look at the final six games of the stretch. Those were against the Mets and Expos on the road. This certainly looked like a stretch where you’d have to be happy with winning nine games. Particularly because as the calendar turned to June, the Cubs were nursing some injuries. Their entire starting infield missed time. Rick Sutcliffe missed a start. Shawon Dunston missed a couple of games.
Let’s see if the Cubs were able to squeak out nine wins.
Game 62, June 13: Cubs 4 at Mets 2 (35-27)
The Mets took the early lead in this one. In the second inning, Darryl Strawberry led off with a single and then Dave Magadan walked. After a fielder’s choice, Mackey Sasser delivered an RBI single. In the third, they tacked on another run with a Lenny Dykstra lead off double, a sac bunt and a sac fly by Howard Johnson.
With Mets starter Ron Darling starting the game with four scoreless innings this one wasn’t looking good. But then Lloyd McClendon drew a one out walk, stole second and then was along for the ride one out later on Shawon Dunston’s home run. That tied the game. Then the Cubs got back to work in the sixth. Jerome Walton led off the sixth with a double. Dwight Smith bunted for a hit. Ryne Sandberg drew a walk and Andre Dawson delivered a sac fly to give the Cubs their first lead of the day. Damon Berryhill followed with a sac fly of his own and the Cubs led 4-2.
After allowing the two early runs, Cubs starter pitched into the seventh inning, exiting for Mitch Williams with one out. Williams recorded the final eight outs for his 15th save. The win improved Bielecki’s record to 5-2 and gave the Cubs back-to-back wins.
- Superhero: Mitch Williams (.295). 2⅔IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R, 3K (Sv 15)
- Hero: Shawon Dunston (.216). 1-3, HR, R, 2RBI, K
- Sidekick: Dwight Smith (.093). 2-4, R
- Billy Goat: Andre Dawson (-.084). 0-3, SF, RBI, 2K, DP
- Goat: Vance Law (-.065). 0-3, 3K
- Kid: Mike Bielecki (-.034). 6⅓IP, 6H, 4BB, 2R, 5K (W 5-2)
Game 63, June 14: Mets 2, Cubs 0 (35-28)
Scott Sanderson drew the short straw, matching up with Dwight Gooden. This game was scoreless until Lenny Dykstra went deep with one out in the third. The Mets struck again in the fourth when Howard Johnson had a one-out double and Lee Mazzilli followed with an RBI-single. The game was shortened by rain allowing Sanderson to get a complete game for six innings of work. Gooden left for Rick Aguilera in the seventh and Aguilera was credited with a save for a perfect seventh.
The Cubs had a couple of chances but couldn’t cash in. In the fourth inning, Damon Berryhill had a one-out single. Curtis Wilkerson then drew a two-out walk and Dwight Gooden balked the runners up a base. But Shawon Duston struck out and that was about it for this one. Then in the sixth, Ryne Sandberg reached on a dropped third strike. Two outs later Lloyd McClendon had a single but Wilkerson flew out to end the inning.
- Superhero: Damon Berryhill (.007). 1-3
- Hero: Ryne Sandberg (-.001). 0-3, K
- Sidekick: Dwight Smith (-.013). 1-3
- Billy Goat: Shawon Dunston (-.131). 0-3, 3K
- Goat: Andre Dawson (-.111). 0-3
- Kid: Jerome Walton (-.104). 1-4
Game 64, June 15: Mets 4, Cubs 3 (35-29)
This was the kind of game that you fear could really be a setback for a team. The kind that after a disappointing season you look back on and feel like you really should have had that one. The Cubs led right out of the gate with a two-out first inning solo homer by Ryne Sandberg. In the third inning, starter Greg Maddux led off with a single, moved up a base on a Jerome Walton walk and then was the front end of a double steal. That allowed Curtis Wilkerson’s ground out to score the game’s second run. In the sixth inning, Mitch Webster led off with a triple. A short fly to right failed to get the run in. Gary Varsho was intentionally walked and Domingo Ramos followed with a bunt back to the pitcher that ended with an out at the plate. But the Cubs persisted and scored on a two-out single by Joe Girardi.
Don Zimmer got greedy with two outs in the sixth. The Mets had pulled starter Sid Fernandez after five innings. Don Aase was the first reliever, but he left after the intentional walk. The Mets then brought in Roger McDowell and he was on the mound for the Ramos bunt play that ended in an out at home. He then allowed Girardi’s RBI single. Zimmer then sought to press his advantage, sending Dwight Smith to the plate to bat for Greg Maddux who had allowed two hits and four walks over five scoreless innings of work. Certainly, with four walks, this wasn’t a vintage Maddux outing, but this is one of those rare games where I suspect a modern manager would have stayed with his starter, but an old school one didn’t.
Steve Wilson worked around a hit and a walk to throw a scoreless sixth. Then he threw a scoreless seventh inning. Then he went back out for a third inning of work. He wasn’t as fortunate as he started seeing batters for a second time. Darryl Strawberry took him deep with one out in the eighth and the lead was cut to 3-1. Still, the Cubs handed the ball to a usually dependable Mitch Williams with a two-run ninth inning lead. Gregg Jeffries greeted him with a lead off single. Williams got a fly out and a pop out and things were looking up. But Keith Miller doubled and Howard Johnson was then intentionally walked to load the bases. Then Dave Magadan followed with a two-out, two-run, game-tying single.
The Cubs got a runner to second in the 11th and runners to first and second in the 12th but failed to score against a tough Mets bullpen that included Randy Myers and Rick Aguillera who’d both go on to be Cubs and were very good relievers of the era. In the 12th inning, Pat Perry was in his second inning of work when he issued a lead off walk to Magadan. After two fly outs to right, he then walked Leo Mazzilli. Jeffries ended the game with a walk-off single, sending the Cubs to a second straight defeat.
- Superhero: Greg Maddux (.266). 5IP, 2H, 4BB, 0R, 2K
- Hero/Sidekick: Jeff Pico/Jerome Walton (.120). Pico 1IP, 1H, 0BB, 0R, 1K; Walton 0-3, 2BB, HBP, SB, K
- Billy Goat: Mitch Williams (-.426). 1IP, 3H, 1BB, 2R, 0K
- Goat: Pat Perry (-.259). 1⅔IP, 1H, 2BB, 1R, 0K (L 0-1)
- Kid: Lloyd McClendon (-.211). 0-6, 2K
Game 65, June 16: Expos 8, Cubs 5 (35-30)
Paul Kilgus dug the Cubs a hole quickly. Damaso Garcia singled with one out in the first. One batter later, future Hall of Famer Tim Raines drew a walk. Hubie Brooks followed iwth a two-run double. Tim Wallach drew a walk and Mike Fitzgerald delivered an RBI-single. The game was then scoreless until the fourth. Kilgus delivered a walk to Fitzgerald. Spike Owen followed with a double. Kilgus retired Expos starter Bryn Smith then intentionally walked Otis Nixon to load the bases. That was it for Kilgus. Jeff Pico got the ground ball the Cubs were hoping for, but they couldn’t complete the double play and a run scored. Andres Gallaraga then followed up with an RBI-single to make it 5-0.
The Cubs finally made some noise in the fifth. Domingo Ramos led off the inning with a single. Pico followed with one of his own. After Jerome Walton grounded into a double play, Dwight Smith delivered an RBI-single. He then stole second and went to third on a throwing error. He was there when Ryne Sandberg delivered a two-out, RBI-double to make it 5-2.
But the Expos kept adding on. Brooks and Wallach had back-to-back singles to start the fifth. One out later, Own added a single of his own to score a run. Fangraphs describes the next play as a caught stealing with an error that led to Wallach scoring. That made it 7-2. It was all elementary after that. Ryne Sandberg hit a homer off of Smith in his eighth inning of work to cut it to four. But Nixon reached on an error, stole second and scored on a Galarraga single to cap the Expos scoring.
The Expos left Smith in to start the ninth inning with the large lead, despite having already allowed three runs. The Cubs made some noise. Lloyd McCendon and Vance Law had back-to-back singles to start the inning and then Domingo Ramos reached on an error to load the bases. The Expos then brought in closer Tim Burke. Mitch Webster struck out for the first out. A Jerome Walton sac fly was the second, but cut the lead to four. Dwight Smith delivered an RBI-double to bring the tying run to the plate. But Ryne Sandberg struck out to end the game. Burke notched his 14th save and the Cubs lost for the third straight day.
- Superhero: Ryne Sandberg (.062). 2-3, 2BB, HR, 1R, 2RBI, 1K
- Honorable Mention: Jeff Pico (.034). 1-1
- Hero: Dwight Smith (.032). 3-5, R, 2RBI, K
- Sidekick: Vance Law (.027). 1-3, BB, R
- Billy Goat: Paul Kilgus (-.252). 3⅓IP, 5H, 4BB, 5R, 0K (L 5-6)
- Goat: Andre Dawson (-.106). 0-4
- Kid: Jeff Pico (-.094). 2⅔ IP, 5H, 0BB, 2R (1ER), 0K
Game 66, June 17: Cubs 3 at Expos 2 (36-30)
Rick Sutcliffe dug a quick hole for the Cubs in this one. Ex-Cub Dave Martinez drew a walk leading off the game. One out later, Andres Galarraga doubled. Sutcliffe threw a wild pitch and Tim Raines had a sac fly to make it 2-0. Hubie Brooks followed with a single to extend the inning, but was caught stealing.
Pascual Perez held the Cubs scoreless until the fourth but then the Cubs bats went to work. Andre Dawson had a one-out double and Damon Berryhill followed with one of his own to make it 2-1. One out later, Vance Law added a game-tying, two-out double.
Both starters settled in and were still working in the seventh when Domingo Ramos led off with a single off of Perez. Sutcliffe sacrificed and Jerome Walton had the decisive RBI-single. Mitch Williams retired the final four outs for his 16th save. But it wasn’t without incident. The Expos had a single, a stolen base, a single and a walk before Williams finally struck out Mike Fitzgerald to end the game.
- Superhero: Mitch Williams (.273). 1⅓IP, 2H, BB, 0R, 1K (Sv 16)
- Hero: Rick Sutcliffe (118). 7⅓IP, 6H, 2BB, 2R, 7K (W 8-4)
- Sidekick: Domingo Ramos (.108). 3-4, R
- Billy Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.097). 0-3, HBP, 2K, CS
- Goat: Lloyd McClendon (-.082). 1-4, K
- Kid: Dwight Smith (-.019). 1-4
Game 67, June 18: Cubs 5 at Expos 4 (37-30)
This time it was the Cubs with the fast start. Jerome Walton started the game with a single. One out later he stole second and third. Ryne Sandberg drew a walk and Andre Dawson slugged a three-run homer. Lloyd McClendon had a walk and a stolen base afterwards, but the Expos got out of the inning with just three allowed. But then in the second, Domingo Ramos led off with a single. Mike Bielecki sacrificed him to second and Walton had another single. Dwight Smith followed with an RBI-ground out and it was 4-0.
The Expos got one back in the third keyed by a double by their starter Mark Langston. He had a one out double and then scored on a Tom Foley two-out, RBI-single. Langston helped himself out again in the fifth with a lead out single. He then scored on an RBI-triple by Otis Nixon. Nixon then scored on a balk to cut their deficit to one.
In the seventh inning, the Cubs got a key insurance run. They did it when McClendon singled with two outs off of Langston. He was balked to second and then scored on a Vance Law two-out RBI single.
Steve Wilson started the eight for the Cubs. He got the first out with no issues. Andres Galarraga then singled and Tim Raines followed with one of his own. That was it for Wilson and Calvin Schiraldi came in just long enough to walk Hubie Brooks and load the bases. The Cubs summoned their third pitcher of the inning and Jeff Pico coaxed a ground ball off the bat of Tim Wallach. The Cubs got an out, but only one. Then they brought in a fourth pitcher, their closer Mitch Williams. He walked Mike Fitzgerald to load the bases, but got a fly out by Spike Owen to snuff the rally. He then pitched a perfect ninth for his 17th save.
The Cubs stole five bases in six attempts in this game with Jerome Walton stealing four of them. That is certainly not an everyday occurrence.
- Superhero: Mitch Williams (.345). 1⅓IP, 0H, 1BB, 0R, 0K, (Sv 17)
- Hero: Andre Dawson (.152). 1-5, HR, R, 3RBI, K
- Sidekick: Vance Law (.116). 2-5, 2B, RBI
- Billy Goat: Calvin Schiraldi (-.122). 0IP, 0H, 1BB, 0R, 0K
- Goat: Dwight Smith (-.043). 0-4, BB, RBI, K
- Kid: Mitch Webster (-.025). 0-1
It was another up-and-down week. The Cubs probably could have squeezed out a fourth, but did win a couple of close ones in Montreal against Expos team that was still playing very well into June.
The Cubs started the week with a half-game lead and it stayed right there after every game in the initial Mets series. The loss to the Expos in the Friday game slid the Cubs back into second place, a half game back. But they retook the lead Saturday and then extended it by a game on Sunday. The Expos would eventually finish exactly at .500 but was in the thick of things all of the way into August. They were never more than a game out of first between June 25 and August 7. Much of that time would be spent in first place, though the division was close through all of that the summer.
1989 Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats Player of the Week: Mitch Williams
It’s certainly an odd week to feature Williams when he had a tough blown save in the middle of the week. But it was an unusual week indeed. Williams had three Superhero positions in the week balanced against the one Billy Goat. For that, he was our Player of the Week.
Mitch was drafted by the Padres in the eighth round in the 1982 draft. He then was selected by the Rangers in the rule 5 draft in 1984. He was returned to the Padres, but then traded to the Rangers. He reached the majors with the Rangers in 1986 and led the AL in games pitched with 80. He threw 98 innings and had a 3.58 ERA. He saved eight games. In three years in Texas, he appeared in 232 games with a 3.70 ERA and saved 32 games.
He was then part of the blockbuster deal in December of 1988 that sent him to the Cubs along with Paul Kilgus, Curtis WIlkerson and Steve Wilson. All four of them would make key contributions to the 1989 Cubs. The Cubs returned Drew Hall, Jamie Moyer and Rafael Palmeiro. Mitch was 4-4 with a 2.76 ERA in 81⅔ innings for the ‘89 Cubs, during which he was selected to the All-Star team. He led the majors in games pitched with 76 and he saved 36 games. He finished ninth in Cy Young voting and 10th in Most Valuable Player voting. In 1990, he saved 16 games, but was 1-8 with a 3.93 ERA.
Williams was with the Cubs until 1991 when they traded him to the Phillies for Chuck McElroy and Bob Scanlan on April 7, just before the season began. After the 1991 season he resigned with the Phillies as a free agent. In three seasons with the Phillies, he was 20-20 with a 3.11 ERA and 102 saves in 200 appearances and 231⅓ innings pitched. He also pitched in the World Series for them in 1993. He lost two games against the eventual World Series champion Blue Jays. That was after a very effective NLCS when he pitched in four games, 5⅓ innings and allowed only a single earned run. He saved two games.
The Phillies traded him to the Astros for Doug Jones and Jeff Juden. He was just 1-4 with a 7.65 ERA in 25 games and 20 innings for the Astros. He did save six games. After that, he bounced around between teams and organizations through the 1997 season. That year he pitched in seven games for the Royals with a 10.80 ERA and that was it for the Wild Thing.
From 1989 to 1993 with the Cubs and Phillies, Mitch was 25-32 with a 3.18 ERA in 335 games and 379⅓ innings. He saved 154 games. He had an ERA+ over that time of 119. There is no question he was one of the better relievers in baseball for that short period of time.
This poll is closed
Dominant reliever of the late 80’s and early 90’s
A flash in the pan with a funky delivery