In the bottom of the 10th inning of a well-pitched, low-scoring game, Patrick Wisdom of the Cubs had singled Willson Contreras, who was the Manfred man, to third base.
Nobody out, Jason Heyward the scheduled hitter. Reds manager David Bell decided to place his defense in a five-man infield, two-man outfield setup.
Heyward took two pitches, one strike, one ball, then hit a baseball well over all the Cincinnati fielders [VIDEO].
The third walkoff home run of J-Hey’s career won the game for the Cubs 4-1 as they took the three-game series from the Reds, who fell out of the second wild-card spot as a result of this game and the Padres’ win over the Angels.
Let’s head back to the beginning of this crisply-played, well-pitched game.
With two out in the first inning, Ian Happ gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead [VIDEO].
That ball was crushed!
As you can see in the video, it bounced off a railing at the back of the right-field bleachers, nearly reaching Sheffield Avenue. That’s not an easy thing to do with the larger bleacher structure since the most recent reconstruction. Happ, as noted, now has 21 home runs, just three short of his career high (24, set in his rookie year, 2017).
Alec Mills got through the first three innings unscored-on, thanks in part to getting Nick Castellanos to hit into a double play in the first. It was a good thing Mills got Castellanos to hit another DP ball in the fourth, because Cubs nemesis Joey Votto smacked a solo homer right after that. Votto wound up 2021 hitting seven home runs at Wrigley Field in just 23 at-bats.
Mills got easily through the fifth and sixth and then was lifted after just 73 pitches. I didn’t quite understand that. He was cruising, the pitch count was low, the weather conditions were perfect and his batting-order spot wasn’t due up.
But Rowan Wick entered the game and threw two scoreless innings, allowing a pair of harmless two-out hits, one in the seventh, one in the eighth, an efficient outing.
The Cubs, though, could not score, and barely had any presence on the bases. After a beautifully-placed bunt single by Sergio Alcántara with two out in the second, the Cubs had just two baserunners from the third through the ninth, both on walks. Neither runner got past first base, and after the second of those walks, to Alcántara in the fifth, 13 straight Cubs were retired by Reds pitching.
The Cubs also got two solid relief innings from Codi Heuer, who struck out a pair and recorded six outs on just 19 pitches (14 strikes).
That set up the Cubs’ winning rally. As noted above, Wisdom singled Contreras to third. Then Wisdom took second on defensive indifference. Curiously, the Reds did not intentionally pass Heyward to set up a force at any base. That was a good thing for the Cubs when J-Hey smashed his home run, winning the game. Heyward’s homer hit the video board in right field and went a long way:
Brad Brach. You remember him with the Cubs, I’m sure. Four months’ worth of not-great pitching in 2019 (6.13 ERA in 42 appearances, with 28 walks in 39⅔ innings) before he was designated for assignment, then given his unconditional release in early August. Thanks for finally helping the Cubs out Wednesday night, Brad!
About the Cubs’ home runs in Wednesday’s game:
The Cubs have now homered in 15 consecutive games, their longest stretch since also homering in 15 straight from April 23-May 9, 2019. It's the longest active streak in the NL.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) September 9, 2021
Their streak is two games shy of matching a franchise record 17 straight Aug. 19-Sept. 5, 1998. #Cubs
Another note: The time of this 10-inning game was 2:49. That’s the shortest Cubs extra-inning game by time since September 28, 2015, when the Cubs and Royals played 11 innings in 2:49. That game was also won by a walkoff homer, hit by Chris Denorfia.
The Cubs thus won the series from the Reds and are 6-1 so far on this homestand. Since August 22 they have the best record in the National League, 11-4. They held a pretty good Reds offense — Cincinnati came into this series second in the NL in runs — to just eight runs in three games. The Reds still have postseason hopes, but the Cubs won four of their last five from them and wound up the season 8-11 against Cincinnati after a 4-10 start.
This Cubs team has been playing solid baseball in almost every facet of the game in that 15-game stretch and yes, won games from the not-good Pirates and Twins — but also defeated playoff contenders in the White Sox and Reds. They’ve been fun to watch and walkoff home runs are always exciting.
The Cubs will certainly enjoy their off day Thursday and Friday afternoon they will begin a three-game weekend series against their old buddies Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella, Jose Quintana and the San Francisco Giants. Kyle Hendricks is the Cubs’ scheduled starter Friday. At this writing the Giants, who also have Thursday off, don’t have a listed starting pitcher. Game time Friday is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and also on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Giants market territories).