Last week we saw the second half of the season begin after four Cubs had gone to the All-Star game. They had finished the first half on fire, winning five of six to close out the half and they blasted the Padres coming out of the break to extend the streak. But then they lost three straight to close out the week.
This week, the team moves on to Los Angeles for three more games to close out their trip to start the half. In a tough scheduling quirk, they play Wednesday in L.A. and then Thursday in Chicago, starting a four-game set with the Giants. Three-city trips west aren’t much fun either, but jetting across the country to play the other California team just feels odd.
Anyway, that’s the way it was drawn up and that’s the way it happened. Let’s see if the Cubs were able to right the ship after their tough trip to San Diego or if they continued to struggle.
Game 91, July 17: Cubs 6 at Dodgers 3 (49-42)
This one started with a bang. Jerome Walton singled leading off the game. One out later Lloyd McClendon walked and then Mark Grace took Ramon Martinez deep staking the Cubs to a 3-0 lead four batters into the game. Scott Sanderson was the recipient of that support. In the bottom of the inning, he allowed a one-out single to Willie Randolph and a two-out double to Eddie Murray but escaped with a 3-1 lead.
In the third inning, Randolph and Murray each added another single. a Sanderson balk in the middle made allowed Murray’s single to be run producing and the lead was down to one.
Sanderson didn’t survive the fourth inning, but the game did reach the sixth with the Cubs still nursing a lead. But with one out Jose Gonzalez singled and Jeff Hamilton doubled and the game was tied. All of this damage came against Steve Wilson.
The game reached the eighth inning tied and the Dodgers’ Tim Leary had pitched a scoreless seventh and then stayed on for the eighth. McClendon led off the inning with a walk. Grace followed with a single and the Cubs were in business. A Damon Berryhill sacrifice led to a Mitch Webster intentional walk. The cliché unintentional walk to Curtis Wilkerson followed the intentional walk and that would turn out to be the winning run.
The Dodgers summoned Ray Searage to try to put out the fire, but that too was unsuccessful. An Andre Dawson pinch hit sacrifice fly increased the lead to two and then a Domingo Ramos two-out single increased the lead to three.
Mitch Williams threw two scoreless innings despite allowing a hit and a walk in the ninth. That netted him save number 23 on the season.
- Superhero: Mark Grace (.348). 2-4, HR, BB, 3RBI, 2R, K
- Hero: Curtis Wilkerson (.177). 1-2, 2BB, RBI, K
- Sidekick: Les Lancaster (.124). 1⅓ IP (4 batters), (W 1-0)
- Billy Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.143). 0-5, K
- Goat: Scott Sanderson (-.094). 3⅓ IP (16 batters), 7H, 2R, K, BK
- Kid: Steve Wilson (-.093). 2⅓ IP (10 batters), 3H, R, K
Game 92, July 18: Dodgers 4, Cubs 1 (49-43)
This one got off to a fast start too. With one out, Ryne Sandberg reached on an error. One out later, he moved to third on a Mark Grace single. He then scored on a Damon Berryhill RBI single. Unfortunately, that was all of the offense the Cubs mustered off of Orel Hersheiser. After two hits in the first inning, they added just two more singles the rest of the way and didn’t have another reach second base.
Greg Maddux made the lead hold until the fifth inning. But then he hit Mike Scioscia with a pitch. Hersheiser sacrificed but then oddly Sciossia only moved up to third on an Alfredo Griffin double. Maddux got the second out on a line drive but then Kirk Gibson had a two-run double to give the Dodgers the lead.
The following inning, Sciossia had an RBI-single, driving in Franklin Stubbs who had doubled. Griffin capped the scoring with an RBI double, this time scoring Scioscia.
- Superhero: Damon Berryhill (.073). 1-4, RBI
- Hero: Mark Grace (.018). 1-4
- Sidekick: Calvin Schiraldi (.009). 2IP (9 batters), H, 2BB, 3K
- Billy Goat: Greg Maddux (-.308). 6IP (30 batters), 8H, 4BB, 4R, K, HBP (L 9-8)
- Goat: Jerome Walton (-.060). 0-4, K
- Kid: Gary Varsho (-.59). 0-4, K
Game 93, July 19: Cubs 4 at Dodgers 0 (50-43)
The theme of the series was early offense. Once again, the Cubs got it in this one. Mike Bielecki who had been roughed up earlier on the road trip was spectacular in this one, facing 31 batters in a complete game to beat future Cub Mike Morgan.
The Cubs had the lead two batters into the game. Jerome Walton led off with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and then scored on a Ryne Sandberg single. Mitch Webster followed with a double and then Mark Grace grounded out to drive in the second Cubs run. Damon Berryhill capped the scoring with a successful squeeze bunt.
The Cubs would reload the bases with a Lloyd McClendon walk, Vance Law double and Shawon Dunston intentional walk, but couldn’t score further. Fortunately, Bielecki was so good, the Cubs didn’t have to regret letting that opportunity get away.
In the fourth, Sandberg reached on an error, stole second and scored on a Grace single to cap the scoring. The Dodgers only got one runner as far as second base, that was a second inning Kal Daniels double.
- Superhero: Mike Bielecki (.215). 9IP (31 batters faced), 3H, BB, 6K (W 9-5)
- Hero: Mitch Webster (.099). 3-5, 2B, R, K
- Sidekick: Ryne Sandberg (.093). 1-5, 2R, RBI, SB
- Billy Goat: Lloyd McClendon (-.001). 1-3, 3B, BB
- Goat: Shawon Dunston (.008). 1-2, 2BB
- Kid: Damon Berryhill (.013). 0-4, S, RBI
Game 94, July 20: Cubs 4, Giants 3 (51-43)
If the theme of the series in Los Angeles was early offense, then this game was just the opposite. Who can say if it was the long trip across country, but the Cubs offense was dormant in this one. Until it wasn’t.
Paul Kilgus allowed a leadoff double by future Cub Candy Maldonado in the second inning. Two outs later, a Vance Law error led to the game’s first run. In the fourth, it was Maldonado again getting things going with a lead off double. After a sacrifice bunt, Donnell Nixon delivered an RBI single.
In the fifth, Brett Butler had a one out triple. He then scored on a Robby Thompson single putting the Giants up three.
On the other side, the Cubs got a Mitch Webster double in the first inning, but didn’t see another runner reach second through the first eight innings. The Giants had made a pretty significant trade in June to add Steve Bedrosian as they made a playoff push, trading Dennis Cook, Charlie Hayes and Terry Mulholland to the Phillies. He’d go onto to save 17 games in 40 appearances for the Giants that season. He’s also pick up three saves in four appearances in the NLCS.
On this day, he was sent in to start the eighth, looking for a two-inning save. In the eighth inning, he worked around an Andre Dawson single to keep the shutout alive. But in the ninth, the Cubs bats finally put something together.
Mark Grace and Damon Berryhill had a pair of back-to-back one out singles. After a Lloyd McClendon pop out, the Cubs were down to their final out, facing one of the better closers in the game. Dwight Smith came through with a clutch two-out single and when the ball was misplayed in right field the Cubs had their first run and runners on second and third. That brought Curtis Wilkerson to the plate and he delivered a clutch two-run, game-tying single.
The game stayed knotted at three until the bottom of the 11th. McClendon got things going with a lead off single. But then Smith who’s heroics had kept the game going in the ninth grounded into a double play. Wilkerson singled, but that didn’t seem particularly meaningful other than getting Les Lancaster, who’d entered the game in the 10th, to the plate. But Lancaster came through in a big way. He delivered a game-winning double:
To be fair, Lancaster did come to the majors as a starter and had some experience with the bat. But being realistic, Les had just four doubles and five RBI in his seven year career (148 plate appearances). He only batted 11 times in 1989, collecting two hits and seven strikeouts. So this was a pretty remarkable accomplishment.
- Superhero: Curtis Wilkerson (.465). 2-3, 2RBI, R
This was the ninth-biggest WPA game score of the year for a Cubs player
- Honorable Mention: Les Lancaster (.436). 1-1, 2B, RBI
- Hero: Les Lancster (.273). 2IP (9 batters), 2H, K (W 2-0)
- Sidekick: Jeff Pico (.035). 2IP (8 batters), H, 2K
- Billy Goat: Jerome Walton (-.149). 0-5, 3K
- Goat: Damon Berryhill (-.110). 1-5, R, 2K
- Kid: Domingo Ramos (-.107). 0-1
Game 95, July 21: Giants 4 at Cubs 3 (51-44)
Once again, it was the Giants who got on the board first, this time in a big way. The game was scoreless until the third, but that’s when Cubs starter Rick Sutcliffe ran into trouble. Brett Butler doubled leading off the inning. After a sacrifice, the Cubs intentionally walked Will Clark. I pause here for a moment, just looking at how different baseball was even in 1989. The third inning of a July baseball game in Wrigley Field between two teams in contention featured a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk.
Kevin Mitchell followed the intentional walk with an RBI single for the game’s first run. Ernie Riles followed with an RBI single of his own to make it a two run lead. A ground out advanced the runners to second and third and then Pat Sheridan came up with a two-run single to make it a four run inning. Sutcliffe threw seven innings, with six of them being very good, but one bad inning spoiled the whole bunch.
The Cubs did battle back. Shawon Dunston reached on a wild pitch/dropped third strike to start the bottom of the inning. Sutcliffe sacrificed and Jerome Walton delivered an RBI single.
Then in the eighth, another defensive miscue helped the Cubs. Dwight Smith reached with two outs on a rare error by Will Clark and then was along for the ride on a Mark Grace homer. Andre Dawson followed with a triple and the Giants summoned Craig Lefferts. He walked the first batter he faced, escaped the eighth and then worked around a leadoff single by Dunston in the ninth to record his 17th save.
- Superhero: Shawon Dunston (.172). 2-4, R, K
- Hero: Mark Grace (.149). 2-4, HR, 2B, 2RBI, R
- Sidekick: Mitch Williams (.037). IP (3 batters), BB, K
- Billy Goat: Damon Berryhill (-.221). 0-4
- Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.160). 1-5, 2K
- Kid: Rick Sutcliffe (-.145). 7IP (30 batters), 6H, 2BB, 4R, 5K (L 10-8)
Game 96, July 22: Cubs 5, Giants 2 (52-44)
Scott Sanderson worked around a pair of singles in the top of the first to keep the Giants off of the board. Then in the bottom of the inning, Robby Thompson made an error allowing Mark Grace to reach. Andre Dawson made them pay with a two-out, two-run homer. The Cubs would actually add two more singles in the inning but failed to add to their early lead. However, Joe Girardi led off the second with a single, advanced on a Sanderson sacrifice and scored on a double by Jerome Walton.
The Giants got one back in the third when Thompson was hit by a pitch with two outs and Will Clark followed with an RBI-double.
The game would stay 3-1 until the sixth. That’s when Vance Law led off the inning with a solo homer. Candy Maldonado would duplicate that feat in the top of the seventh and the lead was back down to two.
Law would cap the scoring with his second homer of the game off Jeff Brantley. Law played in the majors in parts of 12 seasons. Over that time, he had 71 homers in 4,298 plate appearances. This was the third and final two-homer game of his career.
- Superhero: Scott Sanderson (.239). 7IP (27 batters), 5H, 2R, 3K, HBP (W 9-6)
- Hero: Andre Dawson (.143). 1-4, HR, 2RBI, R
- Sidekick: Les Lancaster (.107). 2IP (8 batters), 2H, 2K (Sv 2)
- Billy Goat: Shawon Dunston (-.037). 1-4
- Goat: Ryne Sandberg (-.029). 0-4, K
- Kid: Joe Girardo (-.017). 1-4, R, DP
Game 97, July 23: Cubs 9, Giants 5 (53-44)
With Greg Maddux on the hill, you wouldn’t necessarily expect a high scoring game, but as we all know, come summer in Wrigley this kind of game is always a threat to break out. The Cubs got on the board almost immediately in the bottom of the first. Ryne Sandberg had a one out triple. Dwight Smith was hit by a pitch and Mark Grace delivered a single for the Cubs first run. After the second out of the inning, Will Clark made his second error of the series and that scored the second run.
The Giants fought back though. Three straight singles by Ken Oberkfell, Candy Maldonado and Terry Kennedy produced the Giants’ first run. A fielder’s choice followed and the game was tied.
Shawon Dunston led off the bottom of the inning with a single. Moved up on a Maddux sacrifice and then scored when Jerome Walton flew out to center. Dunston scored on an error on the play.
In the fifth inning, the Cubs busted it wide open. A Walton single preceded a pair of walks to Sanderg and Smith. Mark Grace then belted a two-run double. That was it for Giants starter Don Robinson. Randy McCamet came into the game and struck out Andre Dawson. But then the Giants intentionally walked Damon Berryhill and Vance Law followed with a sacrifice fly.
In the sixth, Kevin Mitchell walked with two outs and then a pair of singles by Oberkfell and Maldonado to plate the Giants third run.
The Cubs capped their scoring in the bottom of the inning. A Sandberg single, Grace walk and Dawson homer turned into three insurance runs and put the game out of reach.
The Giants did score two more runs in garbage time, plating two off of Calvin Schiraldi. Kirt Manwarring led off the inning with a single. Maldonado doubled for the first run and a ground out followed for a third. But that was it. The Cubs won 9-5 and took three of four from the Giants.
- Superhero: Mark Grace (.166). 2-4, BB, 2B, 3RBI, R
- Hero: Ryne Sandberg (.144). 3-4, BB, 3B, 3R, SB
- Sidekick: Damon Berryhill (.075). 0-3, BB, K
- Billy Goat: Shawon Dunston (-.026). 2-4, R, K, DP
- Goat: Andre Dawson (-.017). 1-4, HR, 3RBI, R, 2K
- Kid: Gary Varsho (-.001). 0-1
*Editor’s note: This is one of the wilder sequences you’ll see for H&G. Berryhill had a rather uneventful looking day and finishes third. But you’ll note he reached on an error with two outs in the first inning, scoring the game’s second run. WPA doesn’t differentiate between a bobbled grounder to first and an RBI single. On the other end, it was 6-3 in the sixth inning with two runners on when Dawson homered. By that time, the equation already included a high probability of building onto the lead in that inning and also of going on to win. Dunston grounded into a double play at a time where the Cubs were only leading by one and immediately following a leadoff walk. Sequencing makes such a huge deal for WPA.
On the week, the Cubs won both series, taking two of three from the Dodgers and three of four from the Giants. That’s a very strong week. After starting the week 3½ games out of first, the series win in L.A. shaved a game off that. Unfortunately, the one loss in the Giants series was actually enough to give that game back. They finished another week at 3½ out of first.
We haven’t seen the last of quirky scheduling. After traveling from L.A. to Chicago for a four game set with the Giants, the Cubs then headed to St. Louis for three more games before they finally had an off day. Then they headed home for three with the Mets before going right back out on the road. July 1989 was a weird scheduling month for Cubs players and one in which it would have been hard to ever unpack. From the All-Star break until August 7-13 before the Cubs would play consecutive series at home. In all, that was a 25-game stretch without consecutive series at home. How would they perform over that difficult stretch? We’ll look at this more next time.
1989 Cubs Historical Heroes and Goats Player of the Week: Curtis Wilkerson
Curtis Wilkerson (as I remember him), or Curt as Baseball Reference lists him, was selected by the Rangers in the fourth round of the 1980 amateur draft. In 1983, at age 22, he reached the majors for the first time with the Rangers. He appeared in 16 games that fall, playing second, short and third.
In 1984, he played in 153 games, making 522 plate appearances primarily at short for the Rangers. That was the high water mark in his career for playing time. He produced a .561 OPS and recorded only 13 extra base hits and 12 stolen bases (in 22 attempts).
His playing time eroded over time with the Ranger, though he did have the most productive year of his career in 1988, playing in 117 games. That year he produced an OPS of .703 that was just shy of league average (OPS+ 96).
In the offseason, he was part of the blockbuster deal that also brought Paul Kilgus, Mitch Williams and Steve Wilson to Chicago in exchange for a package of players that included Rafael Palmeiro and Jamie Moyer.
In 1989, Wilkerson appeared in 77 games producing an OPS of .591. The following year, he appeared in an identical 77 games with an OPS of .507. He added left field to his skill set as versatility was the key to keeping him on the field.
After leaving the Cubs as a free agent after the 1990 season, he spent one season with the Pirates and two more with the Royals before hanging up the spikes after the 1993 season. After his playing days, he spent some time managing a team called the Tarrant County Blue Thunder in the Continental Baseball League.