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Cubs 4, White Sox 3: Christopher Morel walks it off

... and, my friends, this was the game of the year. So far, anyway.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

As baseball fans, each and every one of us lives for moments like we had at Wrigley Field Wednesday evening, a game in which our team seems headed for an inevitable, crushing defeat and then in a matter of just a few seconds, we are all sent into indescribable joy.

Or, as a friend of mine texted me right after Christopher Morel’s stunning three-run walkoff home run that gave the Cubs an incredible 4-3 win, that this game was:

140 minutes of frustration followed by a momentary flash of pure bliss.

Indeed, you can see some of that “pure bliss” in Morel absolutely tearing around the bases. That’s the story of the game, so let’s look at the ending first [VIDEO].

Credit where it’s due: As most of you know, I’m not a fan of Boog Sciambi. But he absolutely nailed the call of that walkoff homer on Marquee Sports Network. Kudos to you, Boog, you captured the moment. Well done.

You can’t really tell on that clip, but it was LOUD at Wrigley Field after Morel’s blast. Not Miguel-Montero-in-the-NLCS-loud — and OMG Montero was actually in the building Wednesday, throwing a ceremonial pregame pitch — but loud, and loud in an exciting and fun way.

And before I rewind to the beginning of this thrilling win, here are some fun facts from BCB’s JohnW53:

Morel’s was the Cubs’ 952nd walk-off play since 1876, their 904th of the Modern Era and their 749th at Wrigley Field. It was the first with the Cubs trailing since David Bote’s Ultimate Slam on Aug. 12, 2018. They had 23 walk-offs between that one and Morel’s, seven of them homers. They have had 192 total walk-off homers, 182 in the Modern Era and 178 at Wrigley. Morel’s was the 22nd three-run walk-off homer. The previous one was the Cubs’ last walk-off homer of any kind, by Jason Heyward, on September 8, 2021 to beat the Reds, 4-1.

Now there’s a contrast: The Heyward walkoff homer was at the tail end of a sad little season after the big selloff at the trade deadline that July. Morel’s could well be the beginning of something truly special for this year’s Cubs.

More from JohnW53:

The Cubs had gone 707 days (and 150 home games) since the previous walk-off homer by Jason Heyward on September 8, 2021. That was their 15th-longest drought of the Modern Era and 19th longest since 1876....

Previous three-run walk-off homers with Cubs down by two runs:

Fred Pfeffer, to beat Detroit Wolverines, 11-10, on May 30, 1884
Ad Gumbert, to beat Indianapolis Hoosiers, on July 25, 1889
Harry Wolverton, to beat Cleveland Spiders, 8-7, on May 8, 1899
Wilbur Good, to beat Pirates, 3-2, on September 5, 1914
Mark Koenig, to beat Phillies, 6-5, on August 20, 1932
Kiki Cuyler, to beat Giants, 10-9, on August 31, 1932
Ralph Kiner, to beat Pirates, 8-7, on September 9, 1953
Randy Hundley, to beat Mets, 6-5, on July 1, 1973
Shawon Dunston, to beat Phillies, 8-7, on July 29, 1995
Sammy Sosa, to beat Padres, 9-8, on June 2, 1999
Good’s was an inside-the-park homer. Cuyler’s came in the 10th inning; all the others, in the ninth.

Thus, this game was the first time the long history of the Chicago Cubs Cubs that they won 4-3 on a three-run walkoff homer. Of course, they won 4-3 on a walkoff ultimate grand slam by David Bote, just five years ago, written up here just last week.

Someday this game will be featured in a “Today in Cubs history” article on this site.

And one more fun fact, from me: That was just the Cubs’ fifth-ever walkoff win over the White Sox. Here are all five:

Rk Team Date Opp Result
1 CHC 2023-08-16 CHW W 4-3
2 CHC 2009-06-18 CHW W 6-5
3 CHC 2008-06-20 CHW W 4-3
4 CHC 2004-07-04 CHW W 2-1
5 CHC 1998-06-05 CHW W 6-5 (12)

Provided by View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 8/17/2023.

Of those, just two before Morel’s were walkoff homers:

Brant Brown, 12th inning, June 5, 1998, 6-5 win
Aramis Ramirez, ninth inning, August 20, 2008, 4-3 win

All right, NOW we can go back to the beginning of this game.

Javier Assad started out the game pretty much where he left off in Toronto, fooling Sox hitters and retiring the first 10 Sox batters, six on ground balls.

But the Cubs simply could not get anything going offensively. The first two Cubs hitters, Mike Tauchman and Nico Hoerner, reached on a walk and hit by pitch, but the next three went down in order.

The Sox broke through in the fourth. Andrew Benintendi singled and went to second on a single by Luis Robert Jr., and both runners moved up on a rare error by Ian Happ when he fumbled Robert’s hit. That proved to be critical, as Assad then wild-pitched Benintendi home to give the Sox a 1-0 lead.

Then the Cubs got out of the inning on this slick double play started by Cody Bellinger [VIDEO].

Here’s more on that double play from JohnW53:

Cody Bellinger and Jeimer Candelario became just the fifth Cubs first and third baseman since 1915 to team up on a line drive double play — and the first in nearly 45 years.

The previous four:

Turner Barber to Charlie Deal, August 2, 1920, at Philadelphia
Charlie Grimm to Howard Freigau, July 5, 1925, at home vs. the Pirates
Ernie Banks to Ron Santo, July 26, 1966, at Cincinnati
Bill Buckner to Rodney Scott, September 3, 1978, at home vs. the Astros

Since 1915, Cubs first basemen have started 264 double plays by catching a line drive. They stepped on first to complete 199, threw to the shortstop covering second base on 55, threw to the second baseman covering second on four and threw to the pitcher on one!

The first two Cubs in the fourth, Ian Happ and Bellinger, reached on hits, but the next two men went down on outfield fly balls. Candelario walked to load the bases, but Seiya Suzuki flied to center to end the threat. That made the Cubs 0-for-6 with RISP.

In the fifth, Assad walked Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets deposited a baseball into the bleachers to give the Sox a 3-0 lead, and the Cubs went down in order in the fifth and sixth. Things looked bleak.

Assad, though, had a good outing: Six innings, four hits, two earned runs. That sort of game should put your team in position to win most of the time. Here’s a breakdown of Assad’s start [VIDEO].

Mark Leiter Jr. threw a 1-2-3 seventh, but the Cubs could not score in the bottom of the inning, despite a leadoff single. Suzuki hit into an inning-ending double play.

Then came one of the best pitching performances I’ve seen from a Cubs reliever in recent years. Jose Cuas entered the game and loaded the bases on a single and two walks. No, he’s not the reliever I’m talking about.

I’m talking about Michael Fulmer, who was summoned to clean up the mess, bases loaded, nobody out, Cubs down by three. And he struck out Robert, Yoán Moncada and Vaughn on just 11 pitches. That’s just nails. Here are all three K’s [VIDEO].

Just to emphasize how nasty Fulmer was in this game, look at this slider that struck out Robert:

With Robert batting with the bases loaded, I had scary visions of the game being 7-0 and over. Instead, Fulmer kept it within reach. All credit to Fulmer, that was just outstanding pitching.

And in the bottom of the inning, with lefty Aaron Bummer on the mound, David Ross sent Nick Madrigal to bat for Tucker Barnhart. Ross was hoping, I suppose, that Madrigal would just get on base and start a rally.

Madrigal did better than that [VIDEO].

Okay, so it just made the basket. So did Morel’s! They both count just the same. Madrigal is now 4-for-7 lifetime against his former team and has matched his career high in home runs: Two!

So it’s now 3-1 and there’s a bit of stirring in the Wrigley crowd, maybe a comeback is possible. One out later, Hoerner walked, but Happ hit into an inning-ending double play, the Cubs’ second consecutive such play, and the crowd quieted.

Drew Smyly, who might wind up returning to the rotation with Marcus Stroman out indefinitely, was called on to pitch the ninth. He struck out the first two hitters he faced, then Elvis Andrus singled to left. Andrus, though, ill-advisedly tried to stretch that into a double, and Ian Happ threw him out. That play, too, proved to be very important.

Bottom of the ninth. Bellinger led off with a double, his 20th. Dansby Swanson worked a five-pitch walk.

And then, Morel.

Gregory Santos threw a 100 mile per hour fastball and Morel swung right through it [VIDEO].

Then, a slider at the bottom edge of the zone, strike two [VIDEO].

That was followed by another slider, just out of the zone for ball one [VIDEO].

And then, a 100 mile per hour fastball hit out of the yard. Of course you want to see it again! [VIDEO].

How about the Spanish-language call? I don’t speak Spanish... but I can understand this perfectly well!

Here are David Ross’ postgame comments [VIDEO].

More postgame from Ross, Morel and Fulmer:

Some of the things Ross said point out this important fact; Even though Morel was the walkoff hero, this was a real team win, from Assad’s good outing to Fulmer’s strikeouts to the double play with Bellinger and Candelario, to Madrigal’s home run and Happ’s good defensive play after his previous error helped lead to a run.

That’s one of the best things about this team: EVERYONE contributes. You can tell these guys like each other, pull for each other, and this was the night, I believe, that the torch was passed from the Cubs postseason teams of the previous decade to this group, which could be starting something really special. The timing of this great win couldn’t have been better from a fan standpoint, either, as Wednesday afternoon season-ticket holders received postseason ticket invoices. I’ll have more to say about that in a separate article later this morning.

The win pulled the Cubs within 2½ games of first place as the Brewers lost again to the Dodgers late Wednesday. They remain percentage points ahead of the Reds and Marlins for the third wild-card spot and trail the Giants by only two games in the loss column for the second wild-card spot. The Cubs will certainly enjoy their off day today! And this is a game that you, the Cubs fan, will remember forever.

I have been reminded lately of the Nationals and their run in 2019 from a 19-31 record to a World Series title. Their manager, Dave Martinez, a former Cubs player and bench coach, had a mantra that year that he’d tell his team every day: “Go 1-0 today.” That’s what this Cubs team has done lately, approach every day as an individual game, and focus on winning that afternoon or evening. The best thing about the 2023 Chicago Cubs is that they never, ever quit. It’s so rewarding to see.

So let’s talk momentum. Does this win send the Cubs on a nice long winning streak? It could, but “momentum” is never quite what any baseball person wants it to be. If the Cubs just focus on the task at hand, winning that day’s game, they should continue on the nice roll they’ve been on. They have not lost more than two in a row since early July and since that last three-game losing streak (last two to the Guardians, first to the Brewers in Milwaukee), the Cubs are 24-13, the second-best record in the National League (to the Dodgers, 26-9, and L.A. has now won 10 in a row). Just keep on keepin’ on.

After the off day today, the Cubs open a series against the Kansas City Royals Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Jameson Taillon will start for the Cubs. At the posting time of this recap, the Royals didn’t have a starter officially listed, though if they continue on their current rotation, it will likely be lefthander Cole Ragans. Game time Friday is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and MLB Network outside the Cubs and Royals market territories).