You asked for meaningful baseball in September and by gum, you have got it.
Now let’s hope we all survive it.
The Cubs fashioned an early lead, got good starting pitching, then the bullpen blew that lead. But then the team put together a stirring ninth-inning rally and held on — barely — for a 5-4 win over the Rockies.
You are still with me, right?
The Rockies scored first, on a double by Charlie Blackmon and a couple of ground outs in the first inning off Jordan Wicks.
The Cubs tied things up in the third. Yan Gomes and Patrick Wisdom led off with singles, and Nick Madrigal singled in Gomes [VIDEO].
The Cubs took the lead in the fifth, and in a big way. Christopher Morel hit this very, very long home run with two out [VIDEO].
It was the 22nd home run of the year for Morel, the longest blast of his career, and the longest for any Cub this year at 466 feet.
The Cubs added one more in the sixth. Cody Bellinger led off with a double, and on a single by Seiya Suzuki, Bellinger stopped at third. Suzuki advanced on a wild pitch, with Bellinger holding third.
Bellinger scored to make it 3-1, but Suzuki was called out on a very close play. The Cubs challenged, but it was ruled “call confirmed.”
Wicks completed six innings, allowing one run on three hits. He threw 97 pitches (61 strikes) and that’s a really good outing anywhere, much less Coors Field.
If only Wicks could have gone longer, because the Cubs bullpen was just not good in this game. Jose Cuas entered to throw the seventh and retired the first two hitters, Kris Bryant and Ryan McMahon, on just eight pitches, both on strikeouts.
It’s too bad the rest of the inning did not go well. Cuas allowed a single, then hit the next Rockies batter. Hunter Goodman doubled in two runs, tying the game, then Brenton Doyle singled in Goodman to give the Rox the lead. I just don’t understand how a reliever can look that good, then completely fall apart. Drew Smyly entered and ended the inning with a strikeout of Blackmon, but not before wild-pitching the runner to second.
The Cubs could not score in the eighth, and Smyly got through the bottom of the eighth with no issues, picking off Nolan Jones after allowing him to single.
So the Cubs trailed 4-3 with three outs to go.
Dansby Swanson led off with a double and Ian Happ walked. With Gomes at bat, both runners broke for the next base and pulled off an uncontested double steal.
This turned out to be really, really important, because Gomes then singled them both in [VIDEO].
Even though there were no outs when that happened, the Cubs could not score again, so they took a precarious one-run lead to the bottom of the ninth.
Smyly retired McMahon to lead off the inning. Then, with Adbert Alzolay on the IL, Michael Fulmer was summoned. He was... wild. He had little command or control, walking Elias Diaz on four pitches and hitting Elehuris Montero. This did not seem good, with the tying and winning runs on base.
But Fulmer managed to compose himself and strike out Harold Castro. And on a 1-2 count, he struck out Doyle on a sweeper to end the game [VIDEO].
You can hear all the Cubs fans after that strikeout, they must have been nearly half the crowd at Coors Field.
A few notes about the MLB debut of Pete Crow-Armstrong: He was sent in to pinch-run for Mike Tauchman after Tauchman singled as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. He advanced to second on an infield out but was thrown out trying to steal third. He remained in the game in center field and in the ninth, executed a perfect sacrifice bunt.
One of the biggest takeaways from this important win was the start by Wicks. He does not seem ruffled by anything — ballpark, game situation, being in a playoff race. Yes, I did not think he was ready for this sort of thing but clearly, I was way wrong. I would not hesitate to start Wicks in a playoff game.
The win, combined with the Phillies’ doubleheader split with the Braves, moved the Cubs to within 1½ games of the top wild-card spot. The Diamondbacks won so the Cubs continue to lead them by two games in the wild-card race. The Marlins lost to the Brewers, so the Cubs continue to trail Milwaukee by three games in the N.L. Central and lead the Marlins by 3½ games, and also lead the Giants by 3½, as San Francisco won Monday. The Reds were idle and trail the Cubs by four games.
The Cubs also evened up their record in one-run games at 20-20.
So the Cubs are in pretty good position right now with 17 games remaining. They will go for two in a row over the Rockies, and three straight overall, Tuesday evening at Coors Field. Javier Assad will start for the Cubs and Chris Flexen gets the start for Colorado. Game time is again 7:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.