Things looked pretty bleak heading into the bottom of the ninth Monday night as the Cubs had just turned a three run lead into a one run deficit after Jason Motte failed to record an out during his brief appearance and Rafael Soriano couldn’t clean up the mess he inherited allowing three runs to score, including another home run. It was 8 – 7 Rockies and it appeared as if the Cubs were headed to their fourth straight defeat. It appeared there would be no celebrating these Cubs’ tenacity in fighting back from a four-run deficit to plate six men in the fourth inning. It appeared that this team’s slump-busting, offensive break-out would all be for naught; and as Kris Bryant stepped to the plate with one man on and two outs, it appeared that this game was basically over.
With one swing of the bat, #17 turned those appearances on their head.
Bryant launched the second pitch he saw into the left-center bleachers scoring Dexter Fowler, and collecting his first walk-off home run at Wrigley Field. More importantly, the Cubs picked up a big win at a time they desperately needed to do so to keep pace in the Wild Card chase. Kyle Hendricks had another so-so outing going five innings while allowing seven hits and four runs, which still would have been enough for the win if the bullpen hadn’t collapsed.
Lost in the late-game theatrics was the fact that the Cubs bats finally returned, albeit for just one night, from the milk cartons they’ve currently been occupying. The Cubs were efficient, collecting nine runs on eleven hits, three of which came from the struggling Starlin Castro. The Cubs had a huge fourth inning as they batted around the order and chased Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa from the game. Fowler and Kyle Schwarber both drew walks and Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, and Castro all singled to either push men across or into scoring position. Addison Russell had an RBI double to cap the Cubs scoring in the merry-go-round inning and put Chicago up 6 – 4.
Despite tacking on another run to make it 7 – 4, the Cubs closer-by-committee approach completely fell apart in the ninth, something that just cannot happen. Carlos Gonzalez hit his second homer of the game to take the lead off of Soriano, who has now given up two home runs in only four relief appearances.
“We have to nail down a three-point lead in the ninth,” Joe Maddon said. “We have to get better there. … We’ve given some of those things away. We almost gave one again tonight. We grabbed it back. Move it along.”
Thank the baseball gods for Kris Bryant. Without him this season could have been headed for a tailspin but hopefully his ninth inning heroics rubs off on a club which is in dire need of some good fortune.
“It wakes us up a little bit,” Bryant said. “We were a little nonchalant the last couple of games. Myself included. The energy of a walk-off win is going to pay for us moving forward.”
They will need every ounce of that energy as the deadline looms and the Cubs largely looking to stand pat. There are still lots of question marks after last night; one being who can handle the closer’s role on a regular basis? Does the answer lie outside the Cubs’ clubhouse? All is still quiet on the Cubs front as other teams dive head-first into blockbuster deals. Stay tuned.
Tonight it’s Dallas Beeler for the Cubs vs. Yohan Flande for the Rockies. Game time is 7:05PM CST.
Let’s Go Cubs!