Corey Kluber had been dialed in all afternoon, striking out 11 and allowing only 1 run on 4 hits, so I have no doubt the Cubs were happy to see him go after 7 2/3 innings and 121 pitches. Lucky for them, Jon Lester was at least as good, going 8 2/3 and allowing only 1 run on 6 hits with 6 strikeouts of his own. The first 8 5/6 innings were all about pitching.
Jon Lester was almost able to squeeze out a complete-game shutout, but his failure to charge a swinging bunt allowed Carlos Santana to drive in the tying run with 2 outs in the Indians’ final frame. It was one of those deflating moments that might have left a lesser team feeling as though the momentum had shifted away or that they had missed their opportunity. But this is the Cubs. I mean, this is the Cubs…of 2015.
This isn’t some sad-sack outfit with a bunch of fans who melt into weepy puddles every time a Sunday hop costs their team a lead. Well, there are still enough of those fans left, but the tide has officially turned when it comes to how this team is being viewed.
So here they are on what should have been an off-day, knowing they’ve got to jump on a plane to the West Coast soon after the game is over, and having just seen their slim lead disappear like a fart in the wind. Past Cubs teams might not have cared enough to fight into extra innings. Then again, past teams didn’t have Kris Bryant.
After Zack McAllister struck out both Chris Coghlan and Anthony Rizzo, the future Rookie of the Year stepped to the plate with the game tied at 1 and made a loud noise. News flash: the kid can hit a curveball.
The homer was Bryant’s 20th of the season and 3rd in the last three games, all of which have gone to right or center. And the two recent oppo blasts weren’t cheapies either; it takes some kind of power to sit back on an offspeed pitch and deposit it several rows deep as Bryant has been wont to do. In launching his heroic blast on Monday, Bryant turned an 80 mph curveball into a 105 mph mortar that landed 387 feet away.
In case you’re keeping score at home, this was the Cubs’ Major-League-leading 12th walk-off victory this season. I don’t care how tired these idioms are, this team just doesn’t quit and the players seem to find different ways to win each and every time out there. Instead of wondering how the Cubs will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, you just sit back and marvel at how almost no game ever seems out of hand.
Bryant and the Cubs have been especially great at Wrigley this season; Bryant’s home homer total now matches his jersey number and his last 12 longballs have come at the Friendly Confines. Likewise, the Cubs have won 14 of their last 20 at home and carry an overall record of 39-26 at Wrigley. But for all those complaining about an easy home-heavy schedule, I suppose it should also be noted that the Cubs do possess baseball’s best road record (33-25).
Despite being perfectly capable of winning on the road though, there’s just something about seeing the Cubs win at Wrigley. And that’s why I hate to watch them go. Then again, I love to watch them walk off.