By now we all know that the game ended well for the Cubs, but after a disappointing showing against the Phillies last night, tonight's game felt like a game that the Cubs *needed* to win.  Not that it was a "must" win, but after having such a wonderful 6-1 road trip, as a fan it would have been demoralizing to lose two straight to Philadelphia back at the Friendly Confines.  As rational as I try to be, I am fully aware of momentum shifts and superstitions that surround my favorite pastime.

Early on, it felt like we were going to see a pitcher's duel.  Philadelphia sent Aaron Nola to the mound against José Quintana, who was coming off one of his best starts of the season.  Nola was very impressive in the first inning, getting the Cubs out in order 1-2-3, and featuring strike outs of Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant.  For his part, Quintana was excellent through the first five innings.

The Cubs got to Nola in the second inning, when the surging Anthony Rizzo took a fastball up and on the inside corner and absolutely hammered it off the scoreboard in right field.  With the way Rizzo crowds over the plate, I was sure that it would go foul, but it wasn't really all that close.  1-0 Cubs.  The very next pitch was a bit of a hanging curve ball that Willson Contreras hammered for a double against the left field wall, and the Cubs looked to be in business.  Unfortunately, the Cubs suffered from some bad luck, and were not able to capitalize.  Kyle Schwarber was called out on strikes on a borderline pitch at the knees for the first out.  Javier Báez hit a ball sharply to third baseman Maikel Franco, who made a poor throw.  The error resulted in having base runners at first and third with one out.  Albert Almora Jr. smacked a line drive through the box that deflected off Nola, unfortunately right to Scott Kingery.  Despite a poor throw on the relay, the Phillies finished it off for an inning-ending double play.

The third inning saw both pitchers dominate, with Quintana striking out the side in the top of the frame, and Nola punching out two in the bottom half.  In the fourth Quintana went 1-2-3, and was cruising at this point.  Nola had trouble in the bottom of the inning, by walking both Bryant and Rizzo to start off.  On Rizzo's walk, Bryant was running.  The throw to second was a moot point, but Bryant alertly recognized that Philly was in their shift, and nobody was covering third.  Again, the Cubs were in business with runners at first and third.  This time they were able to come through.  Contreras singled through the hole in the left side of the infield to score Bryant to make it 2-0.  Runners would advance to 2nd and 3rd base, respectively, on a ground-out by Kyle Schwarber.  That allowed Báez to drive in a run on a sacrifice fly to make the score 3-0.  Almora was walked (he would steal second) to get to Quintana, who worked a full count before grounding out to end the inning.

Quintana kept it up in the fifth inning, with another 1-2-3 frame, and striking out two.  The Cubs weren't able to do anything off of Nola, though Kris Bryant did double with two outs.

If the Cubs had lost the game, the sixth inning would have been second-guessed to death by the people on Twitter (and still was, anyway).  Quintana walked the lead-off batter César Hernandez, but followed up with two strike outs, giving him 10 on the evening.  However, Carlos Santana weakly singled just past second base to put runners at first and second with two down.  At that point Joe Maddon decided to go with Steve "Rubber Arm" Cishek to get a righty-righty matchup against Aaron Altherr.  Quintana was at 91 pitches - perhaps slightly elevated, but manageable.  To that point of the game Altherr had struck out and popped out, so it wasn't as though he'd looked particularly sharp.  As (our) luck would have it, Cishek's first offering to Altherr missed its spot, and the ball was deposited into the basket in straight away center.  Quintana's nice outing was erased, as the game was tied at 3-3.

The rest of the action happened in the ninth inning.  Nola pitched the sixth inning without much incident before being replaced.  Cishek pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, as did former Cub Tommy Hunter.  We got to see good Justin Wilson (actually, he has been very good lately), who pitched a scoreless top of the eighth, and oddly named Seranthony Dominguez pitched a 1-2-3 bottom half.

Maddon went with Brandon Morrow to pitch the ninth in the tie game, and he was off.  He allowed a single to Altherr to lead off, and then allowed a line drive basket shot to left field to Dylan Cozens in his fifth Major League at bat.  5-3 Phillies.  Morrow retired J.P. Crawford on strikes, but then got very wild, hitting Jorge Alfaro and walking the relief pitcher Dominguez.  I'm going to be optimistic and say that it was a mechanical issue, and that it is just a ding in the season.  Cory Mazzoni was summoned to end the inning, and did so getting out his two batters.

As bad as the top of the inning was, the ninth was equally sublime.  Schwarber led off with a walk.  Báez ultimately struck out after missing a glaringly awful hanging breaking pitch early in the AB for the first out.  However, the Cubs got a stroke of good luck as the catcher Alfaro had all sorts of problems with Almora at the plate.  On the 0-1 pitch, the ball squirted just past Alfaro.  Schwarber initially broke for second, then headed back to first.  Alfaro winged the ball past first base, allowing for Schwarber to move to second.  Almora singled to center field, though Schwarber made sure that the line drive went through, and was only able to move to third.  Lefty Adam Morgan was brought in to face Ian Happ, who walked to load the bases.  Ben Zobrist weakly grounded to the pitcher Morgan, who threw home for the force out.  Alfaro held the ball this time, choosing not to try for the double play at first.  That set up the dramatic finale.  That set up J-Hey's heroics.  On a 2-2 count, Heyward hit a no-doubt shot to the right field bleachers for a grand slam, and gave the Cubs its first walk-off victory of the season, and a boost in the arm to this Cubs fan.

Source: FanGraphs

Since it's draft season, and all

Tonight we got a chance to see Aaron Nola, and I have to admit, I'd not sat down and watched him actually pitch much.  I knew that he came in with a low ERA, just over 2.00.  What I remembered mostly about him was that there was quite a bit of discussion about him here on the Cubs Den about this time four years ago, when he was pitching at LSU, and about to be drafted.  I know that there were some big fans of his in the comments, though some expressed some concern about his delivery, which is closer to a 3/4 motion, where he throws across his body.  We know how that draft ended up, as the Cubs selected Kyle Schwarber, and Nola obviously went to the Phillies.  Turns out, that worked out pretty well for both teams.  For what it's worth, I was pretty impressed by Nola.  His first inning was very good, and I was very much concerned about the propositions for tonight's game.  He did struggle, giving up some hard contact to Rizzo, but also didn't get much help from his defense.  He did what a guy is supposed to do when his team gets down early; he worked through it, and gave the Phillies a quality start.

Moving Forward

The rubber match of the series will feature big righty Nick Pivetta vs short righty Tyler Chatwood.  Let's hope the Cubs bring their tall socks and play a solid game behind the mercurial starter.  First pitch is at 1:20.



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  • Just as the ball left Heyward’s bat I looked out my window and saw a pig fly by.

  • Thank you. May I have another?

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    In reply to BarleyPop:


  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Maybe a little less drama, but these are fun. Gonna be hard to go to sleep tonight, so I'm reading up. Tinker to Evers to Chance: The Chicago Cubs and the Dawn of Modern America by David Rapp.

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    The Cubs are now only 1 back. With the way they've been playing and with the Brew crew losing 3 in a row this could be a sprint past them and by AS break we could be up by 8 or 9 games. Joe always has his teams sparked after the break, but the way the Cubs have been playing this last week could be the start of that hot run.
    With all the talk of how bad Yu and Chatwood and even Q have been right now we're third in team ERA, 3rd in run differential and 4th in loses in the ML. Not bad for an underachieving team--to read all the criticisms I thought we'd be at the bottom of the standings.
    This is a very good team. Our players are learning how to play and are getting better every game. Only JHey and Rizzo are really coming into their prime (Zo is past it but playing like he's 10 years younger.) This is a dangerous team and no one will want to play us come October.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Yes, sir. It was the high expectations. After they signed Yu, we all expected great things. I repeatedly referenced 117 wins in my posts. They"re good. They know they're good. And they'll be stepping on the gas soon.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    What a difference a week makes. People are too low or too high. Need middle grounds.

  • Happy happy for J-Hey. He is a class act and I hope he can continue his hot streak.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    Yes, I am too. Lately he’s been more like the guy they thought they were getting. I think he’s earning everyone’s trust back, including mine. I was a fan of the signing, I admit. But I also admit I had been frustrated w/the lack of offense that he was supposed to bring. If he keeps it going like this, wow... look out NL. Doesn’t have to be walkoff grand salamis all the time, but big hits in big situations now & then are a nice boost.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Easy does it. 10 days of solid hitting doesn’t make up for 2+ years of struggling. He is gonna have to hit well the rest of year before he “ earns my trust”. Keep him in 2 hole til he fizzles out.

  • I’ve been around a longgggg time and cannot remember another Cub walk off grand slam....
    Maybe Carlos Fanzone?

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I heard this morning on the MLB channel during the replay that the last time the Cubs won on a walk-off Grand Slam was over 50 years ago by none other than Chicago's very own HOFer, Ronnie!

  • Or Carl Fanzone? Lol.......can’t even remember his name....the horn player on the 70’s teams......

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Close, It’s Carmen Fanzone... yes he plays trumpet. I even think he did the anthem once at Wrigley.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Thank you lol.....
    Philadelphia Inquirer......sports section......lmao......gotta LOVE Philly fans

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    They are crucifying Kapler

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I love Gabe Kapler. Sadly he may not last a long time there unless they sign some guys and are a true contender next year. He's going to manage in this game a long time though for someone.

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    In reply to TC154:

    If I remember correctly the Phillies have a lot in their farm system. They signed Santana and Arrieta (Arrieta to a VERY nice contract...kudos to their GM for doing that). They have plenty of money. They are competing a little earlier than I expected. Honestly, they are team to look out for in 2019-2022 or so IMO. Whatever experience they get in big games this year is just a bonus. Somewhat like the Cubs in 2015. For the Phillies, and, more importatnly their media and some fans, this is a heart-wrenching loss. But it is only 1 loss and this is a quality team.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Definitely, although for this year I think if one of either Philly or Atlanta make the playoffs it's going to be the Braves. They're a little ahead as they are getting both pitching and offense, while Philly has struggled with the latter. The other difference is while both have nice systems Atlanta's is a little better with more talent ready now. Austin Riley is not far away, maybe even this year, and the abundance of pitching is really pretty nuts. Philly on the other hand has a really top 5 but all of them 1-2 years away. Still they look to be willing to spend a lot more money than the Braves are and could get a lot better for 2019 that way. Both of these teams are up and comers, I just think Philly might be a year away.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I can go for that assessment.

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    I think this win will be remembered this year as a signature win that propels this team into first place and the world series. I was sure feeling bad after Alterr tied the game and even lower when the Phils got 2 more runs late. J-Hey gave the Cubs a great win and Z is on a roll. LetsGoCubbies!

  • What a great win. Sadly I had to be up at 4:30 this morning and bailed in the eighth but boy was I excited to see the outcome, oh and of course the footage of the grand slam was the first thing I watched this morning. So, a few quick things. There was a lot of discussion here yesterday afternoon about whether Heyward should be playing, and it would be easy to criticize that talk in hindsight so I won't do that, but regardless of the ending of this game as long as Heyward is hitting as well as he has for the last three weeks and the game is in Wrigley there is no legitimate argument why he shouldn't be playing. None. RF at Wrigley is not an easy position to play and Heyward owns that corner. The decision, right now isn't even close, he needs to play. The other controversy is more complex in the move to Cishek in the 6th. At the time my first thought was that it was a shame that Q didn't get his quality start and truthfully I would have left him in. That said the numbers were clear in that situation that Cishek was the better choice. The fact that he gave up the HR is immaterial. I think sometimes many of our decades of fandom gets in the way of what numbers point out. The longtime baseball fan in me hated that move, the analytic fan in me realizes that you make it every single time.

    MLB.com posted a piece yesterday postulating that the Cubs were the best team in the NL and I think it's time for fans to realize that's true. You have ups and downs, sometimes in game, but find me another lineup in the NL that's as potent as this one. Pitching is probably going to be a concern of one kind of the other all season long but there aren't a lot of teams out there where it isn't. The game is fun, this team is fun and I think all of us need to start to figure that out. It's going to be a fun summer. Go Cubs!

  • In reply to TC154:

    Really like your last paragraph. I enjoyed the game ending, but what I REALLY enjoyed was the absence of all the "Quintana sucks" and "We gave up Eloy!!!!!" posts on Cubs Den.

  • Wow!!! Missed everything as business travel got in the way. What a nice surprise as I woke up at 4:15 in Denver.

    I’ll admit I do not always understand the WAR calculations, but that IS definitely 1 WAR for Heyward.

    The crazy thing about him is we all would love the signing had he been hitting like the last 3 weeks for the first 2 1/2 years. Now, he may actually opt out if this hitting continues which a month ago felt like there was no chance. When Heyward and Russell both hit, the Cubs are unstoppable. This could be one of those “signature” wins of a special season.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    From your lips to god ears........I still dont think he opts out even if he continues his +120 WRC run throughout the season.

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    In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    He does seem to enjoy playing for the Cubs. He signed for less than his highest offer when he came over so money isn't necessarily his biggest factor. I anticipate that he stays as well.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I know all teams celebrate walk offs, but it was heartwarming how happy Jason's teammates were for him. Even after after the initial mix on home plate guys were standing in line for hugs.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The respect of his team mates was obvious. Good for J'Hey.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Like you said, his teammates seem to really like him.

    I showed the GS to my wife yesterday and she practically teared and said that it must have felt so good. He is popular with his teammates and everyone agrees he is a model player in the clubhouse. It is mainly frustrating for fans to have him struggling.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I don't think because Heyward has had a pretty good 3 weeks and hit a homer last night that he will opt out.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I didn’t say that. I said “may opt out if he continues” implying he could get a bigger AAV deal based on this trend and high level production.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I did not mean to imply you said he would opt out. I was only giving my opinion. If he did opt out he would get the full $20M bonus he is owed right away. He would then be walking away from AAV salary of just over $21M for the next 5 years. I don not see him getting that on the open market but, you never know.

  • I was thinking that Joe needed to go get Q in that situation. Only person to blame for Quintana not finishing the sixth was himself. With a three run lead he was nibbling and timid. Too many 3-2 counts. The situation called for him to be more aggressive. Q put himself in that situation where Maddon had to make the change.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    By the way, great write up, as usual. Heyward has been hitting with so much authority of late. I'm happy for him and if he continues, it will be a huge boost for the team.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Q had just given up his third hit ,an infield single, had 10k’s and was only at 91 pitches. He had k’d and had a pop out to first against Altherr . What was the reason he was pulled?

  • Already stated. It didn't play for sure. I was just noting that this time, I was on the same page as Maddon. We might have been been mistaken, but I thought Q was pitching scared.

  • I've been vocal about my skepticism on Heyward but I'm very happy for him what a moment for him and I hope it's a spark for a nice season moving forward. He's struggled for such an extended period of time at the plate that I remain skeptical on whether this is some turnaround until I see this over a much larger sample but I'm glad that he's had some success here lately and this was hands down his signature moment as a cub thus far. I admit that he's earned more AB's for the time being because we know how fantastic of an all around player that he can be when he hits but we just haven't seen many long stretches of him going well at the plate so I don't think it's unfair to be skeptical about his ability to sustain his success throughout the remainder of the season. I for one am rooting for him and it's fun to imagine how dangerous our lineup and team would be if we got the heyward we thought we were getting moving forward.

    As for the Q decision I'm not really looking to have a debate about this I understand the analytics that say go to your bullpen for a starters 3rd time through the order, I get Cishek kills righties and that was a rare moment for him, and I get that the batter Altherr is better against LHP then RHP. Given these numbers, I'm not saying that Maddon made a horrendous decision at least he had a logical reason to make his move but I still don't agree with taking Q out and I said that in the game post in the moment it happened if you read it so this isn't retrospective talking. To me this movement of going to your bullpen earlier in the game is fine in the playoffs or for certain games but to me this method isn't sustainable over 162 games and I for one am concerned how this will effect our pen fatigue wise in the latter part of the year I hope Maddon has a plan to account for the fatigue factor because I believe you need to get 7-8 inning starts sometimes those games are huge bullpen rest days in a long season. In addition, if the starter was an average starter like Jason Hammel or John Lackey it's one thing I can back having a quicker hook for certain guys but Q is a quality legit playoff caliber starter whose shown that he's durable and can eat innings when he has it going and I think that you push your good starters later into the game when they're dealing (THE GUY GAVE UP 0 runs WITH 10K's before he was removed). You have to let your starters pitch into the 7th inning sometimes how are we supposed to save our bullpen when our starters get taken out early regardless of whether they're dealing or struggling. In addition watching that game the phils looked clueless against Q the entire game he was carving them up and their AB's looked extremely uncomfortable. In addition, the hitter Altherr looked extrememly uncomfortable versus Q all game striking out once and hitting a weak pop up in his 2nd AB. I imagine it must have been a huge relief for Altherr and the Phillies lineup to see Q removed so early because they almost looked like they were looking for walks because they sure as heck couldn't square him up all game. I know someone's going to reply to this post referencing numbers and I say no need I get the numbers favored going to Cishek but while I respect the numbers I don't think they need to dictate every single decision we make even though they obviously should be utilized most of the time. I flat out don't agree with the idea of taking out your starter early when they've been dealing and I've been saying this for years with this analytical movement of taking your starters out early. I think it's just doing a favor to the other team. As a hitter you have to feel good seeing a starter that's been carving your team up all game removed in the 6th inning with plenty of outs to go. That's just my opinion and I respect Joe's reasons for his decision and not saying it's an egregious decision but it's an aspect of his management and this analytics movement of going to your pen early that I flat out don't agree with.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I respect your opinions and you do make sense. My thinking is 91 pitches isn't a small number. Q was for sure fatigued so I understand Joe going to Cishek. Again, you make sense in what you are saying and I appreciate you acknowledging both sides. My main point is pitch 92 usually isn't as effective as pitch 10. It was a close game in a tight situation with a fresh and an effective/experienced arm ready to go. This is why I was fine with the decision. It didn't work, but fortunately the Cubs still won!

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