The Chicago Cubs have played many games in April where it is cold, windy and just downright nasty baseball weather. I mean, they play in Chicago after all. But, there may not be any April baseball game more important in this team’s history.
On the night of the banner raising ceremonies celebrating the Cubs amazing 2016 World Series Championship, the weather did not cooperate. A rain delay caused the ceremonies to be pushed back by about an hour and a half. This may deter most fans on any other night in any other city, but not Cubs fans. Last night there was over 40,000 fans that stayed through the rain delay, watched the extremely emotional pregame ceremonies, and still wanted to stay for what most would have guessed was going to be a boring baseball game.
My first thought before every single baseball game at Wrigley Field is, “which way is the wind blowing?” It becomes a major factor for hitters and pitchers in both situations. On last nights account, the wind was blowing in heavily. This is almost a guarantee that nobody is going to get one out of the ballpark so you better settle in for a pitchers duel.
And a pitchers duel it was, as Jon Lester and Alex Wood set off to a hot start in the first two innings allowing only one combined hit and wasting no time on the mound. It wasn’t until Kyle Schwarber worked a two out walk in the 3rd inning that Kris Bryant would come through with an RBI double down the left field line to score the first run.
This score wouldn’t last long as the very next time up Chicago loaded the bases following two base hits, a throwing error on Wood, and an intentional walk to Javier Baez. The next batter was Jon Lester. With one out, Lester hit a tough grounder to Turner at third base who ended up only getting the force out at second. That giving the Cubs a 2-0 lead that would last for a few innings as Lester was spectacular on the mound as well.
The dominant lefty threw six innings and only allowed one earned run on just four hits and one walk. That run coming on a swinging bunt in the 6th that would plate a run on the fielder’s choice. This was the pitchers duel we had come to expect as now both teams were relying on their bullpen the rest of the way.
It would be Justin Grimm who had the unfortunate job of taking over for Carl Edwards Jr., who left the bases loaded with nobody out in the 7th. Grimm would shut the door as a 1-out double play ball would end the inning with no harm done.
It was the 8th inning that things started to get crazy as again the Dodgers had a runner in scoring position with nobody out. After a strikeout, the Cubs were a ground ball away from an inning ending double play when a sharp grounder to Rizzo turned into a throwing error by Addison Russell on the backend. This would plate the tying run in the top of the 8th for the Dodgers.
Shut down the rest of the way, it came down to the bottom of the 9th inning, and the Cubs with a chance to walk it off.
Jon Jay singled, Tommy LaStella moved him over on a groundout, and Jay steals 3rd base as Kris Bryant strikes out. Runner on third with two outs, and none other than Anthony Rizzo at the plate. The man who has been with this team the longest. The man who has been a Cub from last in the NL Central to World Series Champions. The man that led this team onto the field during last night’s ceremonies hoisting the World Series trophy.
Kenley Jansen is an elite closer in the Major Leagues, and his cutter to left handed batters is almost impossible to hit when thrown up and in on the hands. Rizzo was up to that challenge when he sent Jansen’s cutter back over Turner’s head at 3rd base and walked it off for the Cubs on a historical night at Wrigley Field.
Not easily forgotten is the image of the players hoisting the championship banner before the game, nor the emotional walk-off fashion that the game was won. In my mind, last night just goes to show that the Cubs won another hard fought game in 2017. With many more to come, the Cubs are 5-2 following the home opener, and things are looking up here in Wrigleyville.