By the end of last season, the Chicago Cubs didn’t have a ton of walk-off wins (6) relatively speaking, but it sure looked like they’d lap the field early on.
David Bote kicked things off with an opposite field, walk-off single on April 21st, before racing to an airplane to catch the birth of his third child later that day. Kris Bryant followed up on May 7th with a two-out, two-strike blast to center field for the Cubs second walk-off win of the year.
And we didn’t have to wait long for the third, as Jason Heyward decided to go back-to-back-nights, walking off the Marlins in the very next game!
Heyward had recorded five career walk-off hits before this one – including one other walk-off home run (the grand slam at Wrigley Field, remember that one?) – so this was a pretty special moment. And it also came at an extremely hot time for him offensively.
After this game (and through the first 128 plate appearances of the season), Heyward was slashing .286/.398/.495 (131 wRC+) with a walk rate (15.6%) greater than his strikeout rate (14.8%). He still wasn’t making a ton of hard contact, but this was close to the the peak of him using center field (48.9%) more than ever – an approach that very much works for him. Whenever this 2020 season gets underway, I hope to see Heyward continue to abuse the middle of the field, because that’s when he has the most success. (Oh, also, the fall-off that followed? It’s when he was asked to lead off … )
That was also Heyward’s sixth home run of the season to that point in the year, which was the same number as Kris Bryant and two more than Kyle Schwarber. Man, he was off to such a good start.
How It Happened:
The Marlins jumped out to an early lead thanks to a wonky first inning: after a throwing error by Kyle Hendricks (he had only two errors total last season and just 4 in his entire career) and a swinging bunt by Brian Anderson, Starlin Castro, of all people, delivered an RBI single to left field. That’s kind what he does. He was 3-4 that day.
But the Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning and wouldn’t give it up again until the 9th … because Kyle Hendricks was freakin’ nails after that (8.0 IP, 5H, 0ER, 0BB, 7Ks).
Unfortunately, Brandon Morrow was still injured at this time and Craig Kimbrel had not yet entered the game. Worse, the Cubs used Brandon Kintzler, Brad Brach, and Steve Cishek to help beat the Marlins one night earlier. So Joe Maddon handed the ball to Kyle Ryan in the 9th with an 84.2% chance of winning, per FanGraphs:
Unfortunately, Neil Walker and Starlin Castro both singled and advanced a base each on a wild pitch, setting up the game-tying fielders choice to Addison Russell, before the inning eventually came to an end.
The bottom of the 9th and 10th were quiet for the Cubs, but Tyler Chatwood and Carl Edwards Jr. took care of business in the top of the 10th and 11th (combined: 2.0 IP, 1H, 0BB, 2Ks), setting up Jason Heyward for some late-game heroics for the SECOND STRAIGHT NIGHT!
The Cubs walk it off on consecutive nights.pic.twitter.com/VQ8s8tzV4o
— Sporting News MLB (@sn_mlb) May 9, 2019
It also led to this magnificent quote:
Jason Heyward talked about his walk off home run tonight in the post game interview.
“Better late than never. Shit.”
— Cubs Live (@Cubs_Live) May 9, 2019