By May 11th of 2018, the Chicago Cubs had struggled through FOUR walk-off losses, which … ouch. Even typing that brings back bad memories. But by May 11th of 2019, they had four walk-off wins of their own, including yet another clutch hit from David Bote and back-to-back walk-offs from Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward. (Of course, the Cubs won 95 games and a place in the postseason in 2018, while reaching just 84 wins and a 3rd place finish in 2019 … but whatever. You’re here for happiness.)
The Cubs were a walk-off machine early last year, and there were still two more to go in May, alone. Just days after Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward went back-to-back against the Marlins, Willson Contreras delivered the fifth walk-off win for the Cubs in what really was a wild stretch of baseball.
Remember this one against the Brewers in the bottom of the 15th?
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 11, 2019
I’m trying not to retroactively remember this moment too fondly (considering the outcome of the season, I think I’m fine), but I vividly remember feeling like this was the turning point/month we had been waiting for since 2016. With this win, the Cubs were 9.0 games over .500 (they’d be 10 games over after finishing off the Brewers the next day) and in first place of the NL Central.
Kris Bryant was also having an absolutely monstrous month after a down 2018 season, Tyler Chatwood was turning a major corner (more on that in a second), and, best of all, the walk-offs were back. That never-quit spirit of the 2015 and 2016 teams was real and present as ever, as the Cubs completed their third walk-off win in the span of five games.
As for the homer, itself, it was Contreras’ 10th of the season. And do you remember how absolutely ON FIRE he was at that point in the year? His slash line: .315/.430/.640 (171 wRC+). Only the NL MVP (Cody Bellinger, 211 wRC+) and NL MVP runner up (Christian Yelich, 196 wRC+) were hitting better than Contreras in all of baseball by that point in time! Nuts.
How It Happened:
The Cubs offense had fallen quiet in this one, as the top-three hitters in the lineup went a combined 3-17 (3BBs) against Zach Davies (6.1 IP, 6H, 1ER, 5K) and the Brewers bullpen. And a couple of runs (one each) in the fifth accounted for all the scoring before things were forced into extra innings. Indeed, aside from Contreras’ homer late, this really was a pitchers battle on both sides.
Cole Hamels went 7.0 strong innings, allowing just 3 hits and 1 earned run, and was followed by a parade of arms – Carl Edwards Jr., Brandon Kintzler, Kyle Ryan, Steve Cishek, Brad Brach, and Xavier Cedeño – before Joe Maddon went to Tyler Chatwood for whatever the remainder of the game was to be.
Fortunately, Tyler Chatwood was in beast mode.
Immediately after Cedeño walked Yelich in the 12th, Chatwood came in, got a double-play and struck out Ryan Braun to finish the inning. In the 13th, he walked two batters and uncorked a wild pitch, but he also recorded two strikeouts and an infield pop-up.
In the 14th, Chatwood walked Yelich (which may have been by design), but recorded another two strikeouts plus a groundout. In the 15th, he got ANOTHER two strikeouts and another ground out to end his outing.
Altogether, Chatwood finished with 4.0 scoreless innings on 7Ks, 3 groundouts, an infield pop-up, and 3 walks. All while being summoned into particularly long relief duty with no pre-planning available.
That’s a huge extra-inning performance that arguably won the game just as much as anything Willson Contreras did with his bat. As a matter of fact, Tyler Chatwood’s Win Probability Added for that game (0.65) exceeded that of Contreras (0.15) by quite a bit! That’s fun.
And in any case, it seemed clear that Contreras knew who got them there:
As he's pounced and pounded in celebration, Willson Contreras sees Tyler Chatwood, the dude who threw the final four scoreless innings, and he's like "You, dude. Don't forget: this walk-off is about you, too!" Love it. #Cubs pic.twitter.com/kvWSBU1lgd
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) May 12, 2019
What a win.