The Cubs were battling the wind and the New York Yankees on Friday. For most of the game, it was going their way, but one swing changed the outcome.
A late two-out, three-run homer by Brett Gardner off Hector Rondon in the ninth inning propelled the New York Yankees to a 3-2 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the series opener. The Cubs' win probability prior to his home run was 92.7, according to Fan Graphs.
Kyle Hendricks, Brian Duensing and Pedro Strop pitched eight scoreless innings leading up to the ninth.
With closer Wade Davis having pitched in three straight games, Rondon came on for the save up two runs, but Gardner’s three-run dinger gave the Yankees the lead and the win.
Entering Friday, Rondon had been solid all season. He only allowed two earned runs in 12 games. The Cubs bullpen also had an era of 2.76, which led the National League.
“We were short in the bullpen,” said manager Joe Maddon. “That was his game this afternoon. From the side it looked like he had really good stuff, I mean really, unfortunate choice of where he threw it on that pitch. That’s probably the only pitch that Gardner could’ve hit out and we gave it to him, and that happens."
Gardner said the pitch he connected with was a hanging slider down and in.
"I felt pretty good about it, but I was unsure," Garnder said. "The lower you hit it, the better chance it’s got of cutting through the wind. Yeah I felt pretty good about it. I just wasn’t sure. It just felt good to see it go out."
The Cubs had a prime chance to score in the bottom of the ninth inning. Addison Russell reached second base on a fielding error to lead it off, but the Cubs couldn't bring him home. Aroldis Chapman, who was presented his championship ring prior to first pitch, closed out the game for New York.
Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber provided the Cubs with their only offense of the day. Bryant hit his sixth homer of the season in the first inning while Schwarber sent out his fifth in the sixth.
Hendricks didn’t have his best stuff either, but he certainly did his part. The Cubs right-hander pitched 5.1 shutout innings and recorded three strikeouts. He allowed six hits and two walks on 94 pitches.
“He’s looking the same over the last couple outings in a good way,” said manager Joe Maddon. “There’s nothing better, nothing worse. He’s looking pretty good. I still think there’s another level there left, but no, I’m very pleased.”