Cubs

Late Cubs fireworks turn one-time no-hitter to wild comeback win

Late Cubs fireworks turn one-time no-hitter to wild comeback win

Joe Maddon took off his now-iconic black-framed glasses, looked at them to make sure they weren't rose-colored and flashed a smile to the standing-room-only media crowd on hand in the newly-refurbished press room.

The manager had just been boasting about his team for 15 straight minutes, talking up every aspect of the organization — from baserunning to the state-of-the-art clubhouse — before a reporter asked him if there was anything that wasn't rosy with this club right now (besides the obvious Kyle Schwarber injury).

Of course Maddon had an amusing response, but hours later, his team almost made the reporter look clairvoyant, needing a late comeback to beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-3 in front of 40,882 fans in the Wrigley Field opener.

On a night when both Maddon and Theo Epstein talked up the depth and quality of the lineup, the Cubs didn't pick up their first hit until two outs in the seventh inning when David Ross stroked a two-strike pitch into left-center.

Three batters later — after two walks and a pair of pitching changes — a fan set off fireworks on Addison St. beyond the center-field scoreboard, prompting free-agent prize Jason Heyward to ignite some offensive firepower of his own with a two-out, two-run single.

"I did see some fireworks when I was on third base," Ross said. "Me and [Cubs third base coach Gary Jones] were trying to figure out what the heck was going on out there."

Addison Russell gave the Cubs the lead for good with a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth on the first pitch he saw from Reds reliever Jumbo Diaz.

"We had good at-bats the whole game," Maddon said. "I'll give their pitcher a lot of credit - he had an outstanding game. We hit some balls well. Our geometry was bad; early on in the game, itwas at everybody."

For the second straight year, Jon Lester got the ball in the first home game of the season and left with the Cubs losing.

Lester pitched well enough to earn the minimum qualifications for a quality start (six innings, three earned runs), striking out five while allowing five hits and a walk on 102 pitches. He surrendered a two-strike homer to light-hitting Billy Hamilton in the third inning and a two-out RBI single to Reds pitcher Brandon Finnegan.

"I think I was just a little over-amped in the first, overthrowing a little bit," Lester said. "The ball flattened out on me. Settled in a little bit. I felt like I made a good pitch to Billy Hamilton there and he hit it out. It is what it is.

"It was a little bit of a grind. Didn't have a lot to go off of. A lot of 1-0 counts, which is just never good. These guys are swinging the bats really well right now. When you're constantly behind, it just makes you work even harder.

"The biggest thing is I kept us in close enough to come back and win. That was huge."

The Cubs tallied just three hits on the evening, but found a way to grind out the victory to improve to 6-1 on the season.

How Cubs stack up, according to WAR, from 2015-19

How Cubs stack up, according to WAR, from 2015-19

The Cubs made the playoffs four times in five seasons under Joe Maddon, receiving contributions across the diamond from All-Stars and role players alike.

Some players, of course, had bigger impacts for Maddon's Cubs, even in smaller sample sizes. Jesse Chavez and Cole Hamels weren't Cubs for long, but the two 2018 trade deadline pickups helped the North Siders reach the postseason for a fourth straight year.

These are the top 25 players by WAR (wins above replacement) from the Maddon era, according to Baseball Reference.

Top 25 Cubs, according to WAR, from 2015-19

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How Ian Happ promotes mental health and other things to know about Cubs outfielder

How Ian Happ promotes mental health and other things to know about Cubs outfielder

It's kind of hard to believe 2020 is only Ian Happ's fourth season in the big leagues. The 25-year-old burst onto the scene with 24 home runs in 2017, and since has been through trials and tribulations, getting demoted to the minor leagues in 2019.

Whenever the 2020 season kicks off, Happ is in line for the starting center field job. Until then, here's a few things to know about him.

1. Happ attended University of Cincinnati from 2012-15, where he studied finance. He was a star on the field (2015 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year) and an exemplary student in the classroom (3.68 GPA, 2015 Academic All-American).

2. Happ is an avid golfer and is a 2 handicap, according to Golf Digest. He competed in the Straight Down Fall Classic in San Luis Obispo, Calif., the last two Novembers.

3. Happ serves as an honorary ambassador for First Tee Greater Chicago, which strives to introduce the game of golf to young people. The organization raised $23,000 at a January fundraiser Happ participated in.

4. In 2019, Happ and artist Patrick Vale started “Through My Eyes” — a three-piece artwork series capturing Wrigley Field from different perspectives. Proceeds go to the Happ Family Charitable Fund, which promotes mental health and wellness.

Happ lost his father, Keith, to brain cancer in 2015.

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