Cubs

Walk-off superheroes: Cubs put MLB on notice in thriller over Dodgers

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Walk-off superheroes: Cubs put MLB on notice in thriller over Dodgers

The Cubs are coming.

In fact, you could make the case they've already arrived.

The Cubs walked it off over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 10 innings Tuesday night in a 1-0 thriller in front of 36,799 fans at Wrigley Field.

This was the Cubs' ninth walk-off victory of the year, tops in Major League Baseball. They are now 8-3 in extra inning contests.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

"The thing we've been harping on since spring training was to play nine innings hard every night," manager Joe Maddon said. "You just have to keep coming after them. You can't quit. The word 'grinding' is used a lot in Major League Baseball, but we just had to convince our guys that that's the way to do this.

"It doesn't just happen. You have to take things. Nobody gives you anything here.

"I love the way our guys are going about their business."

Little-used outfielder Mike Baxter led off the 10th with a single and Matt Szczur - who homered off Clayton Kershaw Monday night - followed with an infield hit off the glove of Alberto Callaspo at third base. Pinch-hitter Dexter Fowler was swinging away - "We eschewed the bunt," Maddon said - and ended up walking to load the bases with nobody out.

Rookie Addison Russell then fought off pitch after pitch from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen before bouncing a grounder to Adrian Gonzalez at first base, who threw home to get the force.

[MORE - Addison Russell gaining confidence as he gets back to playing his game]

Chris Denorfia - who entered the game in the eighth - was up next and delivered the game-winner: a fly ball to left center that brought home Szczur.

That makes four wins in a row for the Cubs, including back-to-back victories against a team that leads the National League West and started Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the first two games of the series.

"I think you're looking at a team coming together and it has been together," Denorfia said. "We're all pulling in the same direction. There's no individuals in this locker room. We all know what we're playing for and how to get there.

"I think you saw the last couple days just what we're capable of - pitching awesome, playing good defense and getting some timely hits."

The Cubs forced Greinke to throw 111 pitches through six innings, getting into the Dodgers bullpen somewhat early on a night when neither team was able to muster up any offense.

Jason Hammel was magnificent for the Cubs, throwing 7.2 innings, allowing only two hits and two walks. One of those hits was a pop fly off the bat of Yasiel Puig that Szczur and Baxter lost in the lights.

Hammel had struggled in his last two starts leading up to Tuesday, giving up four earned runs on 10 hits and five walks in nine innings earlier in the month. He said the key to Tuesday was fastball command, which makes him a "different pitcher."

[MORE: Maddon expects Cubs front office will deliver at trade deadline]

The Cubs are 39-30, sitting with the third-best record in the National League and in the second wild card spot if the season ended Tuesday night.

But it's still only June. More than half the season is left, as Hammel made sure to point out - "We've got three months to go."

That being said, there's plenty of reason for optimism on the North Side.

"We don't quit," Hammel said. "Twenty-five guys on this team that are gonna make some type of help to the game at some point. They're going to make some type of impression on the team, whether it's one at-bat, one swing, one throw.

"The guys are ready to play. It's all hands on deck right now. It's been like that for three months and it's not gonna change."

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

A series to forget: Facts and figures from Cubs' rough weekend in Cincinnati

The Cubs and their fans may want to invent and use one of those Men In Black neuralyzers because the four-game series in Cincinnati was one to forget.

The Reds finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday with an 8-6 win. The way the Reds won the finale will be especially painful for the Cubs considering they led 6-1 after six innings. Mike Montgomery appeared to tire in the seventh inning and Pedro Strop got rocked out of the bullpen to lead to a seven-run seventh for the hosts.

The Reds have now won seven in a row and 10 of 12, but still sit 13 games under .500. Bizarrely, the Reds also swept the Dodgers, the Cubs’ next opponent, in a four-game series in May. Duane Underwood will start for the Cubs Monday against the Dodgers and make his major league debut.

Here are some other wild facts and figures from the series:

  • The last time the Reds swept the Cubs in a four-game series was back in 1983. That was the first week of the season and three weeks before the infamous Lee Elia rant.
  • One positive for the Cubs from the game was Montgomery’s start. Through six innings he allowed one run on three hits and two walks. However, he gave up a single, a double and a single in the seventh before Strop relieved him. Montgomery had gone six innings and allowed one run in each of his last four outings.
  • Strop was definitely a negative. On his first pitch, Strop gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker, the second home run for a Reds pinch-hitter in the game. Then Strop allowed a single, a walk, a single and a double before getting an out. Strop’s final line: 2/3 inning pitched, four runs, one strikeout, three walks, four hits.
  • The Cubs led in three of the four games this series, including two leads after five innings.
  • The Cubs were 5-for-23 (.217) with runners in scoring position in the series. On the season the Cubs are hitting .233 with RISP, which is 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the National League (but ahead of the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals).
  • The Reds outscored the Cubs 31-13 and scored at least six runs in every game. The Reds are now 6-3 against the Cubs this year after going a combined 17-40 against the Cubs from 2015-2017.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 32nd homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 32nd homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa victimized the Tigers pitching staff again on the next night, taking Brian Moehler deep in the 7th inning for a 400-foot solo blast.

The homer tied the game at 3, but the Cubs blew the lead in the bottom of the 7th when the Terrys (Adams and Mulholland) gave up 3 runs. The Cubs wound up losing 6-4.

The Cubs were putting together a really nice season in 1998 that ended with a trip to October. They entered the series with the Tigers with a 42-34 record, yet lost both games to a Detroit team that entered the series with a 28-45 record. The Tigers finished the season 65-94; the Cubs finished 90-73.

Fun fact: Luis Gonzalez was the Tigers left fielder and No. 5 hitter for both games of the series. He spent part of the 1995 season and all of '96 on Chicago's North Side. 1998 was his only year in Detroit before he moved on to Arizona, where he hit 57 homers in 2001 and helped the Diamondbacks to a World Series championship with that famous broken-bat single in Game 7.

Fun fact  No. 2: Remember Pedro Valdes? He only had a cup of coffee with the Cubs (9 games in 1996 and 14 in '98), but started in left field on June 25, 1998. He walked and went 0-for-1 before being removed from the game for a pinch-hitter (Jose Hernandez).