Walking off an important part of Cubs' lesson in winning


Walking off an important part of Cubs' lesson in winning

If you were still awake after that nearly three-hour weather delay during Saturday night’s game, you saw a finish that’s becoming more and more frequent on the North Side.

The Cubs walked off for the seventh time this season Saturday night, with Starlin Castro again playing hero with a game-winning basehit to beat the Reds in the bottom of the ninth.

There were a pair of walk-off wins in April, four more in May. Saturday night marked June’s first, and it’s apparent this is becoming a habit for the young Cubs. Joe Maddon was brought in, tasked with, among other things, teaching this team of top prospects to win at the major league level. Walking off is a part of that, according to one Cubs veteran.

“I think it just builds confidence. I think that’s part of when you hear the term ‘learning how to win,’ that’s one of the aspects as a team, as a player, learning how to win those type of games,” Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan said before Sunday’s series finale with Cincinnati. “And once you do it, it’s like anything, ‘Oh, OK, that’s how we did it. Let’s do it again.’ And obviously you can’t come through all the time, but your confidence is a lot higher when you’ve already done it. You’re like, ‘We’ve already done that. We’ve been there, done that. We know how to do it, let’s stick with what we do.’”

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Saturday, it was the youngsters coming through in the clutch. Kris Bryant led off the bottom of the ninth with a double. Then after Miguel Montero was hit by a pitch, Castro delivered the game-winning single. Cubs win.

But it’s about more than just having the talent to do it. It’s about having guys that want to do it and guys that can inspire the rest of their teammates to grab a dramatic “W.”

“When you get in that situation in the ninth inning, you’re like, ‘We can walk it off right here,’” Coghlan said. “Then when KB hits the double, or whoever hits the double or gets a hit, it mounts more and more. The pitcher feels more and more pressure because he knows he’s in a tougher spot than if there’s nobody on. And we feel more confident in that situation because we have a guy in scoring position already. And the way that things roll, our lineup’s so deep that anybody has a chance to win the game.

“I think we have a lot of guys like that. That’s what makes it fun, and that’s why we have so many walk-off hits is because we’re in that situation. We can’t get to that situation without defense, without pitching, but offensively, being able to come through, why there’s been different guys to get game-winning hits, it’s because that’s the type of team we are offensively. That’s a good talent to have.”

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Castro is the first Cub with a pair of walk-off hits this season. He previously came through with one to beat the Padres back on April 18. For all the guff the shortstop gets from fans, he’s made two of the most clutch plays of the season thus far, and he’s earning a reputation in the clubhouse as someone who can deliver.

“I think he is,” Coghlan said. “I think Star, he’s such a good offensive player. He takes a lot of heat, too, here, but I think that a lot of times people forget how good offensively he is, how young he is, too. It seems like in those situations this year — I’ve only been here two years, but it seems like he comes up a lot of times with an opportunity to win a game. I think he relishes that opportunity, knowing his personality. That what makes him able to come through in those situations.”

“Castro is just a good hitter. He’s a really good hitter. I’ve faced him a lot in my career, and this guy’s a really good hitter,” Montero said. “It’s good to be a part of this team and play with young, talented guys. The ceiling’s still pretty high for them. They’re still growing, and they’re still getting better. And they’re going to be even better every day. Every day they’re just going to get better.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get a Starlin Castro jersey right here]

Don’t expect the Cubs’ ninth-inning dramatics to go away any time soon. Winning ballgames late is becoming a trend, and figuring out how to come through in the clutch is an extremely valuable lesson for a young team looking to do enough damage to get into the playoffs. And the playoffs: There’s a time of year where being clutch really matters.

“We play hard, we go about our business,” Montero said. “And when you get a few wins here and there like that, it kind of motivates you and kind of increases your confidence level knowing that you can do it again.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 26th + 27th homers in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 26th + 27th homers 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.

Another day in June 1998, another multi-homer game for Sammy Sosa.

Slammin' Sammy connected twice off Carlton Loewer in the same game, a solo shot in the first inning and a 2-run shot int he fifth inning. Both were measured at 380 feet.

Still, the Cubs wound up losing the game 9-8 to the Phillies despite Sosa's effort and a total of 3 runs in the bottom of the eighth and ninth innings combined.

Fun fact: A big part of why the Cubs lost this game was Jose Hernandez's defense. He committed 3 errors at third base and shortstop that led to a pair of unearned runs.

A messy night at Wrigley Field ends without a pitch being thrown

A messy night at Wrigley Field ends without a pitch being thrown

The NLCS rematch will have to wait another day.

Mother Nature and the power at Wrigley Field care not for your excitement about a "big series" between the Cubs and Dodgers.

Thunderstorms rolled over the North Side of Chicago, where the Dodgers ended the Cubs' postseason run 8 months ago. 

On top of that, the power at Wrigley Field was not cooperating with the lights down the right field line going out for hours during the rain delay. 

The lights came back on at one point before again going out again roughly a half hour before Monday night's game was officially called. After a delay stretching almost three hours, word finally filtered out just before 10 p.m. the game would be postponed a day.

The Cubs and Dodgers will make the game up as part of a day-night doubleheader Tuesday at Wrigley Field with the first game starting at 12:05 p.m. and the second at the regularly scheduled time of 7:05 p.m. Tyler Chatwood will start the first game for the Cubs with Mike Montgomery slated to go Game 2.

As of 10 p.m. Monday night, the Cubs were unsure what caused the power issue at Wrigley Field but were working on fixing the problem ahead of Tuesday's scheduled doubleheader.

The evening started with the tarp being rolled onto the field by the Cubs grounds crew roughly an hour before scheduled first pitch with a forecast calling for a 100 percent chance of rain.

Only a light rain fell until a downpour began around 8:15 p.m.:

That lasted only about a half hour before the grounds crew came back out around 8:45 p.m. to partially remove the tarp and attempt to get the field ready to play.

The only issue at that point was the light and a sinister forecast.

"It takes 45 minutes to get the field ready to play," said Julian Green, Cubs director of communications. "So once you take that tarp off, you saw them putting the chalk lines down, getting ready.

"We wanted to be ready — even in the face of rain — if the lights came back on, we wanted to make sure we could play baseball, even if it was a limited window of opportunity."

As of 11 p.m., that second bout of rain had yet to materialize, but the lights issue also wasn't corrected and play on the field would've been impossible.

Fans lingered throughout the stadium for nearly three hours before an official conclusion came down. The Cubs kept the same announcement on the right field video board about the weather delay while the left field video board displayed the Brewers-Pirates and other MLB games.

This is the only trip to Chicago the Dodgers make throughout the 2018 season so the two teams and Major League Baseball did all they could to try to get a game in and avoid any issue where these two teams would have to play on a mutual off-day later in the year. 

The Cubs were in the midst of a stretch of 17 games in 17 days without a day off. They're still on that same schedule, though now with an unexpected day off Monday and a doubleheader Tuesday.

The Cubs are no stranger to postponements this season as wacky weather has continued to hamper this MLB season.

"Not only for the Chicago Cubs, but Chicago in general, this has been a really interesting spring and summer season," Green said. "We're taking our licks just like everybody else is.

"Our plan is to play baseball tomorrow and make sure we can accomodate fans as best as possible. So fans who have tickets to tonight's game will be able to use them for tomorrow."