Cubs

2019 top Cubs memories: There's nothing like a walk-off home run

2019 top Cubs memories: There's nothing like a walk-off home run

With the year coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is looking back on the top moments from the 2019 Cubs season.

The thrill of winning in baseball amplifies when victory comes via a walk-off hit. This is especially true when such a hit leaves the ballpark.

The Cubs had seven walk-off hits last season, four of which came via home runs hit by four different players. In fact, three of those long balls came within a five-day span, two of which occurred in consecutive games.

May 7: With the Cubs and Marlins tied 2-2 in the ninth inning, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant drilled a 1-2, two-out pitch into deep left-center field. The drive reached the second row of the Wrigley Field bleachers, giving the Cubs a dramatic 5-2 win.

May 8: A day after Bryant walked off Miami, Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward followed suit. With the score once again tied 2-2, Heyward hit an opposite field blast that landed in the left field basket, securing a 3-2, 11-inning win for the Cubs.

Heyward’s blast was especially dramatic, considering the Cubs gave up a 2-1 lead with one out in the ninth inning.  

May 11: Offense came at a premium during this rainy, early season matchup between the Cubs and Brewers — two 2018 postseason teams. Both sides had chances to take the lead in extras; the Cubs left the bases loaded in both the 11th and 13th inning.

After a long wait, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras stepped up in the 15th inning, hitting an absolute tank into left field to secure a 2-1 win for the North Siders.

July 16: After the Reds took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, the Cubs fought back behind a two-run blast by Robel Garcia (second inning) and a solo shot from Bryant (sixth). The game remained scoreless after regulation, though Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber ensured the 3-3 tie didn’t last long.

With one out in the 10th, Schwarber — an Ohio native — hit an opposite field home run into the left field basket, securing the win for the Cubs. It was Schwarber’s first career walk-off hit of any kind, one that completed a Cubs comeback win.

For full looks at each home run, watch the video above.

Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel's unique pitching pose stemmed from an injury

Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel's unique pitching pose stemmed from an injury

Craig Kimbrel’s debut season with the Cubs didn’t go well. The closer on a Hall of Fame trajectory went 0-4 with a 6.53 ERA (8.00 FIP) and 1.597 WHIP in 2019, converting 13 of 16 save tries.

Kimbrel had an abnormal preseason last year and didn’t make his season debut until late June. 2020 is a clean slate for the right-hander, but Major League Baseball is looking at an unorthodox season due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Whenever the season starts, Kimbrel has the chance to start fresh and put last year’s struggles behind him. Until then, here’s a few things to know about him:

1. Kimbrel was born in Huntsville, Ala., and played quarterback as a junior and senior at Lee High School. Per a Q&A on his website, the school featured a run-oriented offense, and Kimbrel said he "wasn't really good." Alas.

2. Post-grad, Kimbrel attended Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala. He went 8-0 with a 1.99 ERA as a freshman, leading to the Braves selecting him in the 33rd round of the 2007 draft.

Kimbrel returned to school and improved his draft stock, going 9-3 with a 2.88 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 81 innings as a sophomore. Atlanta drafted him again in 2008, this time in the third round.

3. Kimbrel’s pitching stance is notorious — he bends his torso parallel to the ground and dangles his arm at a 90-degree angle. But he doesn’t do it for kicks. It became too painful for him to hold his arm behind his back in 2010, when he suffered from biceps tendinitis.

Opposing fans have made fun of the stance, but hey, it’s unique.

4. During his time with the Red Sox (2017-18) Kimbrel and his teammates — including David Price, Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts — became avid fans of “Fortnite,” the multiplayer-focused video game that took the world by storm two years ago.

“Let’s say we get back at 11 p.m. from a game, we’ll play until 1 a.m., 1:30 a.m., 2 a.m. depending on what time our game is the next day,” David Price told The Athletic in 2018. “But day games or off days, we can put some time in.”

Same, David. Same.

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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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