The Cubs offense was struggling on Saturday and in danger of being shut out for the second straight game and third time in four days.
Enter Jason Heyward.
“That was as good as it gets there,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “That was loud.”
After singles by Javier Báez and (pinch hitter) Anthony Rizzo, Heyward hit a go-ahead three-run homer off Brewers closer Josh Hader. The blast put the Cubs up 3-2, and one batter later, Ildemaro Vargas went deep to make it 4-2, the game’s final score.
Just how big of a win was that for the Cubs? Entering the ninth, they had six hits in the entire series. And before Rizzo’s and Heyward’s hits, lefties were 0-for-8 with five strikeouts against Hader this season.
Hader started Heyward off with a fastball low for a ball. He then threw a slider for a called strike and got Heyward to swing at a fastball up.
“You just know what this pitcher has in his repertoire,” Heyward said of Hader. “He has a great fastball with some velo. He can sling it up there, he can throw it wherever he wants to throw it and it’s going to be a tough pitch, whether it’s put in play or even if it’s a ball, to take it.”
Heyward said he knew Hader could have gone back to the slider but also that he had to be ready for the fastball. He stayed short on Hader’s fourth pitch, a well-located four-seamer down and on the inside corner and connected.
“A guy like that, supplying power, if you take a short swing and make a good pass at it, it’s got a good chance of getting out of here,” he said.
Ross and Heyward both credited Báez, Rizzo and Vargas for their at-bats. Báez took an inside pitch and hit it to right field, and Rizzo, Heyward and Vargas each connected with two strikes.
“You just gotta try and be ready, be on time and get a pitch to hit and not try to do too much with it and I think that's what happened for us,” Heyward said.
The home run is another feather in the cap for Heyward, who’s putting together his best season offensively as a Cub.
“The fact that he’s being himself and having a good offensive year is rewarding for him because I know how hard he works,” Ross said. “He works his tail off and keeps his body in great shape, and always putting the team first and all the great things that leaders do.
“It was nice for him to have that big home run.”