Heyward hits walk-off single as Cubs topple Giants


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Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward fared well at the plate on Sunday, collecting three RBI, in addition to the walk-off hit.
Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward fared well at the plate on Sunday, collecting three RBI, in addition to the walk-off hit.

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward has received a lot of criticism for his performance at the plate this season, his first with the Cubs, after signing a monstrous contract in the offseason. Therefore, Heyward, who went 3-6 with three RBI in today’s series finale agaist the San Francisco Giants, shut the critics up with his heroics this evening, hitting a walk-off single in the bottom of the 13th to solidify the Cubs’ come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Giants.

Entering today’s game, the Cubs sported a 16.5 game lead atop the National League Central standings, the team’s largest such lead since 1907, a season which saw the Cubs win one of the franchise’s two World Series titles. John Lackey got the start today on the mound for the Cubs, experiencing a fairly unlucky outing, in which he was charged with two runs, despite only allowing one hit, and did not receive much run support. Lasting five innings on the hill, Lackey earned a no decision for his efforts. As for the Giants, ace pitcher Johnny Cueto got the nod to start in this afternoon’s affair. Cueto pitched seven innings and gave up only one run while striking out five. He, too, garnered a no decision for his efforts.

Lackey’s bad luck commenced in the top of the second, when Heyward, who is known for being a stalwart defensive specialist, committed his second error of the season on a hit by Giants right fielder Hunter Pence. Reaching second due to the Heyward mishandle, Pence scored later in the inning on an RBI groundout by third baseman Eduardo Nunez, which put the Giants up 1-0.

The Cubs wasted a golden opportunity in the bottom of the second, as shortstop Addison Russell led off with a double toward the wall in left-center. But the ball failed to leave the infield for the remainder of the inning, and Russell, who went 3-5 on the day, was left stranded at second.

The Cubs did manufacture a run off of a leadoff hit in the fourth, though, with first baseman Anthony Rizzo leading off with a single to left and being brought home by a two-out bloop single to left-center by Heyward, J-Hey’s 39th RBI of the season.

Soon after, the Giants made quick work of regaining the lead, scoring a run via a gutsy sacrifice bunt in the fifth. With one out, Nunez doubled to right-center, his lone hit of the afternoon, and proceeded to steal third, his sixth steal of the year. San Francisco shortstop Ehire Adrianza then stepped up to the plate and, on a squeeze play, laid down a sacrifice bunt in the direction of the pitcher’s mound. The speedy Nunez was able to motor home and score, providing the Giants with a 2-1 lead.

Between that point in the game and the bottom of the ninth, little offensive excitement was produced. The top of the seventh featured a shaky outing by recent Cubs call-up Rob Zastryzny, who relieved Lackey to start the sixth inning, in which he hit two batters. The first HBP from Zastryzny was rather frightening, as Giants first baseman Brandon Belt was beaned in the head and required some assistance gathering himself before taking first base. Fortunately, Belt was able to remain in the game.

With one last chance in the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs came through, or, rather, Russell came through. The young infielder has been a sparkplug for Chicago as of late, and he delivered in the clutch yet again on Sunday afternoon. Leading off with his second double of the day, this one to left field, Russell next advanced to third on a wild pitch from Giants closer Santiago Casilla. Thereafter, Heyward accrued his 40th RBI of the season by singling to center and scoring Russell to knot the game up at two runs apiece.

A failed bunt attempt from Cubs catcher Willson Contreras that resulted in Heyward being thrown out at second followed the RBI hit, and, later in the inning, Chicago center fielder Dexter Fowler, who was hitless in today’s game, missed out on being the hero for the Cubs by lining out to left with runners on first and second to end the inning and usher in extra innings.

In the bottom of the 10th, the Cubs missed out on another winning opportunity, when Russell struck out looking with two outs and left fielder Ben Zobrist on second base. Zobrist put himself in that position by garnering a walk in the previous at-bat and then stealing second, his fifth steal of 2016.

The Cubs nearly fell behind in the top of the 11th because of a Contreras fielding blunder. With one out and men on first and second for the Giants, Pence struck out for the inning’s second out, but Contreras failed to corral the pitch, thus allowing the two runners to advance on the passed ball. Cubs reliever Aroldis Chapman did not allow the Giants to take advantage of the mistake, however, as he struck out Belt in the very next at-bat, Chapman’s third strikeout of the inning, and ended the San Francisco scoring threat.

In the bottom half of the 12th, veteran reliever Joe Nathan, who was released by the Cubs earlier this season and recently signed by the Giants, made an appearance for San Francisco and shut the Cubs down, going three up, three down. Although he pitched well in the 12th, Nathan was replaced on the hill to start the ensuing inning, a decision that proved costly for the Giants.

In the bottom of the 13th, San Francisco reliever Matt Reynolds allowed Rizzo, the first batter whom he faced, to reach base via a single to left-center. Rizzo was then able to take second on a groundout to first by Zobrist, and after an intentional walk of the streaking Russell, Heyward stepped into the batter’s box. For his third hit and third RBI of the game, The J-Hey Kid hit a walk-off single to center that scored Rizzo from second and provided the Cubs with a well-deserved 3-2 victory over the Giants. Heyward, who now has 41 RBI on the year, was mobbed by his teammates on the basepath following his game-winning hit and rightfully so, as he was outstanding with runners in scoring position all throughout Sunday's matchup.

Although the Cubs were the team that came from behind to win, the Giants were outmatched by the Cubs at the plate on Sunday, collecting only four hits as compared to the Cubs' 10. Moving to an impressive 40 games over .500 with today’s win, the Cubs (88-48) took three out of four from the Giants (73-63) in the hard-fought four-game series at Wrigley Field. Chicago reliever Trevor Cahill, who sat the three Giants batters whom he faced in the top of the 13th down in order, received the win for today's game, moving to 4-4 overall. Reynolds, who was victimized by Heyward to end the 13-inning war of attrition, collected the loss, dropping to 0-1 overall.



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