Walk-off walk gives Cubs win over Reds in wacky rubber match
|Sunday, July 8, 2018, 6:42 PM- -|
CHICAGO — A walk-off walk is a rarity, but a game in which a walk-off walk is not the most unusual event to take place is even rarer. Wrapping up an eight-game home stand with a hard-fought win, the Chicago Cubs trumped the Cincinnati Reds on a walk-off walk in the 10th inning to win 6-5 on Sunday. In a contest that featured an abundance of momentum swings by way of strange base-running decisions and unorthodox defensive blunders, the Cubs were able to overcome several missed opportunities en route to earning the clutch victory.
The Cubs scored the game's opening runs for the first time in nine contests. They took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a two-run double by shortstop Addison Russell to score outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ. Russell, who was responsible for driving in the first three runs of the day for the Cubs, picked up his third RBI of the afternoon in the fourth frame on a fielder's choice groundout that scored Schwarber. Schwarber led off the inning with a double to deep left.
Chicago squandered several scoring opportunities in the early innings. Second baseman Javier Baez cranked a one-out double in the opening inning to push right fielder Jason Heyward, who drew a one-out walk, to third base, but both men were left stranded. Russell was also left stranded after hitting the second-inning double, which came with no outs, as the Cubs failed to get the ball out of the infield for the remainder of the inning.
The biggest mistake committed by the Cubs came in the form a disastrous attempt at throwing out speedy Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton. Coming off a three-steal game on Saturday, Hamilton continued to torment the Cubs on Sunday, as he stole two more bases and scored two runs, as well. With the game tied at 3-3 in the top of fifth, Hamilton accrued a two-out walk. Attempting to steal second base thereafter, Hamilton beat a throw from Cubs catcher Willson Contreras quite convincingly.
Making matters worse for the Cubs was the fact that the late throw by Contreras was off the mark, as it bounced over Baez's head and into center field, allowing Hamilton to reach third. Trusting his speed a little too much, Hamilton opted to head for home and should have been gunned down by a mile. However, Chicago center fielder Albert Almora, Jr.'s, throw home was not even close to being accurate, which enabled Hamilton to score on a play that featured a stolen base and two ensuing throwing errors.
In the third inning, however, Almora, Jr., pulled off a perfect throw to make the Reds pay the price for a questionable base-running decision. Shortstop Jose Peraza hit a two-out single to center that scored Hamilton from third base to make the score 2-1. Peraza was thrown out by Almora, Jr., while attempting to stretch the hit into a double. Interestingly enough, in the bottom half of the same inning, Contreras was gunned down at second base by Jesse Winker and tagged out by none other than Peraza after singling to right with two outs and trying to convert the hit into a two-bagger.
Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester gave up two other runs on a two-run home run by Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who hit a three-run bomb against the Cubs the day before. Coming into the game, Lester had won his past seven starts, dating back to late May, but that streak ended on Sunday, as he received a no-decision. Lester pitched 6.1 innings and gave up four runs on six hits and three walks.
Making up for the blunder on the Hamilton steal in the fifth, the Cubs took the lead in the seventh because of a defensive goof by the Reds. As part of a two-out rally by Chicago, Almora, Jr., and Heyward hit back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners. Baez then came through with a single up the middle that scored both runners. Heyward took advantage of a lackadaisical relay throw from Hamilton and motored home to give the Cubs the lead, and an errant attempt at throwing him out by Scooter Gennett enabled Baez to reach third base.
The good fortune experienced by the Cubs led to them taking a 5-4 lead. The Reds had an opportunity to tie the game in the eighth, as Peraza drew a leadoff walk and proceeded to steal second base. But a heads-up play by Cubs relief pitcher Carl Edwards, Jr., on an ensuing bunt attempt led to Peraza being thrown out at third base.
Cincinnati did not go down without a fight, though, as left fielder Adam Duvall went yard off Cubs closer Brandon Morrow to lead off the ninth. The solo shot marked just the second homer allowed by Morrow in the past two seasons. It also paved the way for a wacky conclusion to a hard-fought game. After advancing runners onto first and third with one out in the bottom of the ninth, the Cubs were unable to score following a series of close calls.
With one out, Heyward hit a chopper to Reds first baseman Joey Votto. Votto wisely chased David Bote, who was on third base at the time, back to the bag by feigning a throw over to third, which enabled Heyward to reach first safely. In the next at-bat, Baez smacked a similar hit in the direction of Votto, who made a shaky throw home to out Bote. Reds catcher Curt Casali was able to scoop the ball up after a short hop out in front of him for the force out. Cubs manager Joe Maddon challenged the play, as it appeared that Casali's cleat might not have been touching the plate when he corralled the baseball, but the play stood as called after a replay review.
Following an inning-ending lineout to center by Anthony Rizzo, extra innings were ushered in. Cubs reliever Luke Farrell held his own in the top of the 10th by going three up, three down, but Reds reliever Jackson Stephens was not so fortunate in the bottom half of the inning. A leadoff walk of Contreras and a wild pitch thereafter led to Stephens being caught in an early jam. He struck out the second batter of the inning, and the third batter was intentionally walked.
Unfortunately for Cincinnati, Votto then committed another gaffe on defense but was not bailed out this time around. After fielding a grounder hit right to him by Russell, Votto trotted toward first base while eyeballing the advancing runners. Evidently considering a throw across the diamond, Votto pulled the ball out of his glove just before touching first base and temporarily lost control of it. As a result, he did not have possession of the baseball when touching first base, and, as a result, Russell should have been ruled safe. While the original call was an out, Maddon, who was out of challenges, implored the crew chief to review the play, and, once he did, the call was overturned.
Joey Votto just wanted to make sure everyone knows who he is pic.twitter.com/wMjeSWFBks— Aldo Soto (@AldoSoto21) July 8, 2018
The bases were juiced with one out at that point, and Stephens remained in the game. Bote came up to bat and displayed patience by working a full count and drawing ball four to force in a run and end the game. Bote, who went 1-1 and tallied the winning RBI, was mobbed by his teammates following the game-ending walk and was doused with Gatorade during the course of the celebration. Farrell was handed the win to improve to 3-3 overall, and Stephens dropped to 2-2 with the loss.
Winning 6-5 on the walk-off walk, in which Contreras scored the winning run, the Cubs (51-36) defeated the Reds (39-51) for the second time in the three-game set, thus providing them with their third consecutive series victory. The Cubs have now won eight of their last nine games, and all eight victories have been of the come-from-behind variety.