After dropping the series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday night, things didn’t get any easier for the Cubs in Game Two as they went up against Aaron Nola.
Chicago got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second thanks to the surging Anthony Rizzo. After working a 2-1 count, Rizzo turned on a pitch up and in and crushed it off the right-field scoreboard to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
The score would remain the same until the bottom of the fourth. After walking to start the inning, Kris Bryant advanced to third on a Rizzo walk thanks to some heads-up base running. That play would pay immediate dividends, as Willson Contreras drove a single through the left side to knock in Bryant and make it 2-0. A Javy Beaz sacrifice fly one out later gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead and rounded out the scoring in the frame.
After a rocky top of the first in which he allowed the first two batters to reach, José Quintana was able to rebound and was cruising through the Philadelphia lineup. However, after allowing a two-out infield single in the sixth to put runners at first and second, Joe Maddon decided to play the percentages. He pulled the left-handed Quintana in favor of Steve Cishek and a righty-righty matchup. Aaron Altherr promptly greeted Cishek by swinging at the reliever’s first offering, placing it into the basket in center to knot things up at 3-3.
The score would remain the same until the top of the ninth. Altherr singled off of Brandon Morrow to lead off the inning, and he came around to score when Dylan Cozens hit a two-run shot to left, which was his first career home run. That made it 5-3, Phillies.
The Cubs would rally, down two runs in the bottom of the inning. A couple of walks sandwiched around a single loaded the bases with one out, and a force out at home plate brought Jason Heyward to bat as the Cubs’ last chance. Despite hitting just .139/.205/.139 against lefties this season, Heyward crushed an Adam Morgan offering into the bleachers in right field for a walk-off grand slam and a 7-5 Cubs win (box score).
That was grand! pic.twitter.com/GpjhXRcwPf
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) June 7, 2018
Why The Cubs Won
Quintana pitched well enough to win and the offense battled back late to overcome a couple of shaky outings from two normally reliable relievers.
The Cubs offered fans hope after they loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth, as they attempted to come back from a two-run deficit. After Ben Zobrist grounded into a force out, however, it brought Heyward to the plate as the Cubs’ final hope. Down to his last strike, the Chicago right fielder defied his stat line against lefties and sent Wrigley Field into a frenzy with a walk-off grand slam.
Stats That Matter
- Quintana was outstanding against the Phillies. The lefty was able to bounce back from a rocky first inning to stymie the Philadelphia lineup the rest of the night; even the hit that got him pulled was a weakly hit infield single up the middle. Quintana ended his night by going 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts.
- It wasn’t a good night for Chicago relievers with homerless streaks. Altherr’s home run off of Cishek was the first off of the righty since July 22, 2017, a span of 53 innings. For Morrow, the streak was even longer. The Cubs’ closer had not allowed a long ball since Sept. 8, 2016, a total of 71 innings.
- Altherr has struggled mightily this season but was a thorn in the Cubs’ side on Wednesday. After a solid 2017 campaign, the Phillies right fielder had been slashing just .184/.311/.327 heading into this game. Altherr looked good on Wednesday, however, finishing with two hits, three RBI, and a couple of runs scored.
One swing of the bat turned what would have been a disappointing loss into an exciting victory. The Cubs will now have a chance to take the series with a win on Thursday.
The Cubs will hand the ball to Tyler Chatwood (3-4, 4.02) as they wrap up their three-game set with the Phillies Thursday afternoon. Philadelphia will counter with right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-4, 3.48). First pitch set for 1:20pm CST on NBC Sports Chicago.