Cubs deliver epic comeback for euphoric full house at Wrigley Field
The “welcome home” message was impossible to ignore.
It was painted on the grass behind home plate at Wrigley Field and each usher and parking lot attendant around the stadium wore a blue T-shirt with the message scrawled on it.
Welcome home to the Cubs, who just endured a tough West Coast trip over the last week.
But mostly, welcome home to the fans.
For the first time in 21 months (643 days), Wrigley Field was at full capacity and they made sure to let the entire Northern Hemisphere know it.
Opening Day 2.0 was a homecoming party for the fans but the Cubs gave the 35,112 in attendance plenty to cheer about as they completed the comeback to beat the Cardinals 8-5 Friday afternoon.
Anthony Rizzo’s game-tying home run in the 6th inning sent the crowd into a euphoric tizzy. He fouled off pitch after pitch against Daniel Ponce de Leon, bringing the fans to their feet before driving home the dagger with a 393-foot shot into the Budweiser bleachers in right field.
Rizzo acknowledged the fans’ energy helped give him a boost in the batter’s box.
“Towards the 5th, 6th, 7th pitch, everyone really started getting into it more and more,” he said. “It almost in a way helped me calm down and relax, stay in the moment. I just kept saying to myself after I fouled off pitches, ‘stay locked in, stay locked in and calm down.’
“Definitely one of my most memorable at-bats. With it being 100% today for the first time and having everyone here vs. the Cardinals, it was a really good moment.”
The 14-pitch at-bat made some Cubs history:
Anthony Rizzo just homered on the 14th pitch of a PA, to tie the game for the Cubs— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) June 11, 2021
That's the most pitches into a plate appearance that a Cubs player has hit a HR since pitch counts have been tracked (1988) pic.twitter.com/hq6CIhLUXT
It also completed the comeback as the Cubs had trailed 5-1 in the top of the 5th inning.
“There’s a couple memories and moments that stand out to me from my playing career here and that will definitely be one that will stick with me,” David Ross said of Rizzo’s clutch at-bat. “That was special.”
A few minutes after the game-tying homer, Bill Murray sang the 7th Inning Stretch and hyped the crowd up even more.
“This is what it feels like to be 100%,” Murray said, before urging the fans to make some noise for the remainder of a game he hoped would end in the top of the 9th inning.
Once again, the Cubs delivered.
Jason Heyward led off the bottom of the 7th with an infield single and advanced to third on Jake Marisnick’s bloop hit. Joc Pederson drove them both home with a double off the RF wall.
In the 8th inning, Willson Contreras added a solo blast to almost the same spot as Rizzo’s shot. It gave the Cubs 7 unanswered runs against their division rivals.
It was also the first time the Cubs had come back from down at least 4 runs in the 5th inning or later against the Cardinals since 2003.
It was the perfect exclamation mark for the re-opening of Wrigley Field and the entire city of Chicago after the last year-plus.
The afternoon’s festivities began with Cubs legends Ryne Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley Field — another “welcome home” moment.
“That definitely was rocking,” Ross said. “Beautiful day. Nice to get full capacity back in the stands. You know what the nice thing was? Seeing the Hall of Famers out again. We missed them in spring training. All the buzz with the fanfare, Bill Murray — the whole thing just felt like Opening Day. I guess [that’s why] they call that 2.0. Really felt energetic. The outfield was packed, a beautiful day. That was a nice W.
“We talked last year about how the fans matter because it impacts guys. Clearly those fans helped us win that game. Rizzo’s at-bat, they’re on their feet with 2 strikes. It gets to 2-2, fouling off those pitches, what an at-bat that was and place erupts. That puts pressure on the opposing team, that puts a focus in you that makes you lock in a little better on the plate or on the mound. That was a really nice atmosphere out there.”
It’s been a long 21 months but normalcy has returned at the corner of Clark and Addison.
“It’s so exciting,” Jed Hoyer said. “I thought the series we played against the Padres before the road trip was probably as much fun as I’ve had at the ballpark in a long time. 60% seemed like more. It certainly was loud.
“The ‘Go Cubs Go’ after the first win was one of the loudest I’ve heard and kinda made me remember what you’ve forgotten in a way. I think when we’re sitting here — 7 of us in the whole ballpark and it’s quiet, it felt really weird at first and then after playing 30 games like that, it almost became normal. I remember at one point, Theo [Epstein] said to me, ‘we can’t normalize this. This is bizarre.’
“Having small crowds early in the season never felt quite the same. So I think it’s pretty awesome to be here now and again, this is the beauty of the place. It’ll be really loud all weekend, which it should be. And great weather.
“Everyone I talked to in the city is so excited and I feel like in a way, this is sort of symbolic of the opening of the city. That’s fantastic. Probably what it should be for the city of Chicago — Cardinals-Cubs to kind of open the city back up.”
Now, it feels like summer at Wrigley Field.