Cubs deliver incredible win for second day in a row against Brewers
MILWAUKEE — The Cardiac Cubs struck again.
Seemingly all season, the quirky bounces were going the other team’s way and the Cubs’ hard hits were right at defenders.
But, after Tuesday’s wild, extra-innings win at American Family Fields, it seemed like Lady Luck was shifting in the Cubs’ favor.
Those vibes seemingly were starting to shift on Wednesday. All-Star Justin Steele pitched well enough to keep the Cubs in the game (6 innings, 3 earned runs, 9 hits), but the Cubs offense had left 7 runners on base and twice, Dansby Swanson had grounded into inning-ending double plays with runners in scoring position.
From the outside, it looked like the bad luck was back.
Inside the Cubs’ dugout, though, the feeling was much different. Trailing 3-1 in the 9th and facing All-Star closer Devin Williams, Steele knew he had to leave the clubhouse where he was receiving his post-start treatment and sit in the dugout to watch the final frame.
“Kinda had a feeling we were gonna do it, too,” Steele said.
He was right — and the Cubs’ gritty nature, their professionalism and processes that manager David Ross and the players have lauded all season paid off in an enthralling 4-3 win over the Brewers that was sparked by an improbable, wild 9th inning rally.
Cody Bellinger started it with a 69.2-mph bloop single to center. Williams struck out Christopher Morel, meaning a game-ending double play was in play against lefty Jared Young who was 0-for-3 with 2 strikeouts and a groundout to third to that point.
The Brewers’ defense had a slight shift on Young — as much as they could with the new rules in 2023 — but it was enough. Young fought off a cue shot to third base — a ball with a .100 expected batting average — and put it just far enough from Brian Anderson that he didn’t have a play, putting the tying run on base.
Yan Gomes put together a tough at-bat and hit a groundball up the middle that seemed destined to be a hit. Instead, second baseman Brice Turang made an incredible stop and spun and threw out Gomes at first. A second out, yes, but Turang’s decision to throw to first meant Young was in scoring position and the Cubs had a chance to tie the game.
“Just little things we haven’t had happen,” Ross said. “Putting the ball in play, making things happen, putting the pressure on the defense.”
Then came Mike Tauchman.
The Palatine native who didn’t make the team in spring, worked his way up in Triple-A and played himself into a meaningful role since being called up. Way back in Spring Training, Ross had praised the veteran for his professional at-bats — the knack to make pitchers work and help his team at the plate.
“Try to stay calm, not do too much,” Tauchman said of the pivotal at-bat.
In the most crucial at-bat of the game, he did just that. Tauchman worked a 2-1 count and fouled off 4 straight pitches off Williams. On the 8th pitch of the at-bat, Tauchman delivered a liner in front of left fielder Christian Yelich that tied the game. Tauchman saw a window and hustled to second, too, to have the go-ahead run in scoring position for Nico Hoerner, a high-contact bat that had the Cubs licking their chops.
“Heck of an at-bat from him,” Ross said.
Hoerner delivered with a grounder to third, a tough play for Anderson with Hoerner charging to first. Anderson’s throw was low, and first baseman Owen Miller couldn’t field it cleanly. Tauchman again saw a window and raced home, scoring the winning run on the play.
“You just never stop running in that situation,” Tauchman said. “Once you read the throw’s low, it’s just put your head down and get there.”
“We don’t quit. I think there’s a lot of belief in this clubhouse and that’s the beauty of this game. Until that 27th out is made, you got a chance.”
The breaks went the Cubs’ way when they needed them. All season, it seemed like it had been the opposite. Tuesday, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer alluded to the team’s struggles in close games and how it amounted to not performing in high-leverage situations.
For the second day in a row, the team delivered in those moments. The timely hitting came, against one of the best closers in the game. Then the shutdown pitching came in the form of 2 shutout innings from Michael Rucker in relief of Steele and a dominant 9th inning by Adbert Alzolay. Alzolay bounced back from his first blown save of the season with 2 strikeouts and a flyout to freeze the Brewers hopes of a comeback.
That was a win that Steele and the Cubs felt was theirs. Even when it looked far from it.
“For the whole entire season, it just kinda seems like at some point it’s gonna fall in our favor,” Steele said. “That might’ve been a reason why I kinda felt like we were gonna do it tonight. I just had a good feeling about it.”