Ian Happ turns in historic night as he singlehandedly carries Cubs to victory
MILWAUKEE — Ian Happ did something Friday night nobody else has ever accomplished in the 147-year history of the Chicago Cubs.
He led off the top of the 10th inning with a 2-run shot, becoming the first Cubs player to begin an inning with a multi-run homer.
Of course, this was thanks to the relatively new MLB rule that awards teams a free runner on second base in extra innings.
“That’s a good one,” Happ said, smiling. “Anytime you’re the only one, it’s a cool thing. I don’t know if that will last forever.”
The 2-run shot off Brewers relief ace Devin Williams was Happ’s second 2-run homer of the game. He also took Matt Bush deep in the 7th inning to give the Cubs a lead (and break up the Brewers’ no-hitter).
The Cubs finished with only 2 hits on the evening but Happ made them count, singlehandedly carrying his team to a 4-3 victory.
“Great offensive day for Happer,” David Ross said. “He carried us and sometimes that’s how it works out. Really nice job.”
The blasts were Happ’s 14th and 15th homers of the season. He has tallied 6 longballs in August after coming into the month with only 9 total homers on the season.
Justin Steele started for the Cubs and allowed only 1 run in 5.1 innings to lower his season ERA to 3.18. But he departed in the 6th after 85 pitches with what the team announced as low back tightness.
The Cubs aren’t overly worried about Steele’s back injury. They didn’t want to push their young lefty in this game, especially given the fact the organization is cognizant of his workload down the stretch. His 119 innings this season represents the most he’s ever thrown in a professional season.
“We’ll see how he is tomorrow,” Ross said. “He was throwing the ball really good. I don’t think he’s concerned. I don’t think the trainers are concerned but obviously we’ll look big picture and make sure we keep an eye on the present and the future and all the decisions we make.”
Steele said he initially felt the back tighten up on his final warm-up pitch before the 6th inning.
“I kinda adjusted the way I was throwing a little bit just to throw some strikes but the coaches could tell something was going on so they came out and we were talking,” Steele said. “They were like, ‘this is probably your last hitter regardless,’ so it just made sense to go ahead and come out.”
Brandon Hughes gave up a game-tying homer to begin the 9th inning. Manny Rodríguez — making his 2022 season debut — closed the door in the 10th inning to pick up a save.
“Manny hadn’t seen that action and threw him right in the fire there late,” Ross said. “He did a pretty good job.”
As the Cubs continue to look toward the future, the whole team has been encouraged with the brand of baseball they’ve played over the last month-plus.
Friday’s win was another great example of a young, inexperienced squad learning to come together.
“Wins against good teams, teams that are in playoff pushes — those are huge,” Happ said. “Against good pitching staffs. Even the Cardinals series, we put together a couple really good games there. It’s important to split some of those series, to win and feel as you go through a series what it’s like to win the first game and then gives you a little bit more breathing room the next 2 to figure out how to get another one and win the series.
“That’s a culmination of all those things. It’s pitchers learning how to pitch in big spots and what that feels like. And as you go through games like this when your staff keeps you in it, feeling that ability to, ‘alright, we have a chance to keep going and find a way to win games.’ We’ve done that over the last 2 months.
“…It’s turning, it’s turning. It’s that cycle of feeling like you can do it and building that confidence.”