During the two-hour, 48-minute rain delay Saturday night, it might have been easy to forget the Cubs were in the middle of a game. Many of the fans were glued to the new video boards, watching the Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final and move within one victory of a title.
But the Cubs had a job to do, and they did it by beating the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 on Starlin Castro’s ninth-inning walk-off single, bringing in Kris Bryant.
It also made manager Joe Maddon revert to a familiar refrain on a night with a delay, a blown lead and some squandered chances.
“They did not break our will to win,” Maddon said of game that was actually shorter (2:39) than the delay.
“My point is, you do not permit the other team to break your will in any circumstances. And that was really impressive among our guys.”
Miguel Montero hit a two-run home run in the second and Kyle Hendricks pitched five innings and allowed one run before the rain started pouring on a season-high crowd of 40,693. And because of the rain, Hendricks was removed and the already-taxed bullpen was worked more, with James Russell allowing Eugenio Suarez’s two-run homer in the sixth.
That moment seemed like an eternity after what happened before the rain, and especially the Cubs’ MLB-leading seventh walk-off victory.
“It was good. I think we lost some momentum there coming off the rain delay, (with) them getting an early home run,” said Bryant, who was 3 for 4 with three runs and two doubles. “We never gave up, came back, battled. Strange day, but happy we got the (win).”
The Cubs took a 2-0 lead in the second. After Bryant extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a sharp single, Montero hit his ninth homer of the season by sending a Mike Leake pitch into the center-field basket.
Cincinnati cut the lead in half when Joey Votto hit his 14th of the season, lining a shot into the left-field stands. The Reds could have had more but some bad baserunning and an alert play by Anthony Rizzo ended their threat. On Kristopher Negron’s two-out infield single, Todd Frazier went too far rounding third and Rizzo threw behind him, starting a rundown that ended the inning.
The Cubs then benefited from a review in the bottom of the inning. On a Starlin Castro grounder to shortstop, Bryant came home from third and was originally called out by umpire Dan Bellino. But after a review, the call was overturned to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
Hendricks and Leake then traded scoreless fifths before the rain came, ending both pitchers’ nights.
Russell replaced Hendricks, and after allowing a Skip Schumaker single, Suarez tied the game with a two-run homer well into the left-field seats.
Addison Russell led off the eighth with a double but was picked off when Dexter Fowler swung through a bunt and Tucker Barnhart threw behind him at second. Fowler followed with a double and Chris Coghlan singled, but Anthony Rizzo grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Jason Motte earned the win, capping a testing but positive night for the Cubs.
“It’s good for us. I mean, I think we all stayed pretty focused,” Bryant said. “We didn’t know if we were going to play or not but it was good to go through that kind of stuff, just because it’s probably going to happen sometime in the season. Knowing that we can come back from it and win after a rain delay like that is good going on into the season.”