For two weeks, David Ross’ teammates had been planning a celebration to commemorate the Cubs’ veteran catcher’s 100th career home run.
And for two weeks, the 39-year-old Ross was stuck on 99.
The party – and the milestone long ball – were both pushed out of the way during Friday’s 6-2 win over the Phillies at Wrigley Field.
Ever since hitting career homer No. 99 on May 13, Cubs fans and Ross’ teammates were aware of the pending landmark. Ross, whose three-run homer in the fourth inning struck the ‘N’ in the Nuveen signage beyond the left field bleachers, runs in the outfield as part of his pregame routine before each home game.
For the previous two weeks, Ross said he had heard the same message from fans.
“All I hear is, ‘hit a homer, Grandpa,” Ross said after Friday’s win. “Nobody knows my first name anymore.”
Ross received a standing ovation and made a curtain call after being pushed to the top of the dugout steps by his teammates. Afterward, Ross received a celebratory bottle of wine from manager Joe Maddon and a bottle of champagne from Friday’s starter Jon Lester. The box the champagne came in had been signed by each of his teammates.
Asked if his teammates made him the center of attention in the Cubs’ party room where they celebrate for after each win, Ross indicated it was business as usual.
“I just got doused with a little more water than normal,” Ross said.
Ross said he learned that a fan had tracked down the home run ball and was willing to give it to Ross in exchange for a photo with the veteran catcher. The request caught Ross off-guard.
“Who wants a picture with me?,” Ross said. “I’m surprised he didn’t ask for one with (Kris Bryant) or (Anthony Rizzo).”
Right fielder Jason Heyward was held out of the Cubs lineup along with first baseman Anthony Rizzo Friday. Like with Rizzo, Heyward was given the day off, taking advantage of a built-in off-day on Thursday and a day game Friday. But Maddon said he also held Heyward out as a cautionary move after Heyward crashed into the outfield wall in San Francisco and missed most of three games before returning Tuesday against the Cardinals.
“He had a significant moment in San Francisco and we were more worried it was going to be even worse and it ended up being good so why press our luck right now?,” Maddon said. “He played those two (in St. Louis) and we’ll give him the same two days because there’s a long string of games coming up.”
Don’t mess with Mother Nature
A pair of afternoon downpours messed with the Cubs’ bullpen perhaps more than Maddon planned on. After Lester worked 6 1/3 innings and gave up an earned run, struck out seven and walked two, Maddon inserted Pedro Strop in the seventh.
After Strop had thrown one pitch, the first rain delayed the game for 56 minutes. Enter Trevor Cahill, who worked 1 2/3 innings and allowed three hits and came out to pitch the ninth. But once again, Mother Nature had other plans with a second delay – this one lasting 37 minutes.
That forced Maddon to use Hector Rondon, who gave up a single before getting Freddy Galvis to ground into a game-ending double play.
“We’ll take it,” Maddon said.
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