clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Jason Heyward’s three-run blast in ninth inning rallies Cubs past Brewers

“I felt like it was a good opportunity to go [to the fastball], and I just wanted to try to get a pitch up enough, and that one kinda found me,” Heyward said of his clutch homer off Josh Hader in the Cubs’ 4-2 victory.

AP Photo/Morry Gash

MILWAUKEE — One swing. That’s what the Cubs needed after Josh Hader and the Brewers had them on the ropes and on the verge of dropping their third straight game in which they’ve gotten a quality start.

The Cubs looked bad offensively for 8⅓ innings Saturday, a night after Brandon Woodruff held them to two hits.

Starter Kyle Hendricks did everything he could to keep the Cubs in the game. He went 7⅔ innings and allowed only two runs to give the Cubs a chance.

And against Hader, sometimes that’s all you can ask for.

“That was just huge for us as a group,’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘That was just unbelievable.’’

The Cubs’ ninth-inning rally began with a one-out, opposite-field single by shortstop Javy Baez. Pinch hitter Anthony Rizzo followed with a single off Hader, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of right fielder Jason Heyward.

Heyward’s at-bat seemed to be trending in the wrong direction. And after a first-pitch ball, a slider for a strike and a 95 mph fastball, Heyward was in a position no hitter wants to be in against one of the game’s best closers — a two-strike count.

But when the Cubs have needed a big at-bat, Heyward has come through. He delivered the team’s biggest hit of the season, crushing a three-run blast to right field that helped lift the Cubs to a 4-2 victory over Milwaukee.

“I just didn’t come off the fastball, but I knew he had the slider, as well,” Heyward said. “I felt like it was a good opportunity to go to it, and I just wanted to try to get a pitch up enough. And that one kinda found me.

“He made a really good pitch right there. Changing my eye level. Started me off with a slider, then got me to swing through a fastball. Honestly, it was just nice to get rewarded, taking a nice, short swing.”

Heyward’s home run was the first one Hader had allowed this season and only the second two-strike homer he has given up in his career.

“That ball came off his bat loud,” manager David Ross said.

The Cubs weren’t done yet. Still high off the excitement of Heyward’s swing that seemed to lift the lid off a tough three days of offense, infielder Ildemaro Vargas crushed a solo shot to give the Cubs some insurance in the ninth.

“I had a couple of at-bats and had already seen Josh Hader when I was in Minnesota,” Vargas said. ‘‘I let the balls pass this time and focused on the heater.”

That ninth inning would be handed over to none other than Craig Kimbrel, who came into the outing having thrown a scoreless inning in nine of his last 10 appearances.

Interim closer Jeremy Jeffress was down on Saturday, according to Ross, which led to Kimbrel getting the closing duties.

Things got off to a rocky start as Kimbrel allowed back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, but he found a way to bounce back by getting a big strikeout against Dan Vogelbach for the first out.

Kimbrel would close things out, getting some soft contact to third base to finish the game and put a cap on the Cubs’ big victory.

Heyward’s homer also served as a nice birthday gift to an old friend. He said Braves superstar Freddie Freeman told him he would hit a homer for his birthday, and he delivered on Aug. 9.

Saturday was Freeman’s birthday, and, while he didn’t tell Freeman, he was happy that he was able to hold up his end of the unspoken agreement.

“I 100% know he texted me,” Heyward said with a smile. “I’m definitely going to text him and let him know, ‘There you go. Happy 31st birthday. Returned the favor.’ ’’