All hands on deck in comeback at Wrigley
For eight innings Wednesday, there was very un-Wrigley Field-like game going on at the venerated National League ballpark on Chicago’s North Side that is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The Cubs entered the ninth inning clinging to a 2-0 lead over the Yankees, who had scored merely one run in 17 innings in a place considered a hitters’ paradise.
Wrigley is also one of those places where no lead is ever safe, let alone one as narrow as the one the Cubs had. Just like that, the Yankees got to Cubs closer Hector Roncon, who blew his first save opportunity of the season in six tries.
A broken-bat single by Mark Teixeira, a walk to Brian McCann and an infield single by Yangervis Solarte loaded the bases. Ichiro Suzuki hit a ground ball to shortstop. The Cubs conceded a run to try for the double play but got only one out and watched the Yankees tie the score. Second baseman Darwin Barney, just into the game on a double switch, threw wildly past first base in a vain attempt to double-up Ichiro that allowed pinch runner Brendan Ryan to follow Teixiera home with the tying run.
The Yankees’ rally that eventually pushed the game into extra innings was a disastrous but all too familiar situation for Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija, who despite pitcing seven shutout innings was stuck with a no-decision that kept his winless streak going to 16 starts since Aug. 30 last year.
Samardzija has the best earned run average in the major leagues at 1.46 over 68 innings, but all he has to show for it is a 0-4 record. Since his last previous victory Aug. 24 last year at San Diego, Samardzija has a 2.99 ERA over 105 1/3 innings with a record of 0-6. The righthander has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his past 13 starts since Sept. 17 last year, a stretch equaling that of former Cubs pitcher Matt Garza from Aug. 3, 2011 through April 12, 2012.
Heading into extras, none of the four runs scored to that point had been by a hit. The Yankees’ two runs were on a fielder’s choice and an error. The Cubs’ two runs were on a sacrifice fly and a sacrifice squeeze bunt.
The Yanks’ rally in the ninth took rookie Chase Whitley off the hook. The righthander had another decent start, allowing one run, six hits and one walk with three strikeout in 4 1/3 innings. And just as he had done last week at Citi Field, Dellin Betances followed Whitley with 1 2/3 brilliant innings by retiring all five batters he faced, three on strikeouts.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi ended up using every available relief pitcher and all but four players on the 25-man roster in the game, which the Yankees won, 4-2, in 13 innings. When Derek Jeter came to bat in the eighth, he received a standing ovation from the crowd of 34,808 for what it perceived to be his last at-bat at Wrigley. Little did the fans realize that DJ would get three more times up in what became a 4-hour, 39-minute marathon.
Preston Claiborne (2-0), the seventh of eight Yankees pitchers, helped himself to the winning decision with a perfect sacrifice in the 13th that advanced Brendan Ryan, who led off with an infield single, to third base and Solarte, who walked, to second. A wild pitch by Jose Veras (0-1) sent Ryan home with the go-ahead run, and John Ryan Murphy added an insurance run with a single to right field. David Robertson earned his ninth save with a shutout 13th.
The Yankees, who had four hits entering the ninth, finished with 13, all singles, and won for the first time this season when trailing after eight innings. Being swept by the team with the worse record in the majors would have been demoralizing. Now they move to Chicago’s South Side for a four-game series against the White Sox with a spring in their step.