Walk Off This Way: Cubs on Pace for Record Number of Last At-Bat and One-Run Wins

Most Chicago sports fans know Jimmy Gets Buckets, but those who follow the Cubs are learning that Starlin Castro does to. So do Addison Russell, Matt Szczur, David Ross, Chris Coghlan, Arismendy Alcantara, and even…Chris Denorfia? Yes, the King in the Norf lofted a sac fly to give the Cubs their MLB-leading 9th walk-off win of the season.

And while he isn’t wearing it in the picture above, the Cubs have taken to coronating their heroes with crowns fashioned from empty bubble-gum buckets. As the 10th inning played out, Anthony Rizzo could be seen in the dugout preparing for the celebration with a plastic diadem in each hand.

Sure enough, the Cubs walked off again.

I’m not sure he’d consider remaking his group’s seminal rock-rap crossover hit, but Darryl “DMC” McDaniels was in the house to witness the evening’s events and sing the Seventh-Inning Stretch. As much as I’ve railed against the practice of rolling out random guest conductors, I have to admit that I loved this choice. I mean, it’s DMC.

I wonder if he and Kris Bryant had any conversations about my Adidas or whether he advised the Cubs rookie against tying them. And speaking of ties, that’s exactly what the Cubs and Dodgers had going for 9 innings last night. This was nothing new for Cubs fans, who’ve grown used to close games, but the fact that it came against the Dodgers’ second ace made it more improbable.

Then again, the Cubs had a quasi-ace of their own on the mound, as Jason Hammel twirled yet another gem Tuesday night. There’s still a lot of baseball left in the season, but the various transactions involving Hammel are really starting to look like the best group of moves this front office has made. The trade for Arrieta is up there too, of course.

But think about the timeline for a moment. The Cubs signed Hammel prior to last season and got the best performance of his career for the first half of the season. Then they traded him to Oakland in a move that brought them Addison Russell and Billy McKinney. And then they re-signed Hammel this offseason, only to get an even better performance thus far. Winning.

Oh, yeah, I should get back to that whole winning thing.

In collecting their 9th final-at-bat win of the season, the Cubs moved 9 games over .500, further cementing their legitimacy. The fact that they did so against two of the best pitchers in the game hasn’t gone unnoticed either. But it’s the type of wins they seem to be collecting at a high rate that I want to look at here.

The MLB record for walk-off wins stands at 17 and was set by the 1959 Pirates and later tied by the 1977 iteration of that same club. Two more teams have 16 such victories and eleven more have 15. While it’s pointless to project walk-offs, the Cubs are currently on pace for 21 this season.

Whether they reach that total or fail to register another such win in the remaining 90-plus games, the Cubs have proven that they know how to win ballgames. That’s particularly true of close games, and the Cubs have played in more of them than any other team in the majors. Their 30 one-run contests and 18 wins in those games lead the league.

Again, this isn’t the type of stat that lends itself to linear projection, but that’s never stopped me in the past. If they continue at their current pace, the Cubs will have played in 70.5 one-run games by season’s end. That total would be the highest since the Royals won 70 in 1993 and would rank behind only the 1971 Astros (75) and 1968 White Sox (74) for most all-time.

What’s more, the Cubs are on pace for 42 single-tally wins, which would tie them with the 1978 Giants for the most in baseball history. That’s cool and all, but I’d be just as happy with them eschewing (did I say that right, Joe?) the close games in favor a few more blowouts now and then.

I mean, if these trends keep up, the guys will be able to crown one another with empty buckets of blood pressure medication. I’ll take the wins in whatever form they come, but I wouldn’t mind avoiding the gray hairs and impromptu manicures in return.

I must say, however, that I’ve grown decidedly more calm as the season has progressed. Maybe that’s simply a temperance born of age and experience, both my own and the Cubs’ as a team. Even so, I would advise that you check with your doctor to see if your heart is healthy enough for Cubs baseball. It’s fun, but there’s a bit of a thrill involved.

Still, I wouldn’t be too concerned about seeking medical attention if your recreation lasts longer than 4 hours; that’s just par for the course. And the Cubs have certainly been able to rise to the occasion this season, as their bats always seem to be ready when the moment is right.

So I’m sure the advertisers like Cialis are loving the fact that so many games are going down to the wire and keeping fans engaged. Then again, I’m not sure too many folks have been having ED problems, given the frequency positive outcomes.

Phallic jokes aside, this team really appears to be putting together something special and it’s been exciting to witness the various ways in which they have found ways to scrape together wins. And the best part of it is knowing that they’re only going to get better.

So keep your buckets ready, folks, because the Cubs are going to continue to walk off this way.

Walk-off stats via Baseball-Reference.com


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