Quantifying Hope: Cubs get Lucky 13’s in 49th Wrigley W, Plus More Fun Numbers to Shock and Amaze

The Cubs and Royals had combined for only 7 hits through 10 1/2 innings when Chris Denorfia stepped in to lead off the bottom of the 11th as a pinch hitter. He proceeded to take the first pitch he saw, a 97 mph fastball from Miguel Almonte, into deep left for his second walk-off of the year. It was an unlikely end to a game that was marked by great pitching (only 4 walks to go with the dearth of hits) and Kris Bryant moving from first to center to right and then to third.

I’m a man of relatively Spartan tastes, so it’s often the simple things that give me the greatest joy. Whether it’s seeing my son’s foot poking out from under his bed when he’s ashamed and trying to hide or my daughter jumping into my arms when I get home, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. And I gotta say, I’m a sucker for the ice bath given to the hero during his on-field debriefing as well. It just puts a smile on my face.

And it’s not like it’s a surprise at this point, either. Denorfia knew it was coming, just as Jake Arrieta and others have over the last few weeks. But that’s the best part. They’re waiting for it just like we are and the Cubs players are having even more fun than the fans at the ballpark or the viewers at home.

Despite the almost throw-away feel of the game heading in — when I first saw the lineup, I envisioned Joe Maddon elbowing Davey Martinez and saying, “Hey, check this out. Whadya think they’re gonna say about this one?” — the Cubs managed to put together another in what has been an incredible string of late victories. In fact, the Cubs now lead the majors in both walk-off and extra-inning wins with 13 of each. If you’re ready to kiss your productivity goodbye, we’ve got videos of all 13 walk-offs for you.

And here’s something everyone saying the Cubs don’t have the pitching to compete might want to check: they’ve also got an MLB-best 20 shutouts (tied with Dodgers) after the 1-0 win. Of course, they needed all those shutouts in the league leading 8 wins with 4 or fewer hits. Yes, you read that correctly. On 8 occasions, the Cubs won while scratching out no more than 4 hits.

Not crazy enough? Consider this: Chris Denorfia became the first pinch-hitter in MLB history to trigger a win via walk-off solo homer in an extra-innings game (this according to the Elias Sports Bureau by way of NBC Chicago’s James Neveau and CSN Chicago’s Tony Andracki). In doing so, Deno also became the first Cub since Joe Pepitone in 1971 to hit a walk-off homer to break a scoreless tie in extras. My favorite bit of trivia from the former hit was that it came off of Mudcat Grant, which is a baseball name of near-unrivaled awesomeness.

Thirsty for more weird baseballery? Monday’s narrow victory marked the first time the Cubs have pulled out multiple 1-0 extra-inning wins since 1936. The hero in this year’s first such game? Why, that would be Chris Denorfia, who hit a sac fly to beat the Dodgers back in June. That little tidbit, like those above, came courtesy of human stat machine Christopher Kamka. I suppose I could have included his tweet, but I was getting tired of embedding them. I think he’ll understand though.

So those little bits of trivia and obscure numbers are pretty cool, but an even more important number is 49, the Cubs’ win total at Wrigley this season. Going back through the last few years in order, their home win totals were 41, 31, 38, 39 — tired of this yet? — 35, 46, 49. That means this year’s mark is their best in (stops typing to count fingers) 7 years. Hey, that means they last won 49 games at Wrigley in 2008, the last time they were in the playoffs. And the snake eats its tail.

The Cubs now have 91 wins as they head into their final 6 games against two groups of extras from The Walking Dead. Let’s call them The Walking Red and The Milwauking Dead. Or, you know, let’s not. Either way, the Cubs should be able to take 4 of those contests and get to 95 wins. 9-5. Ninety-five. That’s 10 more than I had laid out as a bold prediction. And despite that rampant success, I think we could all point out some pretty significant opportunities for improvement.

But I’m not looking at these numbers to see where the Cubs can get better. I’m looking to show just how good they’ve been. How fun they’ve been. They’re finally worth ignoring your family to watch again. Okay, that’s maybe a little harsh, but…ah, who am I kidding? Your children need their sleep and you need to see just what this team is capable of. Besides, plenty of the best artists and athletes are driven by unresolved daddy issues. Then again, so are strippers and adult movie stars.

The moral of the story is this: love on your kids, but get them to bed early enough to get back to the Cubs.

Ideally, we’ll all get to watch them back at Wrigley. Yes, even those of us not lucky enough to have been chosen for the opportunity NLDS tickets. There couldn’t possibly have been a more fitting way to close out the home slate of the regular season, but I’m not ready for them to be done with baseball at the Friendly Confines this year. That’s why the Cubs need to win on October 7th. It’s why they’re going to win. I can feel it. Or is that just the supremely spicy humus I had as a late-night snack?

Setting aside the immediate future though, the present is a pretty cool place for the Cubs. Not a common September theme these past few years, huh? As we creep toward the finish line, I’d advise everyone to enjoy the closing days of the season here because it’s gonna really angsty up in this piece come the evening of October 4th.

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