It had been a while since ”Go, Cubs, Go” had blared over the speakers at Wrigley Field. But after a franchise-record 13 home losses in a row, the Cubs broke the skid with a bang, courtesy of Rafael Ortega.
Ortega played hero for the Cubs on Monday, with his walk-off, two-run home run in the ninth inning lifting them to a 6-4 victory against the Rockies.
”It’s no secret that we haven’t won [at home] recently,” Ortega said afterward. ”We haven’t been doing very well. But that just shows the fight that we have, the hunger that we come in [with] every day, trying to prepare to go out and get a win.”
Ortega’s heroics were set up when the Cubs clawed back from a 4-1 deficit in the eighth. Patrick Wisdom had an RBI single and another run scored on a double-play grounder by David Bote before Michael Hermosillo tied the scored with a run-scoring double.
Pinch hitter Jason Heyward got the ninth going with a leadoff single to left. After Matt Duffy struck out, Ortega walked to the plate with a chance to win the game.
He got ahead of Rockies closer Daniel Bard, working a 3-1 count. He then thought he had worked a walk when the fifth pitch of the at-bat ran up and in, but umpire Jeff Nelson called it a strike, bringing Ortega back to the plate.
”I was there in the batter’s box thinking, ‘Fastball could come here, but don’t forget that the slider could be there, that breaking stuff,’ ” Ortega said. ”So I was just looking out for that in that situation.”
The called strike gave Ortega one more chance to do damage, and when he got his pitch to hit, he didn’t miss it. He crushed a hanging slider for a no-doubt homer just below the video board in right field to send the Cubs home victorious.
”I don’t think I’ve smiled in a while after a game,” manager David Ross said. ”It was nice.”
”What a moment for [Rafael],” said right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who allowed four runs in seven innings. ”That was awesome. Awesome to see. Awesome to hear the fans, the home crowd, and give them a win here.”
Ortega has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise-miserable second half for the Cubs. His homer not only gave the team a reason to celebrate, but it continued what has been a career season for the 30-year-old outfielder.
”It’s actually funny,” Ortega said. ”I had that game where I hit three home runs against Washington, and I wasn’t thinking about hitting a home run. But I just knew [in] the ninth inning that I was batting third in the order, and I just had a feeling that if I could get up there, stay patient and wait for the right pitch, I thought that I could hit a home run.
”Once that ball hit the bat and it was going, I just gave thanks to God. I just felt like I knew, and it just felt great.”