CHICAGO – Joe Namath was in the house at Wrigley Field on Wednesday night, and it appears he hasn’t lost his touch.
In January 1969, Namath boldly guaranteed that his underdog New York Jets would beat the mighty Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
That prediction came true.
According to Cubs manager Joe Maddon, Namath guaranteed a win for the Cubs on Wednesday. Things looked iffy after the Cubs lost a 3-0 lead and trailed, 5-3, in the bottom of the ninth inning.
But Jason Heyward’s two-out grand slam off lefty Adam Morgan lifted the Cubs to a 7-5 victory.
“Well, first of all, Joe guaranteed the win before the game,” Maddon said. “Second of all, the ball was on our own 45 (-yard line). No timeouts left. Trips right. Hail Mary, and we got the touchdown. So I think it’s all appropriate that Joe Willie was here today to witness that game. A lot of unlikely events occurred.”
But wait, there’s more where that came from.
“Two things happened,” Maddon said. “(Reliever Cory) Mazzoni comes in, and I asked Cory, ‘Have you ever had a major league win?’ And he said no. I said, ‘You’re going to get your first one tonight.’ And then (first baseman Anthony) Rizzo’s even better than me.
“You talk, talk, talk on the bench. I’m saying, ‘Come on, just a base hit or double down the line.’ He said, ‘No, how about a walk-off grand slam,’ about a nanosecond before it occurred. That’s baseball.”
Or football or whatever. But it was crazy.
Heyward, a left-handed hitter facing a lefty, cranked a 2-2 pitch to right-center for his first career walk-off homer.
How long had he dreamed of that?
“Since I was like 8,” he said. “It’s great because the game’s over.”
Rizzo homered in the second off Aaron Nola to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead before they added two more runs in the fourth for starting pitcher Jose Quintana.
But in the top of the sixth, Quintana walked Cesar Hernandez to start the inning before striking out the next two batters. After Carlos Santana singled, Maddon went to Steve Cishek to face Aaron Altherr.
On Cishek’s first pitch, Altherr tied the game with a homer to center.
In the ninth, Cubs closer Brandon Morrow gave up a two-run homer to Dylan Cozens. It was Cozens’ first career homer, and it snapped a streak for Morrow of not allowing a homer at 71 straight innings.
Maddon defended his decision to pull Quintana after 91 pitches.
“The matchup was spectacular,” he said of Cishek on Altherr. “It’s just not OK, Cishek on him in that moment. It just didn’t work. I would have been more upset with myself had I left Quintana in and he hit a three-run homer as opposed to what we did. It just doesn’t play, but it was the right thing to do.”