The Cubs punished more than their share of baseballs last season. The Cubs seemingly filled the 162-game schedule with one memorable moment after the other and most involved a ball leaving the park or at the very least an extra-base knock.
As a team, the Cubs collected 1,341 hits, which placed them 14th in the National League, and 472 of those went for extra bases. The Cubs were tied for eighth in doubles (272), ninth in triples (30) and fifth in home runs (171).
In the first half, the Cubs were 14th in hits (704), 13th in doubles (137), tied for ninth in triples (15) and were seventh in home runs (77).
After the break when the rookies started figuring things out and Kyle Schwarber lengthened out the lineup, the Cubs took off offensively. The Cubs were eighth in hits (637), tied for third in doubles (135), tied for eighth in triples (15) and were second only to the Mets in home runs (94) … 244 of the team’s 637 hits were for extra bases in the second half of the season.
For the year, the Cubs finished fifth in on-base percentage (.321), seventh in slugging (.398) and sixth in OPS (.719) while leading the Senior Circuit in walks (567) and strikeouts (1,518). In the first half, the Cubs were ninth in OBP (.315), 11th in SLG (.374) and 10th in OPS (.690).
When looking back at the season, it is pretty remarkable how many things went right for the Cubs. And how many times a rookie delivered a big hit that either tied or won a game.
Here are arguably the biggest home runs of the season hit by 12 different players. Granted with several of the players there is more than one home run that turned around a game or gave the Cubs a win, but these 12 represent either turning points in a game or crucial points in the season that without the home run the magical summer might have taken a different turn.
The Cubs were not playing good ball at the end of July. The Streak ended and the Cubs were swept the weekend prior by the Phillies at Wrigley. After taking two of three from the Rockies, the Cubs made the short trip to Milwaukee for a four-game series with the Brewers. Jimmy Nelson shut out the Cubs on two hits for seven innings. And the offense couldn’t get anything going.
After back-to-back hits by Addison Russell and Dexter Fowler, Craig Counsell brought in lefty Will Smith to face Kyle Schwarber and Chris Coghlan. Schwarber went down swinging and Chris Denorfia, pinch-hitting for Coghlan, flied out to right. The Cubs were down to Anthony Rizzo with two outs and the tying runs on base.
Anthony Rizzo delivered the three-run blast that gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead. Hector Rondon nailed down the 5-2 victory after the Cubs added a pair of insurance runs in the ninth.
The Cubs swept the four-game series at Miller Park and won 14 of the next 16 games.
Starlin Castro’s best day at Wrigley Field came against the Cardinals on Sept. 18 in the middle of a pennant race. Starlin Castro hit two home runs, drove in six runs and made his only curtain call at the old ballyard in the 8-3 victory over St. Louis.
Castro’s first homer, a two-run shot broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Cubs a 5-3 lead. Castro smacked a three-run blast the next inning to cap the scoring. An extremely happy Starlin Castro tipped his cap after the second longball.
Javier Baez has a flair for the dramatic. His first big league homer gave the Cubs a win in extra innings. After a very trying year, Baez was on the Cubs roster for the NLDS. Subbing for an injured Addison Russell in Game 4, Baez put the Cubs ahead in the second inning. Baez took now teammate John Lackey out to right field, a three-run shot with two outs and gave the Cubs a 4-2 lead. The Cubs went on to win 6-4 and take the first ever post-season series against the Cardinals.
Following a horrible weekend against the Phillies at Wrigley in which the Cubs were no-hit and swept, the media and a majority of the fan base thought the season was over. The Cubs welcomed the Rockies to Wrigley for a three-game series and took a 7-4 lead into the ninth inning. The Rockies scored four runs off Jason Motte and Rafael Soriano in the ninth. With the Cubs down 8-7, Kris Bryant stepped in with Dexter Fowler on first and two outs in the ninth.
Kris Bryant picked the right time for the first walk-off homer of his career, a two-run shot off John Axford. Wrigley exploded and the Cubs won 9-8.
The Cubs took two of three against the Rockies before hitting the road and sweeping the Brewers in Milwaukee. Starting with Bryant’s walk-off, the Cubs went 16-3 over their next 19 games.
Miguel Montero made up for two wild pitches in the ninth inning that allowed the Brewers to tie the game at two on Aug. 12. Montero was unable to keep the ball from skipping past him twice in the ninth. A visibly upset Montero took out his frustrations on the baseball in the 10th inning. Montero went opposite field off Michael Blazek and gave the Cubs a 3-2 victory.
It seems like a majority of the 21 homers Kyle Schwarber hit in the big leagues between the regular season and playoffs either tied the game or gave the Cubs the lead. One game that sticks out is the night Schwarber smacked the game tying and winning homers in Cincinnati. But it was his titanic two-run shot off Gerrit Cole in the NL Wild Card Game that might have been his biggest.
With the Cubs leading 1-0 thanks to his first inning single, Kyle Schwarber launched a two-run homer into the river with Dexter Fowler along for the ride in the third inning. Schwarber gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead and more than enough runs for Jake Arrieta to take care of the Pirates.
David Ross may have gone yard only once last season, but it was one for the record books. Ross kept the Phillies off the board in the ninth inning on July 26 and stepped in as the Cubs’ pitcher in the bottom half. Ross became the first Cubs’ reliever since Carlos Marmol (Sept. 7, 2006) to hit a home run.
David Ross’ second appearance on the mound had the same effect on the team as his big league pitching debut on May 9. Following a blowout loss at Miller Park in early May, the Cubs won 10 of the next 14 games. After Ross pitched a scoreless ninth and hit a home run on July 26, the Cubs won 16 of the next 19 games.
Down 1-0 to the mighty Cardinals in the NLDS and already trailing 1-0 in Game 2, the Cubs exploded for five runs in the second inning. The Cubs tied the game and took the lead on back-to-back bunts and an infield single. Small ball and poor defense gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead before Jorge Soler stepped in.
Jorge Soler drilled a two-run homer over the wall in center with two outs in the second. Soler’s first post-season homer was a big one and allowed the Cubs to tie the series at a game a piece with Jake Arrieta scheduled to start game three back at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs did not win games for several seasons when trailing after eight innings. It simply did not happen. The Cubs would let go of a lot of the past during the 2015 season. And late-inning comebacks all started in Colorado on a Sunday afternoon in early April.
With the Cubs down 5-2 going into the ninth, Arismendy Alcantara worked a one-out walk against LaTroy Hawkins. A wild pitch moved Alcantara to second. Welington Castillo hit for Jonathan Herrera and singled in Alcantara with two outs. Castillo was on board for Dexter Fowler’s first homer with the Cubs.
Fowler crushed a 0-2 pitch to deep right and helped his new team beat his former team in his return to Colorado.
Chris Coghlan went deep twice on the South Side, both times off Jeff Samardzija.
The first of two gave the Cubs a 4-2 lead and the second put the Cubs ahead 6-5 in the fifth. Chris Coghlan drove in four of the Cubs six runs in the opener at the Cell. The Cubs took two of three from the Sox that weekend and kept rolling.
Jake Arrieta stepped up when his team needed him on the last day before the All-Star break. The Cubs were really struggling at the time having lost two in a row to the Sox at Wrigley and five of the previous nine. Arrieta not only dominated on the mound for nine innings, he hit the first home run of his career off Jose Quintana in the fifth inning.
The Cubs went into the break with a 3-1 win over the White Sox thanks to Arrieta’s complete game and home run.
A majority of Addison Russell’s highlights this past season were in the field, first at second base and then at shortstop. Addison Russell had his fair share of big hits but it was his first longball on May 1, along with his two-homer game on Sept. 4 that were the most memorable.
Addison Russell ripped a solo homer off Wily Peralta in the third inning, the only run in a 1-0 win over the Brewers. Jon Lester won his first game of the season that Friday afternoon.
Anthony Rizzo is included twice in this report for one huge reason. Rizzo hit what ended up being the game-winning homer in Game 4 of the NLDS that sent the Cubs to the National League Championship Series.
With the Cubs and Cardinals tied at four in the sixth inning, Rizzo stepped in with two outs and launched a solo homer into the bleachers in right field off lefty Kevin Siegrist. Rizzo gave the momentum back to the Cubs after the Cardinals tied the game in the top of the inning. Kyle Schwarber added the much-needed insurance run the next inning with the mammoth shot that ended up atop of the ‘Schwarboard’.