'Thunder in his bat': Morel lifts Cubs to wild win

September 6th, 2023

CHICAGO -- strolled out of the batter’s box, bat in hand, as the Wrigley Field crowd erupted around him. After the baseball he had just bruised dropped well beyond the wall in center, the Cubs' designated hitter turned to his dugout and discarded his lumber with a nonchalant, under-handed toss.

“That was pretty cool,” said Cubs second baseman Nico Hoerner, who watched it unfold from the on-deck circle.

The Comeback Cubs were at it again on Tuesday night.

Morel’s three-run shot in the seventh inning applied the exclamation point to a six-run outburst, powering the North Siders to an 11-8 win over San Francisco. Twice, the Cubs erased multiple-run leads for the Giants, and then staved off a last-ditch push by the visitors to secure another victory.

  • Games remaining: vs. SF (1), vs. AZ (4), at COL (3), at AZ (3), vs. PIT (3), vs. COL (3), at ATL (3), at MIL (3).
  • Standings update: The Cubs (75-64) are 2 1/2 games behind the Brewers (77-61) for first place in the NL Central. The Cubs and Brewers have split the season series so far, so the tiebreaker has not yet been determined. Chicago sits in the second Wild Card spot, three games ahead of the Reds (73-68), 3 1/2 games ahead of the Marlins (71-67), four games in front of the D-backs (71-68) and five games up on the Giants (70-69). The Cubs have won the tiebreaker over San Francisco, but lost it to Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Miami. They have not played the D-backs yet, but have seven games against them coming up in the next two weeks.

That Chicago managed to claw back into the game should come as no surprise -- this has been a calling card all season. The Cubs now have 11 wins in games they trailed entering the sixth inning. Zooming out, the North Siders are now 11 games over .500 after sitting 10 games under (26-36) back on June 8.

“The group in there has believed in themselves since Spring Training. It's very obvious,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “This team talks about winning. There are a lot of winners in that room -- guys with hardware. We've talked about that for a long time. I think once the train got rolling, it was going to be hard to stop, because these guys know how good they are.”

The Giants just happened to be the team on the tracks.

San Francisco grabbed leads of 3-0 and 6-4 in the game, but saw the Cubs pull even and push in front both times. LaMonte Wade Jr. and Mike Yastrzemski had early home runs off Kyle Hendricks to spark San Francisco -- only to see Chicago rattle off four runs in the third to grab a 4-3 lead. J.D. Davis drilled a go-ahead two-run shot in the sixth, but again the Cubs stormed back.

“Unbelievable by the guys, picking me up, picking everybody else up,” Hendricks said. “A day like that with the wind blowing out, you know, you've just got to keep it close. You never know what can happen.”

Things unraveled on the Giants in the seventh, and the Cubs were ready to take advantage.

Giants reliever Tyler Rogers issued a one-out walk to Dansby Swanson before watching the surging Seiya Suzuki send a 3-1 slider soaring out to left field for a game-tying, two-run blast. Suzuki ended the day a triple shy of the cycle in a four-hit showing that gave him a .362 average (34-for-94) over his past 25 games, dating back to Aug. 9.

“His skillset and his raw talent and what he can do with the bat is really, really special,” Hoerner said. “And I don't think there's a ceiling for it. I think we're just starting to get to see it.”

From there, a fielding blunder by Giants left fielder Joc Pederson -- who stumbled as a fly ball from Jeimer Candelario dropped to the grass, paving the way for an unlikely double -- kept things rolling against reliever Luke Jackson. Yan Gomes beat out an infield single, then Candelario scored from third on an infield chopper from Nick Madrigal and a throwing error on third baseman Casey Schmitt.

That set the stage for Morel.

“He has just had such a knack for incredible moments,” Hoerner said. “It seems like it really just kind of elevates his focus.”

Morel provided one of the highlights of the season for the Cubs back on Aug. 16, when he drilled a three-run walk-off homer against the White Sox. Over his next 11 games, he had slumped to the tune of a .129/.182/.161 slash line in 33 plate appearances, forcing Ross to try to find the matchups that could get his DH back on track.

With the Giants cycling through a variety of arms in a bullpen game, Morel came off the bench in the third inning as a pinch-hitter. The way the chips fell, he found himself trotting around the bases for another decisive homer in the seventh. It marked his 20th blast on the year in 349 plate appearances.

“Christopher is a really big part of this team, man,” Ross said. “What he's got -- that thunder in his bat, the versatility he brings us -- you're going to have moments like that.”

After Morel crossed the plate, Hoerner was waiting nearby to welcome his teammate with a hug.

“He's electric,” Hoerner said. “That was a totally game-changing moment.”