Tauchman shows why he's 'the heart' of Cubs with walk-off blast

June 6th, 2024

CHICAGO -- has gained a reputation for preparation and knowing how to handle situations in his two seasons with the Cubs. When the baseball he connected with on Wednesday night carried into the left-center-field bleachers, setting off a wild scene at Wrigley Field, the outfielder was not sure how to punctuate the party.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever hit a walk-off homer,” Tauchman said. “I didn’t really know what to do. I’ve seen some.”

Tauchman found a fitting approach to the trot that sealed a dramatic 7-6 win over the White Sox. The outfielder maintained a stoic expression as he steadily made his way around the bases in a businesslike manner. It was not until Tauchman rounded third base that he let some emotions fly as a mob of teammates awaited his arrival at the plate.

A few strides away from scoring the game’s winning run, Tauchman tossed his helmet aside and threw his arms out wide. He then jumped onto the dish as the rest of the Cubs players swarmed around him and the Wrigley faithful in the seats reveled in the two-game sweep of the Red Line rivals to the south.

“There’s no one more prepared,” Cubs pitcher Jameson Taillon said. “It’s also just a cool story, someone everyone should feel really comfortable rooting for. Good dude. Had bounced around. Gone to Korea. It’s really cool to see him getting an opportunity and getting these moments for his hometown team. It’s kind of like a movie.”

Tauchman -- who hails from nearby Palatine, Ill. -- has downplayed his hometown ties since joining the Cubs last year. He again said Wednesday night that he does not pay much attention to rivalries, opting instead to focus on how many players contributed to the win and how important it was for the North Siders to turn the page and focus on the next game.

Fair enough, but there is no denying that Tauchman’s background has helped his status as a fan favorite and kind of cult hero for Cubs fans. Last year, he authored arguably the play of the season for Chicago with a “walk-off” home run robbery on July 28, sealing a win over the rival Cardinals in St. Louis.

Now, Tauchman can add a walk-off shot against the South Siders to the list of heroics.

“I think every kid dreams of hitting a walk-off homer,” Tauchman said. “So to have that moment, it’s special. It’s something that, when it’s all said and done, I’ll look back on it and I'll always have that and be able to smile about it.”

The blast on Wednesday night thrust the 33-year-old Tauchman into the spotlight, but he has been a quiet, steady presence for a Cubs team that has weathered issues on a number of fronts. Tauchman has posted a .372 on-base percentage in 55 games, played all three outfield positions and currently leads the Cubs in wins above replacement (1.4, per FanGraphs).

Tauchman came to the Cubs on a Minor League deal two winters ago after playing for Hanwha in Korea in 2022. He joined the big league club in May of last year when center fielder Cody Bellinger went down with an injury, and Tauchman has continued to play a valuable role as a fourth outfielder and designated hitter.

“Unbelievable,” Cubs second baseman Nico Hoerner said of Tauchman’s performance. “He’s a guy that does all parts of the game at a high level, as well as brings a healthy amount of edge to just his day-to-day approach to baseball.”

On the night, Tauchman saw 25 pitches, which is nothing out of the ordinary for the veteran. Entering Wednesday, in fact, Tauchman ranked third among qualified MLB hitters in pitches per plate appearance (4.43). In the seventh inning, he fouled off six of Michael Soroka’s pitches en route to an 11-pitch walk that helped spark a three-run outburst.

“Just a great battle,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “And it’s just impressive. The pitcher gets you into swing mode with a bunch of foul balls, and just to have the discipline to take, that was a huge at-bat in that inning.”

In the ninth, Tauchman led off, took a pitch for a ball and then received a 98.4 mph heater from White Sox closer Michael Kopech.

“He’s got a great fastball,” Tauchman said. “In that situation, I personally feel like trying to be ready for anything else is foolish.”

Tauchman was prepared, and his swing delivered a needed win for the North Siders.

“He’s at the heart of the team,” Hoerner said. “He’s been a huge, huge deal for us.”