Remembering Cubs taking '98 tiebreaker

April 24th, 2020

CHICAGO -- Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire captivated the nation with their pursuit of Roger Maris' single-season home run record in the summer of 1998. That historic chase for the former Cubs right fielder also helped fuel a run at a spot on the October stage for the North Siders.

Recently on MLB's social platforms (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), Cubs fans were able to relive the 5-3 win over the Giants in the Game 163 tiebreaker that secured the National League Wild Card spot for Chicago.

"My first thought running on the field was back to that 0-14 start [in 1997]," former Cubs catcher Scott Servais told the Chicago Tribune after beating the Giants in '98. "There's no pressure on us now. We accomplished a major goal tonight. The Chicago Cubs are back on the map. We're not the laughingstock of baseball."

In the four seasons that bookended the '98 season ('96-97 and '99-00), the Cubs averaged 93 losses per year. Things came together in '98, when Sosa belted 66 homers, notched 158 RBIs and won the National League MVP to lead a lineup also featuring Mark Grace, Henry Rodriguez and other fan favorites.

After losing in walk-off fashion to the Astros on Sept. 27, the Cubs were forced to play a Game 163 against San Francisco to determine who would face the Braves in the NL Division Series. Steve Trachsel got the start for Chicago, opposite Mark Gardner. The matchup also meant closer Rod Beck (51 saves for the Cubs in '98) would face his former team.

The Cubs had not reached the playoffs since 1989, when it was the Giants who bested Chicago for a berth in the World Series. In this meeting, the Cubs and Giants traded zeros for four innings before Gary Gaetti put the North Siders ahead with a two-run blast off Gardner in the fifth. Chicago tacked on three more runs to hold off a late push by San Francisco.

MLB's airing of the '98 classic comes as Marquee, the Cubs' regional sports network, is also broadcasting a series of "Cubs Classics" as part of '90s Week.