Nate Schierholtz gives Cubs walkoff win over Mets
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter June 3, 2014 10:38PM
Updated: June 4, 2014 12:01AM
He was the only guy in the outfield the Cubs seemed sure they could count on to hit when the season started. And the one who didn’t need a full hand of fingers to count his extra-base hits five weeks into the season.
But don’t make the mistake of counting out Nate Schierholtz just yet.
The Cubs’ right fielder hit his first home run of the season on Memorial Day in San Francisco, added another Friday in Milwaukee and on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field delivered the Cubs’ first walk-off winner of the season – a two-strike, two-out line drive into the right field corner to drive home Anthony Rizzo in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 victory over the New York Mets.
“There’s nothing like it,” he said of the emotional finish on his third hit of the night.
Schierholtz, who hit a career-high 21 homers in 137 games last season, has been slowly heating up over the last two weeks following a miserable start to the Cubs’ offensively-challenged season.
“I know I’m a better player than I showed the first two months,” said Schierholtz, who was hitting just .197 without a homer through May 19. “That wasn’t me.”
Since then, he’s hitting .295 with a .367 on-base percentage and the two homers in 12 games.
“I knew I was going to come around. It took longer than I hoped, obviously,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot to do in the next four months, but I’m confident.”
It was the Cubs’ fourth victory in their last five home games as they improved to 11-13 at Wrigley despite the worst overall record in the majors.
The Cubs trailed until the eighth, when Chris Coghlan – who opened the season in the minors -- led off the eighth with his first home run since May 28 last year for the Marlins.
Schierholtz might not have had a chance for the walkoff if not for Mets third baseman David Wright’s bobble of Starlin Castro’s potential double-play grounder. Once he found the grip, Wright was forced to go to first on the play for the first out of the inning, allowing Rizzo to take second.
That kept the Cubs alive even after Luis Valbuena followed with a strikeout – setting the stage for Schierholtz.
After starter Jake Arrieta struggled through 4 2/3 shaky innings, the bullpen closed out the game with 4 1/3 sharp, quick innings, including efforts from two rookies (Brian Schlitter, Neil Ramirez) and a second-year guy (Hector Rondon).
“It was nice to be able to actually reap the benefits of what I think the pitching did for us the whole ballgame,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I know we didn’t get a whole lot of hits, but we got some that counted. To finally leave somebody out on the field, especially trailing the whole ballgame pretty much – it’s a tremendous feeling.
“It never gets old. I’m glad to be experiencing it for the first time as a Cubbie, and I’m sure those guys are really happy about it, too.”
Arrieta gave up only a first-inning run, but he was in trouble all night, allowing seven hits and three walks and needing 105 pitches to get through just 4 2/3 innings.
Arrieta had runners in scoring position in every inning, including the third when he loaded the bases with nobody out before escaping with a grounder to force an out at the plate, a popup and Wilmer Flores’ inning-ending screamer back to the mound that Arrieta gloved for the lineout.
Mets starter Zack Wheeler, who has been up and down this year after a heralded half-season debut in 2013, evoked visions of last year with 6 2/3 strong innings that included just two singles and two walks allowed.