Chicago Cubs’ Christopher Morel runs the bases after hitting a three-run home run against the Chicago White Sox during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023. The Cubs won 4-3.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
By JAY COHEN AP Baseball Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Christopher Morel sprinted around first with his arms extended and his mouth wide open. He threw his batting helmet into the air as he made his way to second, and then cast aside his jersey as he rounded third.
Finally, he jumped on home plate, surrounded by his delirious teammates with the Chicago Cubs — punctuating a wild finish in a crosstown rivalry.
Morel hit a dramatic three-run homer off Gregory Santos in the ninth inning, sending the Cubs to a memorable 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night.
“I mean Christopher Morel … it’s just so electric,” manager David Ross said. “That ball was smoked.”
Cody Bellinger sparked the winning rally with a leadoff double. Dansby Swanson then walked before Morel drove a 99.5 mph sinker on a 1-2 pitch from Santos (2-1) over the wall in right-center for his 19th homer.
The Wrigley Field crowd of 40,869 cheered wildly as Morel set off on his wild trip around the bases. It was his first career game-ending homer, and he credited former Cubs catcher Willson Contreras for a tip that helped him stay focused with the game on the line.
“Willson once told me ‘In those moments, just try to stay like in the eye of the hurricane.’ … Just think about what I’m doing in that moment. Don’t think about anything else,” Morel said through a translator.
It was the second homer allowed by Santos in 51 appearances this year. The right-hander allowed a total of two runs over his previous 12 games.
“I was ahead in the count and threw a good pitch. He didn’t swing at it,” Santos said through a translator. “It’s like, ‘Well, let’s attack him again.’ It was a sinker, and he hit it.”
The Cubs were looking at a third straight loss before their big finish. Nick Madrigal connected for a pinch-hit homer against Aaron Bummer in the eighth, and Drew Smyly (9-8) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.
The White Sox (48-73) wasted a terrific performance by Mike Clevinger, who tossed seven innings of two-hit ball. The right-hander is 3-2 with a 2.15 ERA in his last nine starts.
Gavin Sheets hit a two-run homer for the White Sox, who had won six in a row at Wrigley. Sheets’ drive in the fifth was his first homer since June 16 and No. 9 on the season, and it led to chants of “Let’s go White Sox!” from slices of the crowd.
“That one, that hurts,” Sheets said. “This is a great series and a great atmosphere. Both fan bases show up and you obviously want to win for them. It’s a tough one.”
The Cubs (62-58), who are fighting for a playoff spot in the crowded NL standings, took three of four in the season series against the White Sox. Javier Assad was charged with three runs, two earned, and four hits in six innings.
Marcus Stroman was slated to come off the injured list and start the game, but the All-Star right-hander experienced some discomfort after a bullpen session on Sunday. An MRI showed a right rib cartilage fracture, and the North Siders said there is no timetable for his return with his new injury.
NOT BAD AT ALL
Andrew Benintendi had a solid all-around performance for the White Sox. He singled and scored on Assad’s wild pitch in the fourth. Benintendi then robbed Dansby Swanson of a hit in the bottom half of the inning, making a diving catch in left with two runners on.
HE’S BACK … FOR NOW
White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson went 0 for 3 with a walk in his return to the lineup after he was scratched from the series opener because of neck stiffness. There has been no word on Anderson’s appeal of his six-game suspension by Major League Baseball for his role in a fight with Cleveland slugger José Ramírez.
White Sox: OF/DH Eloy Jiménez (groin) got the day off. He got hurt trying to beat out a grounder to the pitcher during Tuesday night’s 5-3 over the Cubs. Manager Pedro Grifol said Jiménez is day to day.
Cubs: RHP Nick Burdi (appendectomy) is expected to make another rehab appearance with Triple-A Iowa on Friday. … RHP Brad Boxberger (forearm strain) and LHP Brandon Hughes (left knee inflammation) are scheduled for bullpen sessions on Thursday.
White Sox: Following an off day, RHP Michael Kopech (5-10, 4.58 ERA) faces Colorado RHP Peter Lambert (2-4, 5.46 ERA) on Friday night in the opener of a three-game set at the Rockies.
Cubs: RHP Jameson Taillon (7-7, 5.71 ERA) starts Friday afternoon in the opener of a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals. Taillon was tagged for eight runs in three-plus innings in an 11-4 loss at Toronto on Sunday.