Somewhere between first and second base, Christopher Morel tossed his helmet windmill-style in euphoric celebration.
By the time he sprinted around third, a mob of his Chicago Cubs teammates and coaches waiting for him at home plate, Morel ripped off his jersey and left it in his dust. His three-run, walk-off homer sparked bedlam at Wrigley Field where 40,869 fans watched the Cubs pull out a 4-3 win over the White Sox in the final game of the City Series.
One thought flitted through during Morel’s mad dash around the bases: “I hit a home run — Cubs win!”
David Ross started high-fiving bench coach Andy Green when his manager brain kicked in, making sure Morel touched every base.
The biggest hit in his young career embodied the late-inning comeback fight the Cubs have often manifested, exemplified during Morel’s at-bat that highlighted his offensive development. His showdown against White Sox closer Gregory Santos represented a rematch from the day before when the right-hander bested Morel to start the ninth inning Tuesday with a three-pitch strikeout in the Sox’s victory.
Cody Bellinger’s leadoff double and a Dansby Swanson walk set up Morel’s heroics. He quickly fell behind 0-2 whiffing at a 100.5 mph inside sinker and chasing a low-and-away slider out of the zone. Santos and catcher Yasmani Grandal went back to the slider away, but Morel didn’t chase.
Morel pounced on the next pitch, a sinker mistakenly left down the middle, to dramatically avenge his strikeout. Echoing the advice he received last year from former teammate Willson Contreras, Morel reminded himself to “stay in the eye of the hurricane” when he fell behind in the count to Santos.
“Just try to make the moment just about me,” Morel said through an interpreter. “Just think about what I’m doing in that moment. Don’t think about anything else, focus in the moment and focus on myself.”
Morel’s walk-off homer was the first by the Cubs since Jason Heyward’s on Sept. 8, 2021.
“You have adrenaline and you have those moments when you’re on the big stage and you’ve got a chance to do something special to change the game and he harnesses that emotion so much better every time out it feels like,” Ross said. “He doesn’t always get the big hit, but he just seems to be maturing and controlling the strike zone and putting his best swing on the pitches he’s looking for.
“When he’s swinging the bat well, our offense rolls.”
Morel’s moment would not have happened without right-hander Michael Fulmer’s best sequence of the season. Called into the game with no outs and the bases loaded in the top of the eighth, Fulmer struck out Luis Robert Jr., Yoán Moncada and Andrew Vaughn to get out of the jam. Nick Madrigal put the Cubs on the board in the eighth to cut the Sox’s lead to 3-1 with a basket shot to left field for his second home run of the year.
“You can feel there’s something brewing in this clubhouse,” Madrigal said. “Games like this, to pull those out when it wasn’t looking good for most of the game, lets me know you’ve got special teams that win these kinds of games.”