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Yankees 3, Cubs 2: Brett Gardner’s ninth inning home run steals a win in Chicago

Down to their last strike, the Yankees somehow won the series opener in Chicago.

MLB: New York Yankees at Chicago Cubs David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees did not have much trouble putting runners on against the Cubs. Through eight innings, they had eight hits. Even Michael Pineda had one. What they were struggling doing was bringing home those runners. They wasted several decent opportunities and it looked like Pineda’s six solid innings would go to waste.

In the ninth inning, the Yankees put another two runners on. Then like they had most of the game, the Cubs looked like they would wriggle out of it. With Brett Gardner at the plate, the Yankees were down to their last strike against Hector Rondon. However after 8.2 innings, the Yankees finally capitalized. Gardner hit a three-run home run at the literal perfect moment. Out of nowhere, the Yankees turned a 2-0 loss into a 3-2 win.

The Yankees’ RISP struggles started immediately. In the first inning, they had two runners on when Aaron Hicks doubled and a returning Gary Sanchez was hit by a pitch. However, Starlin Castro flew out after Jayson Heyward made a nice sliding catch. Some confusion around whether Heyward actually caught the ball allowed the Cubs to double up Hicks.

Then there was another good chance in the sixth inning when Castro, Aaron Judge, and Didi Gregorius hit three straight singles. Chase Headley then flew out and Castro misjudged it on the basepaths and was thrown out trying to tag up and score.

While this was happening, the Cubs only picked up four hits themselves. It just so happened that two of them were home runs. One came in the first inning when Kris Bryant hit a solo slot in the bottom of the first. Their only other run came when Kyle Schwarber led off the bottom of the sixth with a homer to make it 2-0. It very much looked like those two solo homers were all the offense the Cubs needed.

Down to the last three outs in the ninth inning, the Yankees put another two runners on. With one out, Headley picked up a single. After Chris Carter struck out, the Yankees sent up Jacoby Ellsbury as a pinch hitter. Ellsbury walked, put things in the hands of Gardner. After not swinging at the first three pitches and falling behind 1-2, Gardner fouled off a couple before homering to right. After being down to their last strike, the Yankees now had a lead.

In the bottom of the ninth, things got interesting when Headley made an error on an Addison Russell grounder. The error allowed Russell to go to second with nobody out. However, Headley later made a play on a grounder, and Aroldis Chapman struck out two to finish things off. Improbably, the Yankees took the opener in Chicago with a 3-2 win.