CHICAGO (AP) — Chris Denorfia is a senior citizen in a clubhouse filled with youngsters. The veteran felt like one of the kids Monday night.
Denorfia hit a pinch-hit home run leading off the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Chicago Cubs a 1-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
“It’s just the best feeling,” he said. “You feel like a little kid again. I’m 35-years-old and just running around the bases and knowing what’s waiting for you at home is really, really special.”
Denorfia hit the first pitch from reliever Miguel Almonte (0-2) into the left-field bleacher for the Cubs’ major league-leading 13th game-ending victory of the season. Denorfia has had one other career walk-off homer that came on July 29, 2013 while playing for San Diego.
Fernando Rodney (2-0) pitched a scoreless top of the 11th to get the win.
The Cubs trail the Pittsburgh Pirates by 3½ games in the race for the top wild-card spot in the National League.
Denorfia’s homer ended a pitcher’s duel that was a makeup of a May 30 rainout. Both teams combined for eight hits.
“That was a really well-played game,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
Royals starter Yordano Ventura was perfect through the first five innings, although Kris Bryant hit a drive to straight away center field in the first inning that Lorenzo Cain caught against the ivy reaching up.
The Cubs finally broke through when Jorge Soler led off the sixth with a base hit to center field. Ventura, though, retired the next three batters to end the inning.
The first two Chicago batters reached in the seventh — on a walk and an infield single, but Ventura got Tommy LaStella to ground into a double play and struck out Starlin Castro to end the threat.
Ventura allowed just two hits in seven scoreless innings.
“That could have been the best game Ventura pitched all year,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “He was fantastic.”
Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks allowed just two hits in six scoreless innings. He walked two and tied a career high with nine strikeouts. He was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth after throwing 90 pitches.
“It’s huge when you’re searching for it and you finally see the results,” he said. “After a while, you need something like that.”
With Rizzo getting the night off, Bryant played his first game of the majors at first base. He played there for six innings before moving to center field. He moved to right field in the ninth and back to his normal position of third base in the 11th.
Monday’s game was the Cubs’ final home game. The crowd of 40,552 brought the season attendance to 2,959,812, which is an increase of 307,699 from a year ago.
CAL AND CUBS CHARITIES
Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. is set to be on hand Tuesday when the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation opens a multipurpose synthetic turf field on the southwest side of Chicago. The Freedom Field at Marquette Park project, in partnership with Cubs Charities and others, is designed to give inner-city youth a safe place to play and learn. The state-of-the-art facility features a baseball diamond with dugouts and batting cages. This will be the 50th field the Ripken foundation, dedicated to the father of the Orioles great, has built in 16 states in five years.
“When we first started the foundation in memory of Dad, we never imagined it would grow the way it has,” Ripken said.
Royals: RHP Chris Young is expected to rejoin the team by Friday following the death of his father on Saturday. Young threw five innings of no-hit ball on Sunday to get the win against Cleveland.
Cubs: 1B Anthony Rizzo, who had played in 154 of the team’s 155 games before Monday, was given the night off. Manager Joe Maddon said he saw Rizzo laboring and looking fatigued on Sunday.
Royals: They are staying in Chicago and will open a three-game series with the White Sox on Tuesday. RHP Johnny Cueto (10-12, 3.45 ERA) goes in the opener against Chicago RHP Jeff Samardzija (10-13, 5.04).
Cubs: They head out for a six-game road trip to conclude the regular-season schedule. RHP Dan Haren (9-9, 3.83 ERA) starts the opener of a three-game series at Cincinnati on Tuesday against Reds RHP Josh Smith (0-2, 7.23).
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