CHICAGO -- Chris Denorfia thought he might be needed as early as the sixth inning, so he was more than ready when called upon to pinch-hit in the 11th Monday night. And Denorfia delivered, smacking a walk-off home run leading off the 11th against rookie right-hander Miguel Almonte to lift the Cubs to a 1-0 victory over the Royals in a makeup Interleague game.
According to Elias, Denorfia's blast was the first pinch-hit, walk-off home run in extra innings of a 1-0 game in Major League history.
Denorfia lined the first pitch off Almonte into the left-field bleachers for his second career walk-off home run. It was the 13th time this season the Cubs posted a walk-off win, and also their 20th shutout.
"This is what we play for," Denorfia said. "I've had the opportunity to do that one other time in my career and it's just the best feeling. I can't describe it. I feel like a little kid at 35 years old, running around the bases, knowing what just happened and what's waiting for you at home plate, it's really something special."
Said Cubs manager Joe Maddon: "He was ready. He's always ready. He hit that ball well, too. It was loud and legit."
It came down to the two bullpens as neither starter, Yordano Ventura nor Kyle Hendricks, factored in the final decision. This was a makeup game of a contest that was scheduled for May 30 but postponed because of rain.
"Just a great game by both teams," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Neither offense could do much because the pitching was so solid."
The Royals began the day tied with the Blue Jays for the best record in the American League. Toronto, which owns the tiebreaker for home-field advantage after winning the season series against Kansas City, beat Baltimore on Monday night.
The Cubs, who clinched a Wild Card spot, are still waiting to see who they'll play on Oct. 7 between the Pirates and Cardinals.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Defense: With one out in the Royals' ninth, Lorenzo Cain beat a throw from shortstop Addison Russell for an infield single. But Hector Rondon fired to first to pick off Cain for the second out, and Rondon then got Eric Hosmer to fly out to left to end the inning. With two outs in the Royals' 11th, Alex Gordon hit a comebacker to Fernando Rodney, who knocked the ball down, and retrieved it in time to throw to first and end the inning. Rodney picked up the win in relief.
"Huge play," Maddon said of Rondon's pickoff. "If they steal right there, who knows what will happen? That took the wind out of their sails at that point."
Start me up: Hendricks got into trouble in the first, walking two of the five batters he faced, but then he settled down into a nice rhythm. The right-hander tied a career high with nine strikeouts, fanning five of the last eight batters he faced. He was lifted after 90 pitches over six scoreless innings. This was Hendricks' 17th no-decision, the most in baseball this season.
The Royals were impressed.
"We don't get to see him, so you're kind of guessing," Gordon said. "But he's got a good changeup."
"Normally when you face a guy with a great changeup, you get one up once in a while and you can drive it out," Yost said. "Not tonight. He was great."
Hendricks said it took him two innings to find his rhythm. He has one more start this week.
"I'm just trying to focus on going out there every time he gives me the ball and make good pitches," Hendricks said. "Come playoff time, you have to be ready to do whatever Skip asks you to do, whether it's a start or come out of the 'pen. I just hope I get some innings. Whatever the team needs me for, that's the bottom line."
Good pitch when needed: Ventura dominated the Cubs through six innings, giving up just one hit, a single by Jorge Soler in the sixth. But Ventura then fell into trouble in the seventh when he walked Chris Coghlan with none out. Kris Bryant followed with a slow dribbler up the third-base line and originally was ruled out on a throw by third baseman Mike Moustakas. But the call was overturned. Then Ventura made his best pitch, a hard fastball inside that jammed Tommy La Stella, who rolled into a 4-6-3 double play. Ventura then got a strikeout to end the threat.
"That's when you like to get two outs with one pitch," Ventura said through interpreter Pedro Grifol. "That was big in that situation." More >
"Every day's a happening, man. It's every day. If you are tired at all, the fans will definitely provide some energy for you. They're fabulous. It's a fabulous fan base. I would imagine as a visiting team coming in here, you would find some energy, too. I believe it's the best in all of baseball. I mean this sincerely, I feel very fortunate to be part of this. It's not lost on me. I walk in and I get it, I get it. I'm appreciative. It's different, and I'd like to keep it going for many years to come." -- Maddon, on playing at Wrigley Field. Monday was the last regular-season home game, and the Cubs finished 49-32, the best home record since going 55-26 in 2008.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Monday may have been the last game of 2015 at Wrigley Field for the Cubs, depending on how they do in the Wild Card game on Oct. 7. The team drew a total of 2,959,812 for 81 home games.
Bryant was called out on an infield grounder to third baseman Moustakas in the seventh, but the Cubs challenged the call, and after review, it was overturned and Bryant credited with a single.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Johnny Cueto (10-12, 3.45 ERA) will start the first game of a three-game series against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular. Cueto is coming off two excellent starts, having gone seven innings in both, and giving up just five runs total. First pitch at U.S. Cellular Field is at 7:10 p.m. CT.
Cubs: The Cubs head to Cincinnati for their final road trip of the regular season, opening a three-game series Tuesday night. Dan Haren will get the start, his first since Sept. 18, after being skipped because of an off-day. In four starts this month, he's 1-0 with a 3.26 ERA. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT from Great American Ball Park.