Chicago Cubs: Matt Duffy proving valuable off the bench

Chicago Cubs ( Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)
Chicago Cubs ( Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports) /

Signed to a minor league deal in the offseason, Matt Duffy has arguably been the most valuable bat off the Chicago Cubs bench.

One area where the Chicago Cubs excelled during their run of three-straight NLCS appearances was the depth of their bench. Over the past few seasons, several of those pieces have either regressed or moved on from the ball club.

But the 2021 version of the Cubs has two keys members in both Jake Marisnick and Matt Duffy. The latter was inked to a one-year, $1M minor-league deal in December. The signing, obviously, was not flashy, but Duffy is an experienced bat, one that finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2015.

Of course, Kris Bryant took home the award that year, and now the two are teammates. Duffy’s role expanded when Nico Hoerner began the year at the alternate training site and has seen another spike in playing time with the 2018 first-round pick currently sidelined.

Duffy has time after time proved to come up clutch. He’s hitting .375 with an .875 OPS in high-leverage situations this season. On Saturday, his bloop single into right field in the seventh inning, plating Jason Heyward, proved to be the game-winning hit. He advanced to second on the throw to home, flashing his signature “thumbs up” to the Cubs dugout.

“I actually didn’t see him very well today, so after the slider, I was trying to catch the ball out in front there with less than two strikes,” Duffy said of Pirates reliever Clay Holmes. “After I didn’t see that one very well, I just tried to hit it right back at him, kind of over the second baseman’s head. [I] got a little lucky there, but that’s where I was trying to put it.”

With matching 3-2 final scores on Friday and Saturday, the Cubs have now won five straight and are one game over the .500 mark.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride this season, with the Cubs ripping off long win streaks followed by lengthy losing streaks. Largely dependent on contagious hitting, the northsiders have shifted from lopsided scores to finding ways to win tight ball games.

Players like Duffy and Marisnick, who are hitting a combined .320 over their last 15 games, continue to be valuable pieces off the bench. Marisnick stepped in admirably when Joc Pederson landed on the injured list, taking full advantage of the opportunity in front of him.

Now, with some flexibility on the infield, Matt Duffy is doing the same.

Arrieta confident he’ll miss just one start. light. Trending

“It is a sign of a really good team when you get contributions from everybody,” Cubs manager David Ross said after Saturday’s game. “There’s always going to be a couple of guys that aren’t hot and always a couple of guys who continue to heat up.”

The Cubs look to complete a six-game sweep on the homestand on Sunday.