The Chicago Cubs have been in this position before. A 3-2 NLCS series lead. That was thirteen years ago and we know the outcome. There was blame put on this poor guy so unjustly criticized for hoping to catch a souvenir, instead catching hell and shame.
Tonight is different. The Cubs have earned this right to be here. They finished the season with the best record in baseball, fought back from adversity in this NLCS and now they can entertain the thought of advancing to their first World Series appearance since 1945.
Baseball fans across the world will be tuned in tonight, holding their breaths, praying for hope. This game will beat you up, staying up well past bedtimes and coming into work as if you’ve caught the red eye from Los Angeles back home to Sweet Chicago.
Celebrities can crash White House briefings all they want declaring their love for Chicago’s North Side darlings but in the end, once 8PM eastern hits, it’ll be Kyle Hendricks on the mound in front of 48 000+ faithful who will have his back because baseball is a lonely game. There’s only one player on one base at one time. One batter facing one pitcher waiting for a 90MPH piece of rubber and leather to come hurling towards him like a planet expecting a meteor to change history.
2016 could go down as one of the strangest years in history. Donald Trump could be President of the United States of America and the Chicago Cubs might be World Series Champions. I’ll let you digest that for a moment.
“Don’t anyone tell you that it’s just a game.” few truer words have been sung. Yesterday morning I tried to wake my son up for school, he’s six years old and getting up at 7AM is hard sometimes when it doesn’t require cartoons and Shreddies. I whispered in his ear,
“The Cubs won.”
He raised one finger, his eyes still closed, “One win away.” then he went back to sleep.
Tonight, the Chicago Cubs can punch their tickets to the World Series. In order to do that they must play like kids. No pretence, no knowledge that the pitcher they’re facing is the best in the world. Pure sandlot ball. The belief that when that ball connects with maple, it’s going to go far. There’s no other pitcher I’d rather have on the mound than Kyle Hendricks. He’s earned the start. He’ll need to go deep into the game allowing Aroldis Chapman to do his thing. That’s it.
You see, the Chicago Cubs have escalated into something more than a baseball team. If they win tonight and advance to the World Series, it’ll mean that everything we teach to our children will be true. If they believe in something, it’ll happen.
Wrigley Field is a place like no other. We all can’t be there tonight but for those who haven’t been there, like Vedder said, “I’m sorry for you” the smells of freshly cut grass, hot dogs and sticky beer. The sounds of Pop! as baseballs get tucked into gloves and the sun’s heat, the comfort food of the soul.
Ernie Banks knew it. Ron Santo believed it. Eddie Vedder is right.
We’re going all the way
Tonight, “Let’s Play Two”
The Cubs are one win away from a place they haven’t been since 1945, the World Series. Last night, Jon Lester and the rest of the Cubs shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers with an 8-4 victory to take a 3-2 series lead. The stage is set for a sixth game showdown between regular season ERA leader Kyle Hendricks and three time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw at Wrigley Field on Saturday.
“To go back home with the advantage is really important,” Ben Zobrist said of the Cubs’ 3-2 lead in the series. “You have to feel good about our chances against Kershaw on Saturday. We like our chances.”
The Cubs bats have figured out the Dodgers’ pitchers at the right time. Addison Russell was the hero last night after hitting a two run home run to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning. This is a young team that love to hit.
“Right there, that situation, just trying not to do too much,” Russell said. “I was just trying to find some gaps. I was looking for something up in the zone to drive. First pitch slider a little bit low. Second pitch was a slider, but it was elevated and I put the barrel on it, and it kind of went. But just rounding the bases, it was pretty exciting. Pumped up. Not only for myself, but for the team, and that little cushion that Jonny had to go forward from that, and I felt really good.”
It energized the team and dialled in Jon Lester’s seven innings of pitching. That’s what the Cubs needed was deep pitching to give their bullpen a rest.
What this all means now is that the Cubs have today off before going to Wrigley Field, back home where no World Series championship has ever been won and face the league’s most dominant pitcher. This weekend could very well be the most exciting weekend baseball has ever seen. Will Bill Murray be in attendance should the Cubs extend till Sunday?
There’s a few question marks going into the weekend. Jason Heyward needs to move down in the order. Heck, I’d put David Ross in front of him. He should not hit behind Addison Russell. Pedro Strop should not be used. Finally, Aroldis Chapman looked human in the ninth giving up two runs.
This is a different ball team going into Saturday’s classic. Things have changed since the last time they faced Kershaw. If Kyle Hendricks puts the ball where he wants it, then the Cubs should get the pennant.
“Obviously, [this] feels good,” Joe Maddon said Thursday night. “You’d much rather go home under those circumstances than any other, and you want to get it done as quickly as possible. It’s going to be a formidable event. Our guys will absolutely be ready for the moment, I promise you that. It’s great. The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing pretty much right now.”
I’m not bragging, but yesterday I predicted that Anthony Rizzo would have a big game and now we know the truth; he reads the Canuck Cubbie everyday, takes the words to heart and applies all my finer points of baseball to his game.
The Cubs played “Cubbie baseball” as Addison Russell puts it, by crushing the Los Angeles Dodgers 10-2 and tying up the NLCS at two games a piece. If anyone were just tuning into the series from the ALCS, they’d never have known that Russell and Rizzo were in the midst of a slump.
“This is a big win, for sure,” Rizzo said. “To even up the series, we have a chance to take another one here [Thursday] and go home with a 3-2 lead. In a way, this is just one game and we know it’s going to be a quick turnaround, but this was definitely a big game for us.”
It was a huge game fore sure. If the Cubs lost last night, they’d have been in a hole of 3-1. Yeah, they could have bounced back tonight with Jon Lester on the mound but then they’d have to face Clayton Kershaw. Instead, the win guarantees a return trip to Wrigley Field and an opportunity to win it all at home. I said the Cubs needed a miracle, and last night it looked like they had Angels in the outfield.
“It should help their confidence, there’s no question about that,” manager Joe Maddon said. “When you’re going through the moment they were, it’s a confidence issue. It always is. So going into [Thursday], I know when they show up at the ballpark, there’s going to be a good bounce about them. Probably going to see the ball better, slow things down a little bit.”
While Rizzo borrowed Matt Szczur‘s bat to get his three hits and a homer, Russell relied on something else to get his homer and three hits. I don’t know what it was, but keep using it.
John Lackey was yanked in the fifth inning but pitched well. He got into trouble by walking a couple of batters and that’s when the bullpen took over. You can clearly see that Lackey wanted to stay in. The tough Texan wanted that win and I do believe he was the spark that fired up the Cubs who are two wins from their first World Series appearance since 1945.
“How I feel personally is irrelevant now,” Lackey said. “It was a great team win and good to see our guys swing the bats.”
Lackey is known throughout the baseball world for his fiery personality and he didn’t disappoint. After a few questionable calls, Lackey raised his hand up to his chest, signalling to the umpire if that’s how high the strike zone should be. He’s a fierce competitor who isn’t afraid of telling anyone how he feels. He pretty much set the stage for tonight’s tie breaker with Jon Lester on the mound.
“What you’ve seen so far. It’s been a pretty interesting series to this point,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “I did not expect it to be such a lopsided victory for us today. Although [the Dodgers] had theirs yesterday. Like I said, it’s two out of three right now. We know it’s at least going back home at some point. [Thursday] will be a pretty nice day to come out on top and going back home, having to win one of two. We’ve been pretty good at Wrigley all year.”
The Chicago Cubs are in head scratching mode. How do they solve the Los Angeles Dodgers after falling behind in the series 2-1? The Dodgers beat the Cubs last night 6-0 in what looked like the Cubs were left wondering about the Dodgers. The Cubs shuffled their lineup, they’ve cleared the Clayton Kershaw hurdle but still those powerful bats that rocked opponents all season have fallen.
“We’re just not hitting the ball well,” Joe Maddon stated. “We’re doing the same kind of routines, the work is the same, the batting practice is the same, or the lack of it is the same, and we’re just not getting the results right now. There is really no excuse. We just have to pick it up quickly.”
Time’s running out and the Cubs have got to start those bats swinging. Are they too patient, cautious at the plate? Or where is that creativity? One thing is for sure, they look flat at the plate. With the exception of Kris Bryant‘s two hits, the Cubs aren’t producing any serious offence.
“It happens,” Jake Arrieta said of the Cubs’ offensive struggles. “It’s not ideal to happen in the postseason in these sort of games, but these things are possible at any moment in any game. Our guys are prepared. When a guy makes good pitches like Rich did, along with their bullpen, it’s going to be tough on us.”
It’s not supposed to happen in the playoffs. Maybe sometime in August, early September perhaps the bats get silenced while fatigue sets in, but during the playoffs. Fire, man. That’s when everything changes. Aces become legends and hitters turn into heroes. It’s not that the Dodgers are an excellent team, but during this NLCS, they’re looking very much like a team that won 103 games during the regular season, not the Chicago Cubs.
“Belief is very powerful, and we all have that here,” Kris Bryant said. “The peaks and valleys sometime make you go crazy, but we have more games to play.”
John Lackey gets the start tonight. The grizzled veteran is going to have to muster up all his wealth of experience to pull a gem from his glove for this one. Yup, the Cubs will need to pull out all the stops tonight. Put in Jason Heyward and his outstanding defence. I would put David Ross behind the plate with his competitive fire and get creative. Lackey’s going to have to grind it out tonight. Go late in the innings and show the Dodgers that Texas fire because tonight, more so than any other night is what playoff baseball is all about.
“This is a different situation,” Bryant said. “I feel like last year their pitchers just beat us. Right now we’ve had some chances. We’re only down 2-1. Last year at this time, we were down three. That’s obviously not good.”
Anthony Rizzo will be the hero tonight.
This is a different Chicago Cubs team than in the past. I mean, the recent past past. The Cubs are nestled into Los Angeles and in a few hours will be heading down to the park to take in some BP and get the show going for tonight.
Why would I call it a show? Because the last time Jake Arrieta pitched against the Dodgers, a no hitter broke out. I doubt that’ll happen tonight but now that the Cubs have gotten over that giant hurdle called Clayton Kershaw, they can focus on the prize. Sunday’s loss was good for the team. Hopefully it gave them some perspective on what wasn’t working and what was working right. What isn’t working is the bats.
“We’ve just got to get back to our plan,” Addison Russell said. “Get back to playing Cubbie baseball. Grinding at-bats and extend that pitcher a little bit. Try to get in that bullpen a little earlier.”
Yeah Russell, you’re 1 and 22 this post season. Time to get that bat rolling again. By no means have the Cubs been slouches on pitching and defence, but what got them to this point were the bats. Kris Bryant‘s possible MVP season was due in part to 39 HR. They should change the batting order move up Javier Baez and put Ben Zobrist in the number 2 spot.
“I have considered different thoughts,” Joe Maddon said prior to the Cubs’ workout Monday. “Like I said, when you get to this point, you’ve got five games left to really make it right, as opposed to 75 to make it right. There is a difference with that. There are certain things you’d do in the middle of the season in order to move something along, not just during the playoffs.”
I’m a little worried about Arrieta’s pitching and control issues he’s had this season but if anyone can turn the Cubs’ fortunes around, it’s Arrieta. The Cubs fortunes haven’t really been turned around after just one loss but this is the NLCS and every one run loss can be humiliating to any team. It can knock off their equilibrium. Look what’s happening to the Blue Jays? I’m still stunned along with the rest of Canada.
“So, to be even here [in the series], we like our chances moving forward,” Arrieta said. “Obviously, our lineup stacks up just about as good as anybody’s. We’ve got our health with us, which is great. We like playing in this park.”
So, the Cubs are three wins away from being in the World Series. A spot they haven’t been to since 1945. Beatlemania and Elvis Presley’s pelvis weren’t even a thought.
For all of those people who like saying that “Watching baseball is like watching paint dry” did not tune into the Cubs NLCS. It’s been edge of your seat pitching duels and just watching Javier Baez strut his stuff is pure magic. last night, the Cubs were literally stymied by the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0. Three time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw dismantled the Cubs batting order pitch by pitch. As a Cubs fan it was tough to watch, but as a baseball fan, it was like watching a magician carving up the assistant in the box trick.
Kyle Hendricks was impressive in his return to the mound after getting hit in the throwing arm in his last start. The Dodgers only got one run off of him and that came at the hands of an Adrian Gonzalez long ball. No, Hendricks was solid and showed us a peek into what could be a Hall of Fame career. Did he learn anything from Kershaw?
“He was impressive,” Hendricks said. “Watching a lot of it from inside, he wasn’t missing any spots, mixing his pitches well, keeping us off balance — that’s the kind of game I was trying to pitch. It was fun to go against him and a tough one to lose.”
The toughest part about losing that game is how silent Bryzzo’s bats have been. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant haven’t got the hits. Rizzo has only collected 1 hit out of 24 playoff At Bats, while Bryant, who is a front runner for League MVP isn’t hitting well either.
“I’m trying to get six, seven, eight hits at one time,” says Rizzo. “I’ve done that before in my career and it doesn’t work, so you just go about the process, keep grinding and keep battling”.
Even guys like Addison Russell has been somewhat absent during this post season 1 for 22, stretching back to the regular season. So the Cubs have their issues. Sure, Miguel Montero hit that grand slam, but it really should have been Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant’s job to do that. Javier Baez? well, there’s nothing wrong with him. He’s been outstanding.
“It’s very nice to be in this moment with young players,” Joe Maddon said. “It’s really nice two consecutive years to be in the Championship Series with a very youthful group. Again, putting your scout’s cap on, it bodes well for the future. Of course, I want it to happen right now and get to that next round.”
Which poses another interesting option; Since the Cubs’ bats have fallen silent, the NLCS will go down to management. Joe Maddon will have to rely on his craftiness with bullpen shuffling, player swapping and good ol’ fashioned creativity to get past the NLCS.
“No, you have to continue to play through the bad lie,” Maddon said. “That’s just — it is what it is. You stay with your guys. Dodgers have good pitching. Cubs have good pitching. I’m sure they’re saying the same thing about some of their guys right now too.”
Hollywood can’t write this stuff better than what happened in the bottom of the eighth inning last night in Game 1 of the NLCS. Miguel Montero hits a grand slam with two out to put the Cubs up 7-3 before Dexter Fowler scripted it with a back to back home run to make it 8-3. The Cubs finished with an 8-4 win.
“Obviously, after the first pitch, I’m looking something middle, middle in, and he threw me that slider,” Montero said. “It was a really good pitch to hit, and I missed it. And in my mind, I was like, ‘oh, my God, I missed that.’ That was a perfect pitch to hit. But you have to step out of the box and just pull yourself together and try — all I was trying to do was get a base hit. Don’t strike out right here. Get a good pitch and try to put the ball in play and make something happen.
“But to be honest, in the back of my head, I was like, ‘I want that slider back,’ because it was such a good pitch to hit,” Montero said. “And I guess he heard me because he threw it back, and luckily I hit the ball pretty good.”
After the two strikes, the FS1 commentators were saying how Montero “Could be a hero tonight in game 1” Two strikes, two out and Boom!
Wow, the Cubs have a way of answering the call and providing the fireworks. It almost didn’t happen that way.
Jon Lester who pitched a great game, was yanked in the 6th inning and he looked upset.
“It is what it is,” he said. “I don’t get paid to make decisions; I get paid to pitch. So that’s his decision to make. … Would I have liked to have gone out for the seventh? Absolutely. But you got to understand the situation and put yourself kind of [into] what the manager’s trying to do.”
Did anyone catch Javier Baez’s steal home that erupted Wrigley Field? It was the first time a Cubs player achieved this feat since 1907, when Jimmy Slagle stole home. If the Cubs do go on and win the World Series, Javier Baez has got to be Playoff MVP.
“I went a little bit too early,” Baez said. “But I saw him ready to throw the ball, and I didn’t want to get in a rundown, so I just kept going home.”
But if it got the ire of Joe Maddon, he didn’t let it show.
“Give Javy credit for what he did,” Maddon said. “One percent or less of all Major League players would have done what he did. Honestly. He’s just that good on the bases. Sometimes he’s going to look bad because he’s going to make what appears to be a mental mistake. But he had that all plotted out. That’s purely good baseball instinct by a kid that’s a baseball player.”
That’s what makes baseball the great.
Tonight will be the most important game for the Cubs this post season. Clayton Kershaw vs Kyle Hendricks. If the Cubs can get by Kershaw and go up 2-0 in the series, the momentum will be on their side. Kershaw has pitched 4 times in the last 10 days but he’s the league’s best. Hendricks though, is the Professor.
It’s the matchup I didn’t want but the Cubs will face the Los Angeles Dodgers tomorrow in the NLCS. The Cubs won the season series this year but they didn’t face Clayton Kershaw. These are both teams hungry for a pennant. Chicago hasn’t won a pennant since the war ended while the Dodgers last pennant was 1988.
With a team like the Dodgers who finished last in the league when it came to left handed pitching with .214 batting average. The Cubs will get that advantage in game 1 but when it comes to facing right handed pitching, well, they’re ranked second in the league.
“Experience matters,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Thursday. “Last year, a lot of us were doing it for the first time. We have a couple guys who are new, but we have a wonderful support group. At the end of the day, you learn how to win. What does that mean? It’s something you have to participate in daily, and there’s a support system in the group.”
That’s true. The Cubs were in this boat last year when they faced the New York Mets and as curses go, most Cubs fans will remember that Daniel Murphy almost single handedly destroyed the Cubs chances of going to the World Series. By the way, for those of you who are jumping onto the Cubs band wagon, the goat’s name in Cub history who got kicked out of Wrigley Field; his name was Murphy.
People can talk up experience all they want but it only makes a difference on paper. These Dodgers are dangerous and they’ve been to the post season the past four years. However, this is a different year for the Cubs and the Dodgers. They’re two very hungry teams wanting to move to the next level. This series can go either way. I’m leaning towards a long drawn out pitching duel. The key for the Cubs is to forget playing long ball. Get that pitch count up and exhaust the heck out of Clayton Kershaw. If they can do that, then they should be in good hands. Corey Seager’s first trip to the NLCS will certainly rattle his cages a bit.
“Pressure, expectations … I want our guys to thrive on those two words for the years to come, I want the organization to,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That means there’s a lot expected of you. Good. There should be. We should all have a lot expected of us. You’ve seen it all season. That’s actually … 106 wins … for the year. That’s pretty significant. So all those things, I want to have us channel in a positive direction.”
The Cubs bats are finally coming alive. I’m just lamenting those west coast night games. They’re going to make for long nights and even longer mornings.
“You’re sitting in the dugout, and when you get to the final four … there’s only one other game going on,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s pretty impressive.”
Cubs in 7
Tonight, the Chicago Cubs will find out who they’ll play in the NLCS. Will it be the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Washington Nationals? I’m taking the Nationals. The Cubs played better this season against them. If only because of that four game sweep back in May, the Cubs are going to have an easier time. Sure, the nationals are stacked but the Cubs are better defenders and I’m trusting in 2016’s playoff hero so far, Javier Baez.
Max Scherzer is pitching tonight so he won’t be ready for Saturday. There’s Dusty Baker managing against his old team and we all know what happened last playoffs at Wrigley when Dusty was in a Wrigley dugout? Speaking of superstitions, I think the Cubs have finally chased whatever superstitions haunted them. This being the season of ghosts and unusual occurrences, that last game 4 between the Giants/Cubs wasn’t so much about curses or anything but we were watching a team dig down deep and fight their way back.
“I think the biggest thing is nobody really cares in there about a curse or a goat or anything else,” Cubs pitcher Jon Lester said. “If we make a mistake, we’re not going to blame it on a curse or anything else like that. We’re going to blame it on ourselves and be accountable for it and move on to the next play or the next moment.
“Plus, I think we’ve got too many young guys in there that don’t even know what that stuff is,” Lester said. “It’s almost better to play naive and just go out and worry about us, worry about the Cubs, and not anything else in the past or, like I said, any animals.”
I hope Daniel Murphy decides to not go bear hunting this fall.
Cubs in 5
So, should the Cubs move on to the World Series I’d love to see them go up against the Toronto Blue Jays. It’d be a classic matchup that would rival the Giants/Cubs NLDS. Imagine Edwin Encarnation vs Kris Bryant. Jose Bautista against Anthony Rizzo or Addison Russell taking on Troy Tulowitski?
The Cubs are so evenly matched against the Blue Jays that it would take on epic proportions. I’m not tempting fate, just daydreaming. Neither team has played each other this year, which would add to the suspense of the series. “Canada’s Team” vs the Chicago Cubs.
Cubs in 6
In what will go down as one of the most thrilling playoff games in MLB history, the Chicago Cubs came from behind in the 9th inning to win the NLDS three games to one and a final score of 6-5.
To tell you I was starting to get worried yesterday was an understatement. The Cubs sure didn’t look like that behemoth team that won 103 games during the regular season.Their bats fell silent. Where was Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant? No, it was up to David Ross to provide any of the long ball excitement in game #4. I’ll tell you though, I’ve gained so much respect for Javier Baez. He’s been the spark plug for the team providing what Fox analysts described as “Not humanly possible!” stuff by the second baseman. He’ll surely be an MVP candidate this post season.
“He was incredible,” Pedro Strop said. “Javy can do anything. He owned this series. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Baez got the game winning hit in the ninth to put a damper on the Giants series.
John Lackey settled into a groove but it was Matt Moore’s steady workmanlike approach that kept the Cubs at bay. Now, it may sound like I’m heaping so much praise on the Giants but call it what it was, playoff baseball. The Cubs caught a break in the ninth with that rally.
“We’ve had several games that feel like that during the season but when you do it in the postseason, it gives you a whole ‘nother level of confidence late in the game,” said Ben Zobrist, who delivered a key RBI double in the ninth. “Once [Kris Bryant] and [Anthony Rizzo] got on, you kind of felt like, something good is going to happen here. Really, the last two nights, that’s what the Giants have done, they’ve put great at-bats together, rallies together. Tonight was our night.”
That “Something good” was Willson Contreras who crushed a two run single. You could see it on his face and who better to do it than the rookie? A symbolic gesture to the Cub’s Way and the brass in head office who built this team.
The Cubs needed this kind of adversity. I was hoping for a Mets/ Cubs matchup in the NLDS but in hindsight, this was the series that the Cubs needed. They haven’t been tested to this degree all year and the San Francisco Giants taught these young Cubs what playoff baseball is all about. One streak comes to an end but hopefully a new tradition begins and a curse finally brought to rest.
“We don’t quit,” Joe Maddon said. “That’s really what it comes down to. You hear that all the time, everybody says it, but you have to actually live it. And I have to tell you, I’ve seen it so many times from this group. That’s a big part of our philosophy. And I like to keep things simple, and that’s simple. … We just play 27 outs.”