Cubs Find No Joy In WrigleyVille

Part of the beauty of baseball and any other sport for that matter, is that there has to be a winner and a loser. To say that the Cubs shouldn’t have been in the NLCS this year would be wrong. They won their right to qualify for the World Series but last night’s 11-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers showed fans , sport writers and the Cubs brass just about everything they needed to know about what went wrong with the Cubs during the first half of the season. It also should everyone just how mismatched the Cubs/Dodgers series was in the first place.

“It’s a disappointing season that we didn’t go to the World Series,” Chicago pitcher Jon Lester said, “but whenever you get on the plane to go home or get in the car to go home, you have to look at the positives, and the positives are we gave ourselves a chance. It didn’t happen this year. We got beat by a better team. You’ve got to tip your hat sometimes.”

There’s that tipping of the hat again. No, the Cubs shouldn’t tip their caps. They should be saying ,”Thank you” to the Dodgers that this was done in five games. It was fitting that a three time Cy Young winner was facing a pitcher, who’s name wasn’t Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester. It was Jose Quintana. A pitcher that looked like a deer in headlights after the first inning.

“The better team won over the course of these five games. They played really well. They kind of out-pitched us and everything else. So give them credit. Dave Roberts and their entire staff, I just want to say, ‘Congratulations.’ [We] know what it feels like coming off of last year — we were celebrating versus them in this exact same spot. So they’ve had themselves a spectacular year, and I want to wish them all well in the World Series.” Joe Maddon said.

As I do too. They dominated the Cubs in every category. When the guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant can’t get it done; then there’s problems. Someone asked me yesterday what my prediction was for last night’s game, and I told them,

” You have a three time Cy Young winner going against a team without their best starting pitcher, their top guys in a hitting slump and a closing ace that’s unavailable; David had better odds against Goliath”

Which they replied,”That was a story and David won”

“No, this is baseball and numbers don’t lie.”

Of course, I was hoping the Cubs would in some miracle, win and move on but in a way, I’m glad the season is over. The Cubs need to lick their wounds and concentrate on next year. I’m proud of the team, their accomplishments and look forward to spring again. When everything is new and hopes and dreams are a clean slate.

“As a team, we know it’s an accomplishment to get to where we’ve gotten to,” Ben Zobristsaid. “But after what we experienced last year, this is less than what we wanted this year. At the same time, you have to recognize how tough a year it was for us. We kept battling and were able to win our division and win the Division Series to get here. I think the Dodgers were just better. They played a phenomenal series and we didn’t. We have to keep our heads up. We kept battling together and stayed together.

Casey At The Bat

by Ernest Thayer

The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that –
We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.

#ThatsCub

Believe it

Cubs Display Courage In Elimination Game

The Chicago Cubs on the brink of elimination, at home, fought off the Los Angeles Dodgers to force a game 5 tonight. Yesterday, the Cubs launched three home runs on their way to a 3-2 victory. It wasn’t easy but starting pitcher Jake Arrieta struck out 7 over  7 and Javier Baez launched two home runs, while Willson Contreras contributed a monster of a moon shoot to help the Cubs win the game.

“You’ve got this many fans on their feet, pulling on the same side of the rope,” Arrieta said. “It breathes some added energy. I’m thankful they came out and had the energy they did. It really helped us tonight. “It’s not an ideal situation, but I’ve been in this situation before and I enjoy it.”

It’s also a situation where Arrieta might have pitched his last game for the North Siders, but if it is, the former Cy Young winner will go out on a high note.

The game wasn’t without controversy after Curtis Grandson swung at a pitch and the ball bounced on the ground but Grandson thought it was a foul tip, so the Dodgers argued and the call was overturned.

It wasn’t.

The crowd knew it and well, so did Joe Maddon and that’s why after he argued, he was tossed from the game.

“The explanation was eventually — eventually it turned into hearing two sounds. Not one of them saw a foul tip or heard — thought it was a foul tip. It was based on two sounds, which I totally cannot agree with that process whatsoever. When you have 40-some thousand people, it’s late in the game. The other sound could have come from some lady screaming in the first row. I have no idea. I can’t buy that process,” Maddon said.

The umpire admitted his faux pas afterwards, but if the Cubs lost the game on that call, then there would have been even more controversy and that wouldn’t have been good at all.

So, tonight the Cubs will send Jose Quintana to the mound to face Clayton Kershaw in another loser stay home, which in this case won’t be that far. It’s going to be tough facing the best pitcher in the game but this is why the Cubs brought Quintana in.

“That guy’s been pretty dang good for us and I know he’s going to go out there and battle for us, that’s for sure,” added outfielder Kyle Schwarber. “We’re really looking forward to having him out there.”

On a sombre note, on Tuesday, leader singer Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip passed away from glioblastoma  at the age of 53. He was considered by many as the poet laureate of Canada. Downie  and the Hip wrote many songs about our nation and were essentially the Rolling Stones of Canada. They never made it big on the Stateside but were even bigger in the hearts of many Canadians. It’s not uncommon to hear their music blasting from car speakers every summer, in fact it’s a tradition and last night during a candle light vigil in Springer Market Square, it was no different. For me, their music and his words are a reminder of my college years or just about every party I went to, there was a Hip tune playing.  In honour of Gord’s passing and to give the Cubs a little courage, taken from the 2004 Grey Cup:

 

Courage,

Believe it

Cubs Can’t Figure Out Dodgers

NLCS Game 3: Dodgers 6, Cubs 1

It’s easy to point fingers when things don’t quite go as they planned but the truth is that after last night’s heartbreaking 6-1 loss to the Dodgers, the Cubs, who are down 3-0 in the NLCS and face elimination tonight, well, they’re just getting beat by a better team.

“I don’t think there’s any need to change anything,” Chicago’s Kris Bryant said of the club’s approach on Wednesday. “I think we can play even more loose, because what have we got to lose? No one’s expecting us to come back except the guys in this room. I don’t know if it’s a comforting feeling, but I guess it takes a lot of pressure off us because no one’s expecting us to win.”

He’s partially right. They changed things up and they still lost. For some strange reason, the Cubs can’t seem to hit anything thrown in their direction. They’ve been here before and know what’s at stake. All of us arm chair quarterbacks can question Maddon’s bullpen decisions or lineup changes but in the end it comes down to the Cubs not being able to capitalize on situations.

“I’m not going to sit here and throw a lot of hyperbole your way,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s just about our guys. Your back’s absolutely against the wall. Tomorrow is a Game 7. We have three or four Game 7s in a row coming up right now. … We need to gain some kind of mental momentum, and obviously that’s our last chance to do it [Wednesday].”

So, even if the Cubs had an amazing first half and coupled with their incredible second half of the season, the outcome would still be the same. They would have faced the Dodgers somehow and probably still got beat.

Tonight, they have Jake Arrieta on the mound. The former Cy Young winner will look to extend the Cubs season. Remember, the Cubs have been down in a series before.

“It’s just taking one game at a time, really,” Arrieta said. “There is no use in dwelling on what happened the night before or a couple days ago and trying to look too far into the future. I think that’s the mindset that we’ve kind of carried throughout the season, and it’s worked out really well for us.”

Anything can happen. If the Cubs win tonight, they stave off elimination. If the Cubs go on to defeat the Dodgers, everyone will forget the “He should have had Davis in” rants on Twitter. These aren’t the Dodgers of last season. The Cubs aren’t the Cubs of last season either.

“I wouldn’t sit here and say we’re going to lose,” Carl Edwards said. “We’re still confident. We’re ready. It’s a very funny sport. And we’d like to say the tables can turn at any time.”

Believe it

 

 

Cubs Down 2-0 in NLCS. Head Back To Wrigley

If the Chicago Cubs go on to lose the NLCS then it’ll be on Joe Maddon’s shoulders. There I said it. I say this after the Cubs were downed by the Dodgers 4-1 and now the Dodgers have a two game lead going to Chicago on Tuesday.

Sure, Kris Bryant‘s bat has gone silent, in fact, the rest of the team has been quiet in this series. Nobody can blame it on stellar pitching because both rotations have been in a state of flux. The fact is that Jon Lester should have stayed in for another inning or even a couple more outs. Carl Edwards was good for another few outs and well, Brian Deunsing was pitching really well, so I don’t quite understand what went wrong there? Oh wait, I’m sure everyone’s scratching their heads over the use of John Lackey. The guy has never pitched back to back games in his life.

“I really just needed him for the save tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He had limited pitches. It was one inning only, and in these circumstances, you don’t get him up and then don’t get him in. So if we had caught the lead, he would have pitched. That’s it.”

Now, I’m glad Wade Davis wasn’t used, he’ll be fresh for Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Here’s hoping it’s cold in Chicago and Yasul Puig’s tongue sticks to the bat. Any recommendations of a rule change to aluminum?

“It’s their guys versus our guys,” Addison Russell said. “We’re playing to win. I feel like the competition just steps up a little bit because each pitch is more crucial, each swing, each play. An error can be the deciding factor of winning or losing. A bad pitch can be the decision of winning or losing. That’s really what I like about it.”

It’s really going to come down to the Cubs scoring more runs and Maddon not playing hot potato with his bullpen. Kyle Hendricks gets the start on Tuesday. He’s well rested and he needs to put up a performance for the ages, at least seven innings. Carl Edwards Jr relieves him and then it’s Wade Davis’ turn to shine.

“All you’re focused on is making pitches,” Hendricks said recently. “That’s my job and it never changes — no matter regular-season game, postseason game, no matter who you are facing on the other side of the mound. My focus is to go out there, make good pitches, rely on my preparation which I’ve done all year long. But when it comes down to it, when those lights turn on, you just have to execute pitches better than the other guy.”

The Cubs have been down in a series before and fought back, we know this and we know the results. They needed that win in LA, but not all is lost. They win three at Wrigley and take one back in LA. Easy Peasy, right? Bill Murray will be there to cheer them on and the momentum is clearly in the Cubs corner.

Believe it

 

Exhausted Cubs Take One On The Chin, And A Bill Murray sighting.

We knew going into the NLCS that it wasn’t going to be a cake walk. The Los Angeles Dodgers had an amazing season and of course, if it wasn’t for the first half, the Cubs would have given them a tough go at first overall. Last night’s exhaustive 5-2 loss came as no surprise.

“[The Dodgers] won 100-plus games for a reason,” the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo said. “They have a really good bullpen. It’s just about bringing those guys into the strike zone. They don’t really have guys who give in.”

Neither do the Cubs. There is good news about yesterday’s game. If the Cubs play their cards right, they probably won’t have to face Clayton Kershaw again, although we know that nothing is written in stone.

Two things that did the Cubs in was the play at the plate where Willson Contreras allegedly blocked the plate, it was the right call but it wasn’t done intentionally. Both players were doing their jobs. Unfortunate yes, but the Cubs should rebound tonight.

Why?

Jon Lester.

“I have all the faith in the world,” Joe Maddon said. “You have to trust your guys. You have to trust the conversation and I do. Jonny said he feels great, so Jonny’s pitching. And furthermore, this time of the year, these kind of battle-tested guys under these circumstances — they look for these moments.”

I do too. The Cubs were beat because of their thrilling series to the Nationals. They were exhausted beyond compare and up against the well rested Dodgers, it was inevitable that the Cubs lost game 1.

“Right now, I think the biggest difference is we have to get our bullpen in order,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s probably the biggest difference between both seasons — that we have to be able to hold small deficits or small leads in the middle and then hopefully get to [Wade Davis] in a positive situation. I think standing out right now, their bullpen is pretty firm, and we have to really get our feet back on the ground.”

Tonight is what I’d call a do over. Lester is a competitor and a pro. A big difference in the outcome.

Oh, that other thing that beat the Cubs was the weirdness of Yasiel Puig. His bat flip was justified but I think he’s a pariah to the Dodgers. In a post game interview, Puig said it wasn’t his first career post season home run, when in fact, it was.

Ah well.

Hey, recognize this guy?

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing

He was spotted near where I live in Kingston. The pizza joint is called The Pizza Place    Now, it’s always thrilling seeing Bill Murray in the crowd at Wrigley and I’m assuming that he’ll be there when the series returns home.

Tonight, 8 O’Clock the tides will turn in the series.

“It’s a series, so we just have to come at it the same way and just not panic, really. Just go in with the same mindset and just be ready [on Sunday]. I think we’re going to come in here with clear minds and an upbeat attitude and ready to get after it.” Addison Russell

Believe it

Chicago Cubs Advance To NLCS

Last night was one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever seen. The Chicago Cubs are NLDS Champions and advance to the NLCS to face the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers after a 9-8 victory sending the Washington Nationals golfing for another year.

“I would say this is the most fun I’ve had playing in a baseball game, and it ranks right up there with winning the World Series,” Addison Russell said.

You know, he’s right. It would come close to winning the World Series, I mean he should know, right? It seemed both the Cubs and the Nationals expired their pitching order respectively in an attempt to thwart each other and win the NLDS. Neither starting pitcher could get it done with Kyle Hendricks or Gio Gonzalez. To give you an example about how weird the game was, Hendricks threw seven strikeouts and Gonzalez had six. If this were any other game, those would be decent numbers but not last night; The Cubs wanted to go on to their third NLCS while the Nationals haven’t won a series in 36 years (going back to the Expos)

“This was such a tough series, just a dogfight,” said Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who started the series’ opener and finale. “You’ve got to tip your hat. That club on the other side is really, really good. Lot of tough ballplayers over there. Top to bottom, they’re just so deep. We’re just lucky we were able to come out on top.”

Luck being the key word. This series truly would have gone the other way and normally I cringe when athletes “Tip their cap” to their opponent but in this case, it’s justified. I’ve never been more nervous watching a ballgame then last night.

“Really anxious, almost bemused at some of the things that were happening in that game,” said Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations. “It was kind of a surreal game. We got all those runs with only one big hit to drive in runs, and then it was a matter of just holding on, finding a way to get 27 outs. It seemed impossible at times.”

Trust me Theo, it looked impossible from this end as well. When they say a pitcher’s duel, they included when the pitcher’s performances were sub par as well. If there were a way to get 27 outs without throwing strikes, this was the game.

“That’s one of the most incredible victories I’ve ever been part of,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Under the circumstances, in the other team’s ballpark, after a tough loss at home [in Game 4], to come back and do that, give our guys all the credit in the world.”

The NLCS begins tomorrow night. I hope the Cubs have one of their” fun days” and try to relax because one thing that this year’s edition of the post season has shown us is that the Cubs are out to prove last season wasn’t just plain old luck. However, the Dodgers are rested and the Cubs’ machine is well oiled.

Believe it

Cubs Lose Tough One, Go To Game 5 Winner Take All

It wasn’t supposed to go this far in the NLDS, the Chicago Cubs were supposed to stomp all over the Nationals and go forth to defend their NLCS title. But we know that this is the Chicago Cubs and the weather patterns and nail biting have commenced this October. Leave it to a rain delay and a last minute pitching change by Dusty Baker to set the tone for last night’s make up game. There’s going to be the would have, should haves and could have beens in the 5-0 defeat but instead, the Cubs and the Nationals will meet tonight in a do or go home situation in Washington.

“It’s not ideal, but now the series is tied with the decisive Game 5 coming up tomorrow,” Chicago starter Jake Arrieta said. “We like our chances — as long as Strasburg isn’t on the mound, we’ll be all right.”

You have to love Arrieta’s wryness but Strasburg wasn’t supposed to be pitching yesterday, in fact by rights, the game should have had Tanner Roark on the mound and the game should have been played Tuesday early afternoon before the rain. That didn’t happen and the past is the past.

“We just have to be offensively a little bit better tomorrow,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They have been really good. We have been really good. Listen, they got a grand slam. Otherwise, it’s kind of like the same game both sides.”

There we have it, tonight it’ll be Kyle Hendricks up against whoever the heck Dusty Baker decides to throw in. Hendricks has been here before. The NLCS last year that sent the Cubs to the World Series. This is the most important game of Hendricks life, well not including game 7 of the World Series. Ok, so this is the second most important game of Hendricks life. Then again, this is what they’re paid for; these situations.

“You know what the atmosphere is going to be like. You know what the crowd is going to be like,” Kyle Hendricks said. “All those external factors, if you can kind of keep that under control, you know the pitching part. You know what to do once you get out on the mound. Being able to control all those external factors, I think, is going to be huge. Yeah, it will help me out. At the end of the day, it’s just about making good pitches. That’s where I need to mentally prepare, go out when it’s Game 5 and just make good pitches.”

If there is any other pitcher the Cubs have in their arsenal for tonight’s game, this is the guy they want to go to the mound with.

“We have all the confidence in that guy,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “He goes about his business in such a way where, if you just watch him work, the confidence is there. It builds confidence throughout this team. We’re really happy to have him out there.”

Believe it.