Photo Credit: Chicago Sun-Times
The Chicago Cubs are back in the NLCS.
2016’s appearance came at a cost: every Cubs fan got an ulcer watching this resilient ballclub. I’m going to bring you back to every ridiculous moment – good and bad – that led to the Cubs taking out the Giants in four. It was outrageous.
Let’s try to make sense of how all this happened.
Jon Lester threw eight scoreless innings on 86 pitches. Uh, that’s ridiculous. The only reason he got pulled is that the Cubs have an absolute cyborg to close games that can locate a 103 MPH fastball with movement.
In the bottom half of the inning Lester was pulled, Javy Baez pimped the ever-loving hell out of a ball he crushed. With the wind swirling, the ball was knocked down. Baez destroyed the ball. Cubs fans knew off the bat it was gone, until they didn’t, until they did again.
Kyle Hendricks got hit with a liner in the forearm. Shades of Prior. Luckily, he was OK after X-rays were negative. Before that, he knocked in two with a single off Jeff Samardzija – a Cub from 2009 to 2014 – to extend the Cubs’ lead.
Travis Wood came in to replace Hendricks. Wood threw a scoreless couple innings. When his spot came up, the dude belts a home run almost halfway up the bleachers. He became the first reliever to hit a postseason home run since 1924. Yes, the Cubs had a pinch-hit home run from a reliever.
Entering Game 3, the Cubs had three RBI from spots 1-8 in the lineup and also from pitchers. Madison Bumgarner entered the game with 23 consecutive scoreless postseason innings and was at 25 through two until starter Jake Arrieta hit a three-run homer. This isn’t common, folks.
Arrieta lasted six in a nice outing. Hector Rondon ran into trouble in the eighth, and manager Joe Maddon brought in Chapman for a six-run save with the Cubs sitting on Arrieta’s home run, up 3-2. Chapman recorded one out successfully. Wild Card Game hero Conor Gillaspie stepped up to the plate with two runners on, having not faced a 100+ MPH pitch all season. Gillaspie roped a chest-high 102 MPH heater for a two-run triple. Improbable. The Giants added one run, and the Cubs had to manufacture at least two runs off a leaky Giants bullpen.
Kris Bryant – long, uppercut, beautiful swing and all – lifts a ball deep to left. It hits the top of the car wall in left field and bounces into the bleachers. It seemed like it was going to be their night at that point. The Giants had a bounce go the other way in Game 4 when Brandon Crawford hit the top of the wall in right field for a long double. (Seriously. How the hell did that not go out?)
Mike Montgomery gave them four scoreless innings. The Cubs had a chance. David Ross’ double play with two on in the top of the 13th was a killer before Montgomery served up two straight doubles after a wonderful long relief performance.
And, uh, how about that Almora catch and double-play earlier to rob Buster Posey and send the game to extras?
The Giants jumped out ahead 1-0 in the first until David Ross later answered with a solo home run at age 39. He’s the oldest Cub to homer in the postseason. He later earned his second RBI of the night with a sac fly.
It was a frustrating game. Lackey – with the bases loaded – threw a slider that didn’t slide on 0-2 to fellow starter Matt Moore that gave the Giants the lead back. Denard Span, who killed the Cubs all series, hit a taylor-made double play ball, but Lackey slipped while trying to find the bag at first. Then Giants added two more after Ross’ fifth-inning sac fly to take the lead. Gillaspie also went 4-for-4 in this game. Ridiculous.
Dexter Fowler literally made me punch a buddy’s bar when he got caught in no-man’s land on Kris Bryant’s fielder’s choice. When you’re 45 feet from either bag, just run to second and pray to the heavens you made a “great read” on the ball. That was un-needed at that time of the game.
Matt Moore got pulled after 120 pitches. The next two videos speak for themselves.
What a rollercoaster of emotions this series was, especially the last two.
But that’s how the Cubs got there, and the kids earned it.