In keeping with the spirit of the season, “It’s Alive! IT’S ALIVE!”
Coming into tonight’s game, all the talk in baseball was about how the Cubs’ offense had gone silent in losing the last two games. Sure, they were facing Clayton Kershaw, who is a better pitcher than Sandy Koufax ever was and Rich Hill, who had an ERA this season lower than Kyle Hendricks. And yes, the Cubs will have to face those two pitchers again if they want to win this series.
The pitching matchup tonight favored the Cubs, as veteran John Lackey, who came to Chicago for this and not a haircut, faced off against rookie Julio Urias. Now Urias is going to be a great pitcher one day if he manages to stay healthy. But right now, he’s the youngest person to ever start a postseason game. More importantly, he’s not Clayton Kershaw or Rich Hill.
You could feel the tension coming into this game as it was close to a must-win game for the Cubs. At least I could feel it in my legs. Maybe you felt it too. And things looked bad in the second inning when Lackey gave up a leadoff single to Adrian Gonzalez and then Yasmani Grandal walked with two outs. Lackey left one over the plate for the next batter Andrew Toles, who singled to Jason Heyward in right field. Gonzalez tried to score from third base and in all honesty, Heyward should have thrown him out by a mile. Instead, he made a lazy throw and Gonzalez slid under the tag for a run. Or he didn’t. Home plate umpire Angel Hernandez ruled him out and replay was called inconclusive, although he looked safe to me.
I think the Cubs caught a break, although I understand if you think differently. I understand why New York said this was “inconclusive.”
Meanwhile, Urias didn’t allow a hit to the Cubs over the first three innings as the bats stayed silent. Then, to lead off the fourth inning, Ben Zobrist laid down a perfect bunt for the first Cubs hit of the game. Then the floodgates opened as Baez singled and then Contreras singled, giving the Cubs their first lead since game one. Once again, it didn’t look like Zobrist had a chance to score from second base on the Contreras single, but Toles made a terrible throw that allowed Zobrist to score and Contreras to go to second base. A Heyward ground out made it 2-0 when Addison Russell came to the plate.
Russell has been slumping since mid-September, and he’d been in a funk the entire postseason. But he picked the right time to break out as he hit a two-run home run to center field.
The Cubs would score another run in the top of the fifth inning when another slumping Cub, Anthony Rizzo, crushed a solo home run to right-center, and with Matt Szczur’s bat no less. Even when he’s not on the roster, Szczur still finds a way to contribute.
The game got scary again in the bottom of the fifth. With a five run lead, Lackey walked the first two batters he faced in the inning. Maddon then pulled Lackey for Mike Montgomery, although not after Lackey gave the FS1 cameras an interesting lip reading moment. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts countered with Howie Kendrick pinch-hitting for Chase Utley, and Kendrick singled to load the bases. Montgomery struck out Corey Seager next and then he got a comebacker to the mound off of the bat of Justin Turner.
This was a reaction play. Montgomery stuck his glove up and tried to make the play. If he lets it go, Russell picks up the grounder and turns a double play. If Montgomery makes the play clean, he turns a 1-2-3 double play. Instead, the ball bounced off Montgomery’s glove and two runs scored.
I know what many of you were thinking. In other years, this would have been the beginning of a Cubs collapse. This year, the collapse never came. Montgomery retired the next two batters on ground outs without any more runs scoring. Then the Cubs struck back in the top of the sixth. Russell got an infield single and went to second on a bad throw by Kiké Hernandez. Then Montgomery, batting for himself, singled to left. With runners on first and third, Dexter Fowler singled to get one run back. Kris Bryant walked to load the bases and Rizzo singled again, scoring two more runs. The Cubs would go on to score five total runs in the sixth inning and put the game out of reach.
The one piece of bad news was that Carl Edwards Jr. exited the game in the seventh inning after complaining of a tight hamstring. Hopefully it’s nothing serious as Edwards is an important part of the pen. But I imagine Joe Smith is ready to go if Edwards can’t.
At the beginning of the season, if I would have offered you a best-of-three series, with two games at Wrigley, for the Cubs to make the World Series, you would have taken it, right? Even if I told you that Kershaw and Hill would start the two games in Wrigley, you would have taken it in a heartbeat. (Of course, you would have probably massively underrated Hill at the beginning of the season)
One thing we know: there will be at least one more game in Wrigley Field this year.
Tomorrow’s matchup is favorable one for the Cubs as it’s a rematch of the game one clash between Jon Lester and Kenta Maeda. Be happy. The Cubs are just two wins away from the World Series.
Everyone feel better?