Do not go gentle into that good night, . . .Rage, rage against the dying of the light. —Dylan Thomas.
The Cubs could have played their last game of the season tonight but they didn’t, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 in game four of the National League Championship Series. The Cubs still trail the best-of-seven series 3 games to 1, but as long as there is life there is hope, and the Cubs are still alive. They came back last year down 3 games to 1 with the final two games on the road.
Speaking of not going gentle, Jake Arrieta may have pitched his last game in a Cubs uniform. If so, then he gave the Wrigley faithful something to remember. The Cubs badly needed a strong game from a starter and Jake was terrific. If this is it, he gave everyone something to remember him by.
As they have in every game so far in the NLCS, the Cubs struck first with a home run. This one was a titanic blast off the bat of Willson Contreras, who hit the giant video scoreboard in left-center field. That was a good sign because Contreras left yesterday’s game with a hand injury.
But unlike in other games in this series, the Cubs didn’t stop with just one home run. Two batters later, Javier Baez crushed one down the left field line. There was no doubt the ball would leave Wrigley Field. The only question was would the ball stay fair. It did, and the Cubs lead was 2-0.
The Dodgers got a run back in the top of the third on one of the few mistakes that Arrieta made all night. He grooved a slider right over the heart of the plate to Cody Bellinger and for the second-straight night, Bellinger clanged the ball off the right field scoreboard.
But Javier Baez wasn’t done for the night. Baez had been benched earlier in this series because he had been 0 for 20 with eight strikeouts so far in the playoffs. But for the second time in as many at-bats tonight, Baez hit a solo home run to make it 3-1. Unlike the last one that was a majestic blast, this one was a line drive on a low changeup that Baez just golfed into the left field bleachers.
Meanwhile, Arrieta was brilliant. With the Cubs bullpen other than Wade Davis in meltdown mode, Arrieta gave Joe Maddon 6.2 innings, allowing just one run on three hits. He struck out nine, tying his own record for a Cubs starter in the postseason at Wrigley. The one downside was that Arrieta walked five, which was why he couldn’t go farther. Two of those walks came in the seventh inning and Arrieta exited to a loud, standing ovation with two on and two out. Brian Duensing got Cody Bellinger to hit a pop fly to shallow left field that scared everyone into thinking it was going to drop. But Jon Jay managed to corral it and end the inning.
Wade Davis came on to pitch the eighth inning and he was greeted by a Justin Turner home run. Let’s be clear: Justin Turner is good. He’d be an MVP-candidate if he hadn’t missed 32 games this year. He has the highest postseason OBP of any player with 100 or more at bats. That’s better than Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. But Davis, who hasn’t pitched since last game 5 of the Division Series, looked rusty and he struggled to get outs in the eighth. Like every other Cubs pitcher, he struggled to throw strikes. He walked the next batter, Yasiel Puig, before getting Andre Ethier to foul out to Kris Bryant.
That brought up the most controversial play of the game. Curtis Granderson was battling Davis until he finally struck out on the seventh pitch he faced, a curve ball in the dirt. At least, he struck out before he started complaining that it was a foul tip.
The play was not reviewable, but the Dodgers asked home plate umpire Jim Wolf to ask the other umpires for help. How in the world could an umpire down the third base line see a foul tip that the home plate umpire couldn’t? Not only that, the Cubs were showing the play on the Jumbotron and it was clear that Granderson didn’t make contact. But for some reason, third base umpire Eric Cooper thought he was sure enough that it was a foul tip to overrule the initial call.
Maddon went nuts over this obviously terrible call and got tossed. I hope Eric Cooper issues an official apology to Maddon and explains how in the world he thought he could call it a foul tip from third base. I won’t hold my breath. It was a terrible call and an unwarranted ejection.
Luckily, Davis struck out Granderson on the next pitch. But then he walked Yasmani Grandal before striking out Chase Utley. But all this meant that Davis had to throw 34 pitches to get through the eighth inning.
The Cubs had a rally going in the bottom of the eighth, but couldn’t force anything across. That meant that Wade Davis had to face the Dodgers and retire the side in order to not have to face Turner again. But it looked bad when Davis walked Chris Taylor with one out. But Cody Bellinger hit a hard one-hopper to Baez at second base that ended up as a game ending double play. But Davis threw 48 pitches tonight, making his availability for game 5 very doubtful.
As I wrote earlier, the Cubs were down 3 games to 1 last year and won it all anyway. But last year, the final three games lined up very nicely for the Cubs and the Indians starting pitching staff, which had been going on short rest the whole playoffs, looked vulnerable. That’s not the case with the Dodgers. For the Cubs to pull out another miracle, they’re going to need their starters to go deep into the game and the Cubs bats will need to come alive. So far, the Cubs have failed to score a run in the NLCS on anything but a home run. Also, Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have been held in check. All of that is going to have to change if the Cubs have any hope.
So sure, the odds are still terrible, they’re just a little less terrible than they were yesterday. And sure, this team has given no indication that they can run off four straight against the Dodgers. But let’s enjoy tonight’s win, enjoy the fact that theere is another game tomorrow and let’s not make anything easy for the Dodgers.
Let’s continue to rage against the dying of the light. Fly the W at least one more time.