I absolutely love following a team that is so far beyond anything I could describe. I can’t encapsulate so much of what they’ve already done, and I doubt I’ll have any hope of coming close to what they’re going to do. But goddamn, is this fun or what?
There’s probably only a few things that we can have a discussion about in tonight’s game, so let’s try and do that.
First off, I really had no problem with pulling Lester after six innings. While he’d only given up the one run, the Dodgers were making seriously solid contact all night. Fowler had to make two great plays, and Russell, Bryant, Rizzo all had to snare screaming liners at some point in the night. While he had navigated a third trip through Turner, Seager, and Puig, you never felt comfortable.
They got through the 7th ok, so we get to the 8th. There’s a school of thought, and just like Game 3 in San Francisco, that if you’re going to ask Chapman to get six outs then go ahead an do it at the top of the inning. In fact, that’s what I said on Monday. So it’s probably hypocritical to say different tonight.
But the 8th inning was a lot of bad luck. Toles pinch-hits but it’s still lefty against lefty and he just gets one off his knuckles to left field. You could then argue that Joe got a bit cute. Kendrick has never actually hit lefties well, you’re up two runs anyway and Montgomery could have this. Turner also doesn’t hit lefties well, even though he’s right-handed. But at the same time, bringing in Strop is defensible. He barely missed on a walk to Utley who pinch hit, and he wouldn’t have if Montgomery was still there. Turner reached on a rare brain fart from Bryant. No one had made a bad pitch really.
So now you’re up against it. You’ve got the highest leverage situation possible. So you want your most dominating reliever out there. That’s Chapman. I know I said he’s just not comfortable with anything other than a clean inning that’s the 9th, but that didn’t feel like this. He struck out Seager and Puig rather easily. My one quibble is that Gonzalez is a professional hitter. He’s looking to go up the middle or opposite field. Make him pull a ball on the inside half that’s 102 MPH minimum. I don’t think he can. But I don’t know who to pin that one, Ross or Chapman.
But you know what? It’s ok.
That’s because one, Dave Roberts got far cuter than Maddon did and also the Cubs always have an answer.
So Zobrist gets on, and then Russell can’t figure out to hit the ball to the right side. Heyward is up, and though it pains me to admit he’s an out. That’s what he’s been all year. You can get afraid of pedigree, but there’s 162 worth of evidence this year to tell you otherwise for right now. And Roberts walks him. He gave up what is pretty much an out. This is pretty much a gift, and Roberts even got away with it when Baez got a bit ambitious. But he was so focused on getting Chapman out of the game that he intentionally walked Coghlan too.
Could he predict that Blanton would hang two sliders to Montero? Of course not. But that’s two pretty shitty hitters Roberts elected to bypass simply to get a pitcher out of the game without a guarantee that he would still have a tie when that would matter.
But all that said, it keeps feeling like there’s something more at work, doesn’t there? Miggy had been awful most of the season, and he’s coming up with a grand slam in the pinch? Does that happen? You can’t even criticize Roberts for making the Cubs produce something off the bench in that spot. Soler and Cogs were burned. Who was left? Almora? The odds were in his favor.
But the Cubs have laughed at all of that all season. They keep laughing, And we keep laughing with them. God, this is so much fun, isn’t it?