Cubs and Jays: All They Need is a Miracle

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Both the Blue Jays and the Cubs will need improbable comebacks if they hope to participate in this year’s World Series. The Jays were slaughtered 14-2 by the Royals last night in Toronto, and now trail the ALCS 3 games to 1. The Cubs lost to Jacob DeGrom and the Mets 5-2 and are in an even deeper hole, 3 games to none. Neither team has come back from such a deficit to reach the World Series. Toronto won both the 1992 and 1993 playoffs in 6 games in the only two seasons where they reached the Fall Classic. The last time the Cubs were there was in 1945, 24 years before the first LCS was played.

In the early game in Toronto, the Royals’ bats proved Jim Bouton’s principle about the knuckleball. He wrote “When the knuckleball doesn’t knuckle, it’s a piece of cake–pound_ cake.” After a bunt single by leadoff man Alcides Escobar, Ben Zobrist pounded a flat knuckleball for a two-run home run. Lorenzo Cain walked and stole second, proving another weakness of an knuckleball pitcher. They’re usually easy to run on because of the jumpy nature of the pitch. After an Eric Hosmer single, Cain scored on a passed ball Russell Martin couldn’t handle even with the oversized mitt catchers use when handling the knuckleball. Mike Moustakas drove in Hosmer with a scoring fly ball making it 4-0 in favor of the visitors. More trouble awaited in the second. Alex Rios hit one out of the lot making it 5-0. After a hit batter and a walk, Dickey was gone. The Jays scored two in the third, and the bull pen kept it at 5-2 Royals until the 7th. Surprisingly, starter Chris Young wasn’t around long enough to get the win. He was pulled one out shy of qualifying for the win which Luke Hochevar got. For the Jays, Liam Hendriks kept the game at 5-2 until he was relieved by LaTroy Hawkins in the 7th. He didn’t get a man out, and all 3 batters he put on base scored after Ryan Tepera relieved him. All told the Royals put up 4 in the 7th, 3 in the 8th and 2 in the 9th off infielder Cliff Pennington, although the runs were charged to Mark Lowe’s record. Pennington is the first ever position player to pitch in a postseason game. This is a move managers usually make in a midseason game when their team is hopelessly behind. While the Jays were admittedly hopelessly behind at 12-2 in the 9th, I see no excuse for their manager John Gibbons to turn the end of the game into a farce by bringing Pennington in. Lowe could have given up those runs as easily as Pennington did, and he only had an inning left. No way were the Jays going to get 10 runs in the 9th. The Padres stuck with their pitchers in game 1 of the 1984 NLCS when the Cubs embarrassed them 13-0. The Yankees did not involve any position players on the mound when they were humiliated by Arizona 15-2 in game 6 of the 2001 World Series.  With this series now 3 games to 1 in favor of the Royals the teams revert to the starting matchup from game 1. The Royals put Edinson Volquez on the hill, the Jays counter with Marco Estrada. The game is at 4:07 PM in Toronto.

Meanwhile the Mets are a game away from their first World Series since 2000 after taking a 3 games to None lead in the NLCS over the Cubs with a 5-2 win.   Jacob DeGrom continued the Mets’ sensational pitching in this series working 7 innings giving up only two runs. Both were on solo home runs, by Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler. But the Mets had their own power, supplied by Daniel Murphy. In the third, with the score 1-1 he launched a home run in his fifth straight postseason game. Only Carlos Beltran had ever done that, back in 2004 with the Astros. Soler’s blast tied the game 2-2. For some reason, Cubs manager Joe Madden took out his starter Kyle Hendricks after only 4 innings and put in a parade of relief pitchers. Again, this is a strange thing to do in a playoff game if the starter is doing even reasonably well, as Hendricks was. The first of the parade, Clayton Richard did well but Trevor Cahill ran into trouble in the sixth. Yoenis Cespedes picked up his second hit of the night, following an RBI double in the first. Lucas Duda put down a sacrifice bunt, his first since 2011. Incredibly, Cespedes then stole third. This allowed him to score when the third strike to Michael Conforto got away from the Cubs’ catcher Miguel Montero. The game could have turned when Wilmer Flores’ shot was declared a ground rule double and Conforto was not allowed beyond third though he had been running on the play. But DeGrom retired the Cubs 1 2 3 in the sixth erasing whatever momentum they could have gained from an awful umpiring decision. The Mets sealed things in the 7th with two runs off Travis Wood. David Wright, Murphy and Cespedes all put up base hits, Duda drove in Murphy on a grounder and it was 5-2 Mets. After DeGrom left, Tyler Clippard gave up a double in the 8th that went nowhere. Jeurys Familia retired all 3 men he saw and the game was put in the books for the Mets. Tonight, they turn to their lefty phenom Steven Matz whose only loss in the majors was to Clayton Kershaw. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, as Kershaw is certainly the best lefthander in the league and maybe the best righthander, as Casey Stengel once described Sandy Koufax.  Matz’ opponent tonight is no Kershaw or Greinke. It will be Jason Hammel of the Cubs. While Hammel started the Cubs’ clincher against the Cardinals he only lasted 3 innings giving up 4 runs, and did not qualify for the win. Madden needs all hands on deck except for John Lester, who is slated to start tomorrow night if the Cubs manage to win tonight.

As for Daniel Murphy, with 6 home runs this postseason he joins 13  other men with 6 in a postseason. Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey JR and Jim Thome are the best known of the group, along with Bob Robertson, Lenny Dykstra, Nelson Cruz, Chase Utley, Albert Pujols, Larry Walker, Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval, Rich Aurelia and Bernie Williams. Things will get less crowded if he keeps going. 3 men have 7 homers in a postseason and 3 have 8. I’ll tell you who they are if and when Murphy becomes one of their number.

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