Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Sunday, Oct. 16.
So you’re driving a couple of hours, the car’s on cruise control, the Stones are coming out of the speakers and UH_ OH_ Here’s a sharp curve. You barely manage to make that curve and Holy_ blankety-blank here’s another sharp curve. Most highways aren’t built like that, and the ones that are tend to have wooden crosses near the curves. In the 1970’s and 1980’s Sidney Sheldon wrote novels that way, books which leisurely cruised along until you hit a sudden sharp bend, then another, and depending how good the book was, more and more twists and turns. The Cubs’ 8-4 win over the Dodgers last night would make long-time Angelino Sheldon smile from Heaven.
Things started out peacefully enough, with the Cubs ahead 3–1 through 7 innings at Wrigley. It looked like a repeat of the Indians’ dull 2-1 win earlier in the day to give them a 2 games to None lead over the Blue Jays. All night long the Cubs’ announcers had been talking about the wind howling out to left but the wind had very little effect early on. The one highlight was Javier Baez stealing home-the first Cub to do that in the postseason since 1907. It appeared the Dodgers’ bats might have gotten lost among the luggage at O’Hare Airport. If so, they arrived in time for the 8th inning (which is faster than my lost luggage ever got back to me.) They filled the bases with nobody out and the call went out for Aroldis Chapman from the Cubs’ bull pen. He struck out the first two men he saw, and no small men either. They were the Dodgers’ prize rookie Corey Seager and their combustible Cuban star Yasiel Puig. Chapman, the Cubs’ prize Cuban defector was “Dealin’,” as the players say it. He was throwing heaters at 103 MPH. The Dodgers’ last hope in the 8th with the bases full was veteran slugger Adrian Gonzalez. He smoked one of Chapman’s triple-digit fastballs up the middle for a hit, driving in two runs which tied the game and marked Chapman with his second blown save in 3 tries. He had also blown a save in game 3 in San Francisco leading to a 13-inning ultramarathon that had Cubs’ fans on the east coast up at 3 A.M. This base knock had those same Cubs’ fans thinking “Here we go again. What are my Sunday plans?” But the Cubs’ response was as quick as a blink. In the last of the 8th they too loaded the bases. Ben Zobrist, who the Cubs got from last year’s champion Royals for moments just such as this, began the party with a double off Joe Blanton. Blanton retired the next man he saw, then purposely walked Jason Heyward, who had been a major bust for the Cubs. Blanton stayed on and retired Javier Baez, then purposely passed Chris Coghlan. This brought up pinch-hitter Miguel Montero with the bases “juiced,” or “drunk.” Either one works when a man is perched on every base. Montero is, by his own admission a poor option as a pinch-hitter. Blanton threw two strikes to Montero, then left one where he could reach it. Montero launched it into the bleachers in right field. Then a shell-shocked Blanton gave up another bomb to right field by Dexter Fowler putting the game even further out of reach. It all made sense on paper-Coghlan had 8 hits in 17 trips lifetime against Blanton while Montero had just 2 of 11, a .182 average. But they don’t play the game on paper, as Blanton and Dodger manager Dave Roberts found out to their sorrow. Game 2 comes our way at 8 PM tonight. The Dodgers will turn to Clayton Kershaw, who started and won Tuesday and saved game 5 of the NLDS Thursday. He’ll need to go long, as yet again Kenta Maeda only threw 4 innings in his start last night. The Cubs have no such worries, as they go with Kyle Hendricks who led the league in ERA this season. The Indians and Jays shift to Toronto for game 3 on Monday while the Cubs and Dodgers travel to Los Angeles for game 3 Tuesday.
Bryce Harper is a youth of 24 today, though it seems he’s been around forever. The Nationals took him in 2010 with the first overall pick in the country. Can you imagine a time when they were that dreadful? He made his debut with them in April 2012 well before turning 20. He has a .279 lifetime average for his first five MLB seasons. He’s already been an All-Star 4 times, only missing the party in 2014. He was Rookie of the Year in 2012 and MVP last season. When he went to the 2012 All-Star game, at age 19 he was the youngest position player ever to be so honored. Not even Mel Ott could make that claim, since he was a grizzled veteran of 24 with 7 years MLB experience under his belt before the first All-Star game was played.