Chicago Cubs avoid NLCS elimination, feeling confident vs. Los Angeles Dodgers – USA TODAY
CHICAGO — It brought back all of those haunting memories of Steve Bartman reaching for that ball, or that black cat scurrying past Ron Santo, but Wednesday night the Chicago Cubs managed to turn all of the drama of a blown umpire call into a mere playoff victory.
The Cubs, thanks to closer Wade Davis’ latest herculean effort, hung for dear life to knock off the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-2, in front of a frenzied and angry Wrigley Field crowd, and staved off elimination in the National League Championship Series.
The Cubs, trailing 3 games to 1, barely have a heartbeat, but they’re at least still breathing, and after this zany affair, are starting to feel good enough to make travel plans.
Their schedule in the clubhouse showed their workout and batting practice times Thursday, with the last line reading: Friday, Travel to Los Angeles.
Yes, that would be for Game 6 at Dodger Stadium, which would mean they would have to somehow beat three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, would have to win without using Davis, who has thrown 92 pitches in his last two outings, and have no idea who would come in relief if Jose Quintana doesn’t go nine innings.
“We just want to have a good weekend in Los Angeles,’’ Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “We’re not ready to go home.’’
If the defending World Series champions are going to be knocked off, they showed they’re not going to do down easily, with Javier Baez doing his Reggie Jackson impersonation, going from oh-for-October to Mr. October with his two homers, Willson Contreras imitating Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig by admiring his 491-foot blast by taking 30 seconds to round the bases, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon ready to run onto the field naked if there had been a different outcome after a blown call.
Maddon ejected: Furious tirade followed bizarre blown call
It happened in the eighth inning with the Cubs clinging to a 3-2 lead, when Davis struck out Curtis Granderson with one on and one out. Granderson swung and missed at Davis’ 85-mph curveball, and home plate umpire Jim Wolf rung him up. Yet, Granderson argued that it was a foul tip that Contreras dropped. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts rushed out of the dugout, and asked Wolf to get help.
Foul tips are not eligible for video review challenges, so the entire umpire crew convened at third base and talked about it. Third base umpire Eric Cooper weighed in, but it was unknown exactly what he said. The call was overturned.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon rushed out of the dugout and went ballistic, the sellout Wrigley Field crowd of 42,195 turned nasty, and Maddon was ejected for the second time in four games. He kept encouraging the umpires to look at the huge video board at Wrigley Field, which showed in slow motion that Granderson’s bat completely missed the pitch.
It made no difference. Granderson was permitted to return to the plate.
“I was yelling at everybody, man,’’ Maddon said. “That was bad process. That’s what I’m yelling at. I’ve known a lot of these dudes for a hundred years, but can’t accept that under those circumstances. I mean, I was upset. Listen, this isn’t just another game. This isn’t June 23rd. This is an elimination game.
“That can’t happen. The process was horrible. That was really that bad. …The explanation, eventually it turned into hearing two sounds. Not one of them saw a foul tip or heard it was a foul tip. It was based on two sounds, which I totally cannot agree with that process whatsoever.
“You have 40-some thousand people, it’s late in the game, the other sound could have come from some lady screaming in the first row. I have no idea. I can’t buy that process. Could have been a guy, too. I don’t want to bang on a lady.’’
Maddon retreated to the dugout, Granderson went back to the plate, and with crowd infuriated and screaming obscenities, Davis calmly stepped back on the mound.
“I was just thinking of the next pitch I needed to throw,’’ Davis said. “I was trying not to get involved with it too much emotionally. I wanted to stay focused.’’
Davis’ next pitch was a 90-mph cutter. Granderson swung. And missed.
“To have that changed, and if Granderson hits the next pitch out,’’ Maddon said, “I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap.’’
Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, who had the best seat in the house, couldn’t believe it either: “I saw he swung and missed. We all did. You can’t have that happen in a playoff game.’’
Said Cubs reliever Brian Duensing: “We were in the clubhouse and went a little nuts in here. That was surprising to see it overturned.’’
Yet, while the Cubs were seething, and the crowd infuriated, the only one who stayed calm was Davis. He was the one who saved the Cubs’ season in Game 5 of the NL Division Series against the Washington Nationals by getting the final seven outs, throwing 44 pitches.
This time, he was being asked to get six outs. It started by surrendering a leadoff homer to Justin Turner and walking Puig in the eighth, and ended with Turner on the on-deck circle when Cody Bellinger grounded into a game-ending double play.
Just like that, the man twice saves the Cubs’ season, throwing a career-high 48 pitches.
“I enjoy being out there, especially in these situations,’’ said Davis, who will be the premier closer entering the free-agent market. “We’re down 3-0, so we have to win. I enjoyed being out there.’’
The Cubs, the first team in history to score the first run via a home run in the first four postseason games, certainly showed no signs of stress or pressure.
Why, judging by the reactions of Contreras and Baez, you’d think they were in spring training playing home run derby on the back field.
The homer everyone was talking about was Contreras’ monster shot in the second inning that would have landed in a different zip code if not for the left-field scoreboard blocking its path.
The ball left his bat at 111 mph, and would have travelled 491 feet, according to Statcast, the longest home run of the postseason.
And no one got a better view of the homer than Contreras because he never moved. He just stood there and watched. He didn’t even take a step toward first base until it clanked off the scoreboard.
Pretty long time to start his home-run trot, someone told Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber.
“Well, pretty long home run, too,’’ he cracked.
The game was also a late coming-out party for Baez, too, who had been hitless in his first 20 at bats this postseason. It was the longest drought by a Cubs player to open a postseason since Jimmy Sheckard in the 1906 World Series.
“I’ve been trying to get a base hit so hard,’’ Baez said. “Tonight, I just said to myself not to try too much. And I didn’t. And there you have it.
“I had two good contacts, and win the game by one run.’’
It’s now onto Game 5 and a chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles.
No one really gives the Cubs a chance to pull this off, but then again, no one believed the Boston Red Sox could recover from a 3-0 deficit to the New York Yankees, either, and the man who pulled off the stolen base to keep the Red Sox alive is now manager of the Dodgers.
“I think that was a once-in-a-lifetime thing,’’ Roberts said, laughing. “Teams can’t do that anymore. Obviously we were written off, but we did a good job of trying to focus on that game at hand and not getting ahead of ourselves. …
“We don’t expect anyone to lay down. They’re a very talented group. They’re the world champs, and you know they’re going to fight to the end.’’
Maybe, all of the way back to Los Angeles.
“We’ve won four in a row plenty of times,’’ Arrieta said. “Now, it’s just three in a row. That’s not hard to do. Let’s see what happens.’’
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