Cubs Fall 4-1, in Turner Walk-off; Down 0-2 to Dodgers in NLCS

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By Richard Kagan

The Chicago Cubs found themselves in a 0-2 deficit in the NLCS vs. the Dodgers when Justin Turner hit a 3-run walk-off HR in the last of the 9th inning to give LA a thrilling 4-1 win over the visiting Cubs.

Turner’s HR came off John Lackey who was pressed into bullpen service in this series. He said he wanted the ball. He was relieving in the 9th inning, and Turner belted one deep to center field with two on and  two outs. The Dodger Stadium crowd erupted in joy as Turner circled the bases.  Lackey came into the game instead of Wade Davis, the pitcher with the most bull pen experience in these kind of situations. Why Maddon went with Lackey is a decision that will be questioned. Lackey had given up a lot of HR’s during the season. Tonight, he gave up another one and it ended the game.

The Cubs only had three hits in this game. One, an Addison Russell HR, which gave the Cubs a short-lived 1-0 lead, until Turner’s hit tied the game in the 5th inning. Turner finished the game with four rbi’s.  The Cubs offense was bogged down and off-balance as the Dodgers pitching staff dissected them as if in a college biology project. It seemed it was only a matter of time until the Dodgers won the game, and it happened in their last at-bats.

Kris Bryant and company could not get anything going. Bryant struck out twice.  Anthony Rizzo also fanned twice.

The Cubs were in a 0-2 hole in the NLCS in 2015 when the New York Mets took the first two games, then they went on to sweep the Cubs. The Dodgers and Cubs will play this Tuesday and Wednesday in Chicago.

Jon Lester started and went five innings, giving up the tying run and keeping the Cubs in the game. The BP did its job until the 9th inning. It was another one of those tense struggles until Turner won it in the 9th inning.

The Cubs could not get anything going against Rich Hill, and the rest of the Dodgers BP, one of the best in the majors this season.  The Cubs hardly hit the ball solidly all night except for Russell’s hit off starter Rich Hill. He was lifted early and reliever Brandon Morrow came in and retired the Cubs in order the next two innings.

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Cubs Beat Nats 9-8 to Advance to NLCS

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By Richard Kagan

Willson Contreras threw a laser to Anthony Rizzo to pick off Washington’s Jose Lobatron at first base in the biggest pick-off play in Cubs history.

Lobaton was originally called safe but Joe Maddon ordered a review of the play and it was overruled, thus Lobatron was ruled out and the 8th inning ended.  Anthony Rizzo applied a tag while Lobatron’s foot slipped off the bag. It was a stunning play and this seemed to epitomize the moxie of the 2017 Cubs.

The Chicago Cubs pulled off one of the most dramatic playoff games in Franchise history, save Game 7 in Cleveland, to beat the Nationals 9-8 in game 5, to silence the partisan crowd, and now it advances to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championshp Series starting on Saturday.

The Cubs don’t get a lot of time off to savor this kind of win, but they will take it. Chicago trailed early 4-1, when the Nats got home runs from Daniel Murphy and a three run shot from Michael A. Taylor to rattle pitcher Kyle Hendricks. Hendrick got out of the inning and pitched another, but it clearly wasn’t his night.

Matt Scherzer, one the top NL starting pitchers, who went 16-6 during the season, got the nod to relieve for Washington in the fourth inning. He was tasked at holding a 4-3 Nats lead.  He wasn’t able to do the job.

In a sequence of events that can only be called astounding, surrounding the mystery of playoffs lady luck, and baseball karma, The Cubs rallied and scored four runs with two outs and took a 7-4 lead.  Scherzer gave up two two out singles and a double by Addison Russell which scored 2 to make it 5-4. The fans in National Park were stunned. And, the Nats were reeling. javy Baez was at the plate and swung and missed at a pitch that was dropped by the catcher Matt Wieters, Baez ran hard to first base and was safe. Wieters threw the ball into right field for an error and the Cubs had a 6-4 when Russell scored. Tommy La Stella reached on catcher interference to load the bases. Scherzer than hit Jon Jay to award another Cubs run to make it 7-4, the Nats fans were silenced.  Later in the game, a ball was hit to left field where Jayson Werth apparently lost it in the lights to score another run to make 8-4 Cubs. Russell had another rbi.

These are the new Cubs and good stuff happens to them. This isn’t the Cubs of 1984 or 2003, or 2008. These Cubs find ways to win.

Six Cubs relievers came in after Hendricks departed and it was a high wire act. The Nationals came back. They scored a run on Wade Davis in the 8th to make it 9-8. But a double play and that pick-off play stopped the Nationals cold.  Davis got the final seven outs to close the door on the Nats.

Chicago moves on the face perhaps the best team in the National League in the LA Dodgers. They won games at a record rate until they went into a long losing streak not long before the season ended. The Dodgers have seem to have righted themselves and look formidable, having dispatched the Arizona Diamondbacks with relative ease.

The Cubs season continues and this is the third straight year they will be in the NLCS. Winning is becoming a good habit.

 

Strasburg Dominant, Taylor Slams Cubs, 5-0, Game 5 Thursday

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By Richard Kagan

The hoopla surrounding the Nat’s Stephen Strasburg’s mold issue was shifted aside by the dominating performance of the young right-hander, who allowed three hits, fanned 12 batters, and shut-out the Cubs for seven innings.

Washington had a 1-0 lead in a run that scored on Addison Russell’s miscue at shortstop. Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester both pitched well for the Cubs. But Strasburg was excellent today.

Michael A. Taylor hit a grand-slam homer off of Wade Davis in the 8th inning to give the Nats a 5-0 lead.

The Cubs managed three hits and some walks and it wasn’t enough to threaten Washington. Game 5 is scheduled for tomorrow in D.C. Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs.  Game 4 was played under a steady drizzle that wasn’t strong enough to cause a rain delay. That happened the day before. But it did look sort of gloomy around Wrigley Field with fans equipped to weather the conditions.

You have to tip your cap to Strasburg who held down Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez.

Washington rallied for 4 runs all with two outs. Carl Edwards got the first two outs and then lost his control and walked two batters to load the bases. Manager Joe Maddon came out and called in Wade Davis, who had been brilliant this season. He came in with a 1-0 count to Taylor. Taylor hit a pitch to right field and the ball went into the basket close to the top of the wall. That hit silenced the by then, wet but hardy fans.  The Nats broke the game open.  The Cubs mounted a rally in the bottom of the 8th inning that fizzled when Rizzo made an out.

The momentum has swung to Washington. They play a game 5 in front of their home fans. But in prior playoff appearences, they have failed to win that decisive game.  Kyle Hendricks hopes he can be the answer for the Cubs. He is not a power pitcher like Strasburg, but relies on location, changing speeds, and great excecution of his pitches.

The Cubs hope he can prevail. This has been an extremely close series. It is going to the final game.  It figures to be an exciting one.

 

Cubs Slip By Nats in 2-1, Game 3 Thriller

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By Richard Kagan

There were so many twists and turns in the Cubs 2-1 win over the Nationals, you’d need a geographical map to figure it all out.

Needless to say the Cubs overcame four fielding errors, a great pitching performance by the Nat’s Matt Scherzer, who flirted with a no-hitter until he left in the 7th inning when Ben Zobrist hit a double, and some base-running gaffes.  The latter coming in the last of the 8th inning when Rizzo hit a seeing-eye single that fell in between three fielders that scored the winning run. He was caught in a rundown between first and second. But the crowd was excited for the go-ahead run had just scored.

Yes, the Cubs beat Stephen Strasburg who no-hit the Cubs for five innings in game one, and Matt Scherzer who no-hit the Cubs for six plus innings in game three.

The Cubs won the game despite only getting four hits and making four errors. Two came on a miscue by Kyle Schwarber in left field that led to Washington’s only run. Once again, their powerful lineup was shutdown by Jose Quintana, who pitched very well but did not get a decision. Carl Edwards struck out Ben Harper and Wade Davis got the 1-2-3 in the 9th for the save.

Anthony Rizzo caught a pop-up just inside the first base line and second baseman Javy Baez was two-stepping it as Rizzo came down with the ball to end the game.

The Cubs take a 2-1 series lead with game four scheduled for Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

Washington is a dangerous team. Their offense was one of the best in the League. They drove in runs in bunches. The middle of their lineup is now 0-16 in recent at-bats. They can’t be held down for long. It’s going to take a great effort by starting pitcher Jake Arrieta to do the job. Arrieta has been a big game pitcher for the Cubs since he came over from the Orioles. Game four is a big one, for sure.

Albert Amora drove in Zobrist in the 7th inning with a pinch-hit single in probably the biggest hit of his young career. For Cubs fans, to see game tied at 1-1 was a joy in itself. The possibility of a no-hitter was quashed and Matt Scherzer was out of the game. The Cubs didn’t wait long. They scored in the 8th inning to take the lead.

One could feel the magic. The fans were euphoric. There will be a lot riding on game four, if Arrieta’s injured hamstring can hold up.

Cubs lose in Last Gasp 5 run Rally in 8th Inning, 6-3 to even Series 1-1

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By Richard Kagan

Jon Lester gave it his all, and held the Nationals to one run. The Nationals had a handful of hits going into th 8th inning and the energy of the crowd was lifeless.

Bruce Harper’s mighty swing changed all that in a instant. He hit a hanging curve by C.J. Edwards, and the ball jolted to the upper deck and tied the game with a two-run homer.

Now, the score was 3-3 and it was anybody’s game. Two more batters reached and with two on, Ryan Zimmerman connected off of lefty Mike Montgomery as the ball sailed over the left field wall to make the score 6-3 Nationals. Just like that.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said he thought his team would start to hit after being shut down for almost two games. And hit they did. Now, the series shifts to Wrigley Field and the friendly confines.  If the Cubs win two games there, the series would be over. A split in Chicago, sends the series back to D.C. for the fifth and deciding game.

Willson Contreras hit a home run to tie the game early and Anthony Rizzo hit a two run homer to all but silence the Big Red crowd.  Rizzo now holds franchise records for most HR’s in a playoff (6) and most RBI’s, (16).

The issue in this game is that hardly anyone else did any damage and the Cubs were holding onto a slim 3-1 with a sleeping giant across the way.  Harper who had just 5 hits in 24 at-bats since coming off a knee injury and the all-star missed 42 games before the last days of the season.  He connected off an Edwards mistake to tie up the game.

These Cubs don’t do anything easy.  It would have been stunning to take a 2-0 lead back to Chicago and wrap this up before the home town crowd.  Now, we have a ourselves a series. It wasn’t that left-hander Gio Gonzales pitched great. He didn’t finish the game. The Cubs could not get anything going to plate some runs. They had four hits late in game on three runs. You are just asking for trouble with that linescore. Washington made a few hits and some big ones count and now the series is even.

It will be good to go back to Wrigley with an opportunity to take control of this fairly evenly matched series.

Cubs Beat Nationals behind Hendricks and Rizzo, 3-0, take 1-0 lead in Series

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By Richard Kagan

The Chicago Cubs had silenced the sold-out Washington Nationals crowd of 43,898 when the Cubs scored two runs in the top of the 6th inning.

Javy Baez reached first base on an error by third baseman Anthony Rendon. The pitcher, Kyle Hendricks sacrificed him to second base, giving up the out. Kris Bryant, who earlier had struck out twice against power pitcher Stephen Strasburg, and had a two strike count, hit a single which scored Baez.  Anthony Rizzo, who looked anemic against Strasburg hit another single to score Bryant and now it was 2-0 Cubs.  Suddenly, Strasburg  who had fanned 10 Cubs, was hittable. Now, Hendricks seemed like the difficult pitcher to hit. “We waited him out and took advantage of opportunities,” said Rizzo.

Rizzo came up again in the 8th inning and met every challenge from veteran Ryan Madson, on in relief of Strasburg. He fouled off pitch after pitch, until he made Madson throw a pitch he could hit. A hit that went to left field for a double and that scored another run to make it 3-0. Suddenly, three runs seemed like a lot on this muggy night.

The Cubs closer Wade Davis came in the 9th inning to seal the deal. Washington Nationals had two hits and had been shut-out. The Cubs were being no-hit until the 6th inning but managed to score two runs. Kyle Hendricks matched Strasburg each inning. And, Hendricks got the decision. Now, it leads 1-0 in this best of 5 games series, with another game in D.C.

The Cubs are young, experienced, and dangerous. They look like they aren’t going anywhere —if they weren’t hungry before, they are now.  They went 15-4 to end the season and secure the Central Division title. The Cubs just had 5 hits but it was enough to beat Washington. They only had two. Hendricks kept the power hitters, who had made swiss cheese of league pitching, totally off-balance. Daniel Murphy, the noted Cubs killer, had a silent night.

If you can’t hit it is hard to win. If you can’t pitch, it is hard to win.

Tonight the Cubs had better pitching and timely hitting. And, now it has a 1-0 series lead.

Cubs In The Playoffs; To play Nationals on Friday Night

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By Richard Kagan

The Chicago Cubs are headed to the playoffs for the third straight year.

I believe this is what Cubs President Theo Epstein had in mind when he wanted to change the culture of the team. To stockpile the Cubs with talent up and down the lineup and transform them from lovable losers to lovable winners.  Cubs fans of new generations are getting used to seeing this team in October. Young kids are seeing their favorite players play in the biggest games. That is what helps solidify the fan base and it expands it.  The Cubs had a terrific year in attendance in Wrigley Field, drawing well over 3,000,000 people.  When you get down to it, that’s a lot of hot dogs and Cubs hats.

Instead of Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, the Cubs have Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, two of the best young Cubs players to come along in many years. Rizzo put up slugger numbers once again, hitting over 30 home runs and driving in well over 100 rbi’s. Bryant did not hit 30 HR’s but came close it.  He did lead the team in runs scored, doubles, and had a high on base percentage in the second half of the season. His home run against Milwaukee was a huge hit, only to be topped by Addison Russell’s 3-run homer against the Cardinals in the clinching game.

There was a stretch when the Cubs had won 14 of 17 games to create some distance between the contenders in the division. They finished the year at 92-70, 6 games ahead of the Brewers. And, this was a team that was 5 ½ behind Milwaukee before the All-Star break. The Cubs were one of the hottest teams in the National League, perhaps behind the Dodgers who went into a prolonged losing streak that prompted doubts among its followers. The Dodgers eventually pulled out of it, and have home field advantage in the playoffs.

The Cubs go on the road to face the Washington Nationals on Friday with a strong pitching staff and Bryce Harper, one of the best players in baseball.  The Nats are managed by Dusty Baker.  He also managed the Cubs to the playoffs. Lately, the Nats have had trouble getting out of the first round. They make the playoffs and haven’t gotten beyond the NLDS. They will face a rested and battle-tested opponent in the Chicago Cubs.

Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester are the two pitchers likely to get the nod for starting in game one. The series will go by quickly. It is best of five. The first two games are in D.C, and the next two are in Chicago. Game five will be played back in D.C.

A lot of words will be written prior to Friday about this series. But no one really knows what is going to happen. It’s best to start game one and see who is the better team.  In a week or so, we will know.