Dodgers Rout Cubs 11-1 to Take NL Pennant

kris bryant

By Richard Kagan

For Cubs fans, the suspense ended early. The Los Angeles Dodgers, with a 16 hit attack, took out the Chicago Cubs in a barrage of hits and long balls.  LA’s Kike Hernandez hit three home runs, including a grand slam blast to put an exclamation point in just the third inning.

By then the score was 7-0 Dodgers and starter Jose Quintana was headed to an early shower. The rest of the Cubs BP didn’t stem the tide, and the Dodgers coasted to the win. Clayton Kershaw give up just one run, a homer to Kris Bryant, and that’s all the scoring the Cubs could muster. The Cubs lost in a 11-1 rout. If it was a boxing match, it would have been called early. This game was one-sided and it showed in the team’s total bases: Dodgers 30, Cubs 7.

Justin Turner and Chris Taylor were named co-MVP’s for the series, which the Dodgers won in five games. Turner batted .333 and drove in 12 rbi’s. Taylor was all over this series, getting key hits and playing different positions. He batted .316 in five games. The Cubs, meanwhile hit .156 BA and had struck out 53 times. Anthony Rizzo, one of their hitting stars, batted .059.  Their eight runs scored on home runs, not one was driven in with a runner on a base. The Dodgers pitching was that dominant. The relief corps did not allow a Cub run to score in the late innings.  The Cubs managed just four hits off LA pitching in the clinching game.

Hernandez hit home runs in the 2nd, 3rd, and 9th innings and drove in 7 runs in the game. His three home runs was reminiscent of Reggie Jackson’s three home runs hit in the World Series against the Dodgers in Yankee Stadium in 1977.

The Dodgers were the better team and they will play the winner of the Houston-New York series that the upstart Yankees lead 3-2 in the best of seven series.

The Cubs won the Central Division for the second straight year. The club had the second best record since the All-star Break in the Majors behind Cleveland, who went on a 22 game winning streak during the summer. The Cubs had good starting pitching as Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks had strong second-halves. Arrieta is a free-agent and may be looking for a big payday, based upon his production with the Cubs. He won the Cy Young Award in 2015. Chicago has been the NLCS in three consecutive years.

However, it’s back to the drawing board for the Cubs. Their core players are young and talented with a World Series pedigree. They have the revenue to find the missing pieces they need. The team traded away blue-chip prospects in Dylan Cease and Eloy Jimenez to land Quintana, who was a boost to the Cubs.

The Cubs drew over 3 million fans to a ballpark that seats 41,000 people.  The Cubs will learn from this experience and it could help them to contend again in the upcoming seasons.



Cubs Win 3-2, Davis Shines in Relief; Force a Game 5 Tonight

willson contreras

By Richard Kagan

The Chicago Cubs season continues for at least another game.

The Cubs, facing elimination if it lost vs. the Dodgers, beat them 3-2, in a nail-biting finish, to extend the series to a fifth game, Thursday night. The Cubs trot out Jose Quintana who will face ace Clayton Kershaw of LA.

The Cubs just don’t do anything easy in these playoffs. Chicago had a 3-1 lead heading into the 8th inning, when ace closer Wade Davis came into the 8th for a six-out save. Mgr. Joe Maddon saved Davis for this moment, to start a clean inning and try to shut down the vaunted Dodgers.

It almost didn’t work. Justin Turner hit a home run off Davis to cut the lead to 3-2 with no outs in the 8th inning. Davis labored hard, throwing almost 30 pitches, but did get out of the inning. But not before some controversy. LA’s Curtis Granderson swung and missed at a third strike, for an apparent out. But the Dodgers thought he had foul-tipped the ball. This play could not be reviewed. Although the replay played on the scoreboard, showed that Granderson did not hit the ball and should be called out.  Nevertheless, the umpires met as a group and decided that Granderson did foul-tip the ball and deserved to continue his at-bat.

Manager Joe Maddon popped out of the Cubs dug-out and protested animatedly. He eventually was ejected from the game. Granderson got another pitch which he missed for a third strike. The Wrigley crowd cheered loudly on that K.

Chicago scored all its runs on home runs by Willson Contreras who hit a ball off the video scoreboard in left-center field. It was a bomb and gave the Cubs the early 1-0 lead in the second inning.  Javy Baez hit two homers breaking out of his slump in an emphatic way.

Pitcher Jake Arrieta pitched 6 2/3 innings of 3 hit ball, allowing just one run, a home run, and he kept the Dodgers at bay while eating up innings. He threw 111 pitches and gave it his all. He departed to a standing ovation. It may have been Arrieta’s last performance as a Cub. He becomes a free-agent at the end of the season.

Javy Baez’s two home runs gave the Cubs  a 3-1 cushion that seemed more than it actually was. The Cubs had finally scored some runs. Now, it would be up to Wade Davis to close the deal.  He did, pitching 47 pitches in the final two innings. The last two outs came on a double play to end the game.  Cubs stepped up last night in Contreras, Baez, Arrieta, and Wade Davis. The Cubs trail the Dodgers 3-1 in the series, Thursday night is another elimination game. If LA wins, the series is over, if the Cubs win, it goes back to LA for game 6.

No one knows what is going to happen, because Chicago may be just getting started.

Cubs Fall 6-1 to LA, Down 0-3 in NLCS

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By Richard Kagan

The Chicago Cubs are on the brink of going home for the off-season.

The Los Angeles Dodgers got to starter Kyle Hendricks early and scored 3 runs, while LA’s bull pen gave the Cubs nothing, nada, zilch. The Cubs have a teamwide .160 BA in four playoff games and this season is on the brink.  The Dodgers took game 3 by a 6-1 score. Chicago is looking at an 0-3 hole against a team that looks World Series bound.

Game four is scheduled for tonight with Jake Arrieta taking the mound for the 0-3 Cubs.

Kyle Schwarber deposited a home run in the first inning to take an early 1-0 lead and I thought the Cubs might be in this game with Hendricks’ track record. But the Dodgers answered right back with an Andre Eithier home run to tie the game. The Dodgers added a second run in the second inning and it seemed like it would be a tough night for the Cubbies.

And, the way the Dodgers have been pitching, one run is about as much as the Cubs might be able to get. The Cubs have been outscored 15-4, so far in this series with no consistent hitting, and a leaky bullpen. The Cubs got eight hits last night, but could not string enough hits to score another run. However, the Cubs’ bull pen just kept handing runs to LA.

Case in point:  Carl Edwards, Jr. was on the mound with the bases loaded in the sixth inning and he walked Yu Darbish, the Dodgers pitcher, with two outs. The young pitcher walked Darbish on four straight balls, forcing in a run to make it 4-1 Cubs. And, to me, that’s all she wrote. Edwards then got Chris Taylor to strike out. Edwards left the game to a chorus of boo’s from the Cubs faithful. How can you walk the pitcher in that situation and expect to come out with a W?  Mike Montgomery threw a wild pitch and that helped two more runs to score to make it 6-1.

The Dodgers are out-playing the Cubs, who seem intent on advancing to the World Series, the first time since 1988. Almost every play the team makes is with purpose and intention. They want this series and they are playing like it. So, they are missing Cory Seager, the starting shortstop, LA’s Charlie Culberson is filling in fine. The Dodgers don’t have any weak links, they have a strong chain fence.

In this series, the Dodgers have all the answers, timely hitting, good starting pitching, stingy bullpen, and a lights out closer. The Cubs have one more chance to extend this series.

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.

Cubs Beat Nats 9-8 to Advance to NLCS

willson contreras

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

Cubs logo

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.