The Tribe Kluber the Cubs in Game 1

It was a big night for the city of Cleveland. The Cavs raised their Championship banner, and the Indians were ready to take Game 1 of the World Series. Fans poured into Progressive Field with the hopes that their Championship year wouldn’t be coming to a close just yet. 

Their ace on the mound, Corey Kluber set a new World Series record for 8 strikes outs through the first three innings. The record was previously held by Bob Gibson, Orlando Hernandez and Randy Johnson, with 7 strikeouts through three innings. Despite Chicago’s best efforts, the Cubs could just not seem to keep up with Kluber.

Kyle Schwarber would make his first appearance at the plate since his season ending injury on April 4th. Schwarber was one of the few Cubs that managed to get on base last night, hitting a double in his first at bat. But having Schwarber back just wouldn’t be enough for the Cubs last night. The Indians were were up 3-0, and throughout the post season had scored all of their runs before the sixth inning. Roberto Perez would be the one to break that pattern as he blasted a 3 run shot to put the Tribe up 6-0. 

Cubs fans may be ready to hit the panic button, and bring out the goats, but I wouldn’t do so just yet. We’ve seen this before. They went into a bit of a hitting slump against the Dodgers the first time they saw Kershaw. The difference between the Cubs and some of the other teams that the Tribe has faced this post season, is that they don’t stay in those slumps for very long. As evidenced by the scoring show the Cubs put on in games 4 and 5 of the NLCS. 

Kluber was the best the Indians have right now, even if Salazar comes back for an appearance for Game 4 he still may not be pitching at his full potential coming off of his injury. The Cubs should be able to make a significant dent against Bauer in Game 2 tonight. While the Indians may have a bit more work to do against Arrieta. 

A Tale of Two Cities

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the last two days watching and sobbing over videos of elderly Cubs and Indians fans recounting the last time they saw their teams in the World Series. Tuesday night is going to be historic for both these clubs in a series that I could easily see going to all 7 games. If the Indians won, Cleveland would have two championships for their city in one year. Before the Cavs won the NBA finals, the last Championship was in 1964 when the Browns won the Super Bowl. (And let’s face it the Browns don’t seem to be heading back there any time soon.) Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs have suffered under one of the longest Championship droughts in baseball history. 108 years since the last time they won the Fall Classic. I’m not going to bombard you with a list of things that weren’t around the last time the Cubs won a World Series. We’re all aware of the differences between 2016 and 1908. The point is, it’s been far too long. These are the best kind of match ups for the Fall Classic. Two teams that deserve a big win after years and years of tireless effort.  

The Indians will have their ace Corey Kluber on the mound for Game 1. Kluber has been having a great postseason so far, pitching 18.1 innings, and over the last two games he pitched in the ACLS, 20 strikeouts. He only has two earned runs which came in the Tribes only post season loss so far. 

Meanwhile, the Cubs have yet to officially name their Game 1 starter, though my money would be on Jon Lester. Lester has thrown 21 innings this postseason with an ERA of 0.86. Lester is no stranger to big stages, and barring the one collapse in 2014 against the Royals, he’s been next to perfect. In 2007 when he was just 23 years old, he threw 5 2/3 innings to get the Red Sox the win and the four game sweep against the Rockies to win the World Series. 

What will be interesting to see is if the rest of the Indians rotation will be able to hold up just a little bit longer to try and pull off a Championship. It seems like injuries continue to plague them Tomlin and Bauer will most likely go for games 2 or 3 but the rest of their rotation continues to be a question mark beyond that. Danny Salazar is still trying to work his way back from a forearm injury he suffered in early September, but there’s no promise that he’ll be ready for game 4. It’s more likely that the Indians could use Ryan Merritt in that spot once again. 

If you go back to August, you’ll see a post where I originally picked the Tribe to win the whole thing. But after seeing what the Cubs did in Game 6, it very well seems that the momentum coming off that game could shift everything in their favor. The pitching is set, the bats are hot, and Chicago is ready to take the whole damn thing. 

Fly The W

Wrigley was loud. Wrigley was celebrating. Wrigley was ready to break a 70 year curse. Kershaw would have to play hero one more time for the Dodgers if he was expected to get them to a Game 7. But for every Cubs fan in that ballpark last night, it was Game 7. 

The Cubs wasted no time attacking Kershaw early and often. RBIs by Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist would give the Cubs an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Tack on another RBI single from Dexter Fowler in the bottom of the second to make it 3-0. If this still wasn’t enough to quell the fears of Cubs fans that it all might implode at any second, Kyle Hendricks, was absolutely perfect on the mound. 

Hendricks give up a single in the top of the 1st and then mowed down all the following Dodgers without even trying. He didn’t give up another single until the top of the 8th inning. By that time, Wilson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo had already belted two solo shots to put the Cubs up 5-0. Maddon not wanting to take any chances, decided to pull Hendricks and bring in Chapman for the last 5 outs. Hendricks walked off the mound to a chorus of cheers and a standing ovation. 

Top of the 9th. Chapman strikes out the first batter, and then walks Ruiz. For a brief moment the energy seems perfectly still at Wrigley. But only for a moment. Yasiel Puig, would be the next batter and ground into a double play. The city of Chicago explodes in celebration. Tears of joy. The Cubs have won the pennant. The Cubs are going back to the Fall Classic for the first time since 1945. 

Fans remained in the ballpark well after the game was over. The streets of Wrigelyville were packed for blocks on end. And if Cubs fans did manage to get any sleep tonight, or even went home for that matter, they’ll be happy to wake up this morning and know that it wasn’t all a dream. Fly the W. 

“Killing Them Softly”

Those were the words of Joe Buck on Thursday night as the Cubs collected a series of small infield hits on Thursday night in the top of the 8th inning. The speed of those singles hit in the Top of the 8th reached about 39.3 MPH, 80.9 MPH, and 68.5 MPH. The Cubs entered the top of the 8th with a 3-1 lead, but had already stranded several runners in scoring position in the past few innings and couldn’t seem to get those insurance runs in. These soft little hits slowly started to chip away at the Dodgers making it 5-1. 

Javier Baez would once again get to play the role of the Cubs post season hero. Putting the nail in the Dodgers Game 5 coffin, Baez crushed a double to right field that cleared the bases. 8-1 Cubs. Baez seems to come through every time the Cubs need him most. And not just at the plate either, he’s been stellar defensively this entire post season as well. Including a fantastic play he made last night robbing Adrian Gonzalez for a bunted base hit. Charging the ball, Baez bare hands it and slings it over to Rizzo. After a review of the play Gonzalez who was initially called safe, was called out at first.

If the Cubs were in an offensive slump, it certainly didn’t last for long. Which is exactly what we’ve come to expect from this team. Collectively the Cubs have scored 18 runs between Games 4 and 5, just a day after Pete Rose had criticized their level of offensive play on Fox Sports during the post game show. Rose said he couldn’t understand how this was a team that won 103 games this season. Well I hope Mr. Rose was watching these past two nights because the Cubs just sent the world a reminder. 

Game 6 won’t be easy. A rematch of the dueling aces Kershaw and Hendricks. But the Cubs have Chicago on their side. Wrigley Field will be shaking with anticipation and joy. It’s a feeling that the Cubs and their fans have been carrying since opening day. It’s that feeling that says “this is already ours, and you can’t take it away from us.”  

Saving Grace

Let’s talk about the Mets again for a hot minute. It couldn’t be helped that this season injuries swept through the clubhouse like a tornado. Even with the significant damage that was done to their starters, the Mets clawed their way through August and into that Wild Card game. 

Which leaves us to wonder, “What would the year have looked like if everyone was healthy?” Mets fans will have to wait till March of 2017 to have that question answered. But after two back to back post season appearances the word “wait” just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. 

Jeruys Familia recorded a total of 51 single season saves this year for the Mets and now holds the new franchise record. Passing Armando Benitez who held the previous record of 43 single season saves. But despite another great year for Familia, he couldn’t seem to keep it together once again in the post season. Two post seasons, with two blow saves, is one too many for the Mets, as word started circulating these past few days that the team could be looking to acquire closer Kenley Jansen from the Dodgers.

Jansen put on quite a show in Game 5 against the Nationals, when he threw a career high 51 pitches to help the Dodgers keep the Nats a bay till Kershaw would make an appearance to close out the game in the 9th. If the Mets were to actually pursue Jansen, what would this mean for Familia? Reed has been a stellar set up guy for the 7th or 8th inning, so I can’t see them moving Familia back an inning or two just to have Jansen pitch the 9th. I don’t know if the Mets will necessarily  give up on Familia as a closer all together either. He’s put in good work for this team for the past two seasons. However, if they acquired Jansen, the deal could possibly look something like 4 years for $50 million. And with that kind of money, it’s not likely that the Mets wouldn’t have Jansen as their main closer.  Jansen can come through in those tight situations, while watching Familia in big games has recently caused for a feeling of impending doom. It’s great what Familia has done for the Mets, but the truth is if you can’t get those saves when it really counts, all that hard work doesn’t seem to matter. 

Battle for the Midwest

A few weeks back, I predicted that the Tribe would make a push for the World Series. I cited their rough and tumble ability to make a comeback whenever it seemed like the game was just out of reach. I don’t think anyone could have predicted them sweeping the Red Sox and now being up 2-0 to the Blue Jays in the ALCS. The Indians suffered some tough pitching loses towards the end of their season, losing Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Because of that, pitchers like Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer had to step up for the post season. Tomlin making one of his most impressive starts yesterday in Game 2 against the Jays. 

We know by now that the Jays offense is a beast that’s not easy to shut down, and yet here are the Indians, doing just that.  The tribe’s starting rotation has put in their quality work, and giving just enough to get to Andrew Miller and the rest of their stellar bullpen. 

While I believe the city of Cleveland would just about erupt into chaos and joy if some how they managed to bring home two championships in the same year, after watching last night’s NLCS Game 1, I can’t help but finally want this championship for the Cubbies. 

I got home last night just in time to catch the bottom of the 8th and see Wrigleyville go insane. With the bases loaded, and the game tied at 3, Miguel Montero came off the Cubs bench and crushed an 0-2 pitch into a screaming crowd. 7-3 Chicago. 

If Cubs fans had been waiting for what would be their undoing this season, I truly believe that Montero erased their fears with that one swing of his bat. The Cubs would go on to win 8-4.

Kershaw is on the mound tonight for the Dodgers, but after having pitched the 9th on two days rest and throwing 110 pitches in his last NLDS start, the Cubs may have a slightly easier time getting to him early in the evening. Then again, Kershaw has seemed super human with what he can do sometimes. If anyone was going to rescue LA from going down 2-0 it would be him. 

I know it’s probably too soon to call, but the way things have been shaping up, I say we see a Cleveland/Cubs World Series, with the Cubs winning it all in 7.  

It’s a Cubs year.

The Cubs don’t care what year it is. The Cubs win games, the Cubs kill Giants, and the Cubs “ain’t afraid of no Goat.” (That last line was courtesy of an amazing shirt Bill Murray was wearing during game 1 in Chicago) Because to them, it’s the year the Cubs finally win a World Series. I’ll admit I was originally part of the skeptics. Thinking it’s not possible for them to have the best record and take a World Series title. Statistics show that since 1995 only 19% of the teams that have had the best record have gone on to win the World Series. 

All season long, despite the Cubs triumphs, I thought surely something would somehow get in their way and keep that daunting 108 year curse alive. But after watching their 9th inning rally against the Giants, it’s become clear that this team already sees themselves bringing that World Series back to the North Side of Chicago. I say this not because their demeanor is that of overconfidence or cockiness, but because the team refuses to go down swinging. 

The Cubs trailed 5-2 in the 9th but the only way this team was going back to Chicago was for the NLCS. Bryant singled, Rizzo walked, and Zobrist came up to the plate and brought in the first run of the inning on an RBI single to right field. A pitching change for the Giants would then bring Willson Contreras to the plate, who hit a sharp RBI single up the middle to tie the game at 5. 

Still with no outs in the inning, Jason Heyward came up to bat and would reach on a fielder’s choice. Then, just as he was the hero in Game 1 of this series, Javier Baez delivered what would be the game winning RBI. 

Aroldis Champan would enter in the bottom of the 9th and strike out the side. The “even year magic” storyline has officially been thrown away and honestly, thank God. Maybe part of me was just bitter seeing it all the time after the Giants knocked out the Mets in the wild card. But if you want to pull anything from the Cubs victory last night, it’s that its a great year for breaking superstitions.

Kings of the North

“I would rather get punched in May, than knocked out in October” read a fan’s sign that hung in the upper deck of Rogers Centre. The ballpark shook with joy as the Jays swept the Rangers in 3 games and punched their ticket to the ALCS. 

In the bottom of the 10th it was none other than Rougned Odor than made a throwing error to first which allowed Donaldson to come in and score. Donaldson started the inning off with a double to get things going, and he would be the one to finish it as he triumphantly slid into home plate. 

The Rangers seemed to crumble defensively this entire series. Hammels gave up 7 runs in the first two innings of Game 1 and the punishment only continued in Game 2 against Darvish who gave up 4 home runs by the time the Rangers hit the 5th inning. 

In game 3 the Jays scored 7 runs on 10 hits and continue to be the monster offensive team that we saw all season long. 

For the second year in a row, Texas has been knocked out of the post season by the Jays. Something that can only fuel the continuing bitter rivalry between these two teams. Few fans will forget the bat flip heard around the world from the ALDS last year. 

Only time will tell if the Jays will be playing the Red Sox or Indians in the ALCS. For the Tribe, it’s win and they’re in. While the Sox have quite the uphill battle to fight in the next few days.

Lightening Never Strikes Twice.

A sold out crowd at Citi Field, Thor pitching perfectly through 7 innings, 10 strikeouts, 2 walks, it would not be enough for the Mets to take this Wild Card game. Bumgarner was perfect. A complete game shut out. 

Thor was magnificent to watch and Mets fans everywhere should be excited for how he’ll continue to develop in the next few years. But while Syndergaard thrives on the pressure, the high stakes, the crowd, the noise, Familia has shown us once again, that he does not. 

After a blown save in the World Series in 2015, and then giving up a 3 run shot to Gillaspie in the top of the 9th last night, everyone has been starting to wonder if Familia should still be that closer in these tough spots. Maybe it was from deja vu the year before but I felt a sinking feeling when he came in to pitch that inning. I knew with Syndergaard no longer on the mound the Giants would have a shot and breaking things open, and that’s just what they did. 

Despite the sting of such a tough loss, there’s a backdrop of hope and optimism for the Mets. They were set up for failure from the middle of the summer, and to get to that Wild Card game at all was a feat in and of itself. 

2017 is looking good for a team that will have that “murder’s rotation” back and healthy. (And maybe even another appearance from Bartolo Colon!) There are of course question marks in regards to Cespedes’s return, as well as others like Walker and Reyes, and whether or not the Mets will opt for the buy out on Bruce. Still, there’s plenty of time to watch all of that unfold over the winter. The Mets have transformed themselves in the past two years to that team that’s going to compete no matter what. Don’t be too surprised when you see them back in the post season for a third consecutive year. 

As for myself? I’ll still be writing about the post season without that sense of fear and panic in the pit in my stomach. I feel like I’ve been holding my breath since game one of the NLDS last year, now I can finally exhale. 

Why not us?

There will be a nervous tense silence hovering over Queens on Wednesday night. A collective held breath in every home and sports bar. The question on everyone’s mind: Can they do it again?

It’s an even year. Baseball fans will tell you that it plays in favor of the Giants based on the pattern that’s panned out since 2010. But Citi Field will be alive. Electric with an energy that is going to be hard for the Giants to walk into. I imagine twice the intensity that was Game 3 against the Dodgers in the NLDS last season. 

Aside from having that home field advantage, and the mighty Thor on the mound, the Mets don’t have much else going in their favor against Bumgarner. The Mets have never actually beaten him in regular season play. Bumgarner is 5-0 against the Mets with a 1.80 ERA in six starts against them. His post season numbers are spectacular. Since 2010 he’s gone 11-3 with a 2.14 ERA in the postseason. 

If this season has shown us anything about this team, it’s that they always seem to surprise you when everything else is stacked against them. Last season when the Mets went 0-8 against the Cubs in the regular season no one could have guessed they would sweep them in the NLCS. 

Despite having poor numbers against Bumgarner the Mets have won 4 of 7 against the Giants this year. Baseball is as much a mental game as it is physical. Syndergaard thrives in these high stakes situations. He pitched a stellar Game 3 of the World Series when the Mets needed it most. Bumgarner however seems a bit easier to shake. Thinking back to his recent on field brawl with Puig of the Dodgers, as he shouted “Don’t look at me! Don’t look at me!” in Puig’s direction before the fight ensued. 

It’s not going to be easy for either side on Wednesday night. But the words of Terry Collins ring true through to Mets fans everywhere “Why not us?”