Cubs

Cubs have seen just about everything from Nationals and reacted like this: ‘So what? Now what?’

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USA TODAY

Cubs have seen just about everything from Nationals and reacted like this: ‘So what? Now what?’

Dusty Baker is a former Marine, a Renaissance man and a borderline Hall of Famer, but at Wrigley Field he will always be identified on some level for how the 2003 Cubs completely collapsed, five outs away from the World Series.

Less than three months after Steve Bartman got a championship ring, this is the how the Cubs have reacted to everything the Washington Nationals have done in this National League Division Series: “So what? Now what?”

It didn’t matter that Stephen Strasburg took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of Game 1, and the bullpen imploded in a Game 2 loss, and the defense committed four errors in Game 3 while Max Scherzer pitched a no-hitter into the seventh inning on a bad right hamstring.

After a 2-1 loss on Monday night, Baker still had to explain why he pulled Scherzer after 98 pitches and led his team into an elimination game without using top setup guy Ryan Madson or closer Sean Doolittle. This team is just wired differently – physically, mentally and emotionally – than the ones that tortured Cubs fans for generations.

“There was no panic in the dugout,” said Ben Zobrist, who ended Scherzer’s no-hitter with a double into the left-center field gap and knocked out the two-time Cy Young Award winner. “There was no thought that it wasn’t going to happen. It was just: When is it going to happen?

“When we make mistakes, as a team, the mantra is: So what? Now what?”

Like when the Cubs sacrifice left-field defense for middle-of-the-order offense and hope Kyle Schwarber can change the game with one thunderous left-handed swing against Scherzer. Only to watch Schwarber misjudge Daniel Murphy’s flyball in left field and then knock it away as he tried to pick it up, that double error leading to Washington’s first run in the sixth inning.

“That’s just the way we’re built,” said Albert Almora Jr., standing at his locker after delivering the pinch-hit single that scored Zobrist and tied the game in the seventh inning. “It starts before the game. When we’re in here, we’re family. And then once the game starts, we’re never out of it until the last out’s recorded.

“‘We never quit.’ It was on our World Series ring last year. That motto doesn't change.”

The Cubs listen to Jason Heyward, the Gold Glove outfielder with the $184 million contract who became a part-time player during last year’s postseason and still had enough juice to give the Game 7 Rain Delay Speech.

Heyward and center fielder Jon Jay spoke with Schwarber during the Jose Quintana/Pedro Strop pitching change that blew up on Maddon in the sixth inning.

“Just keep going,” Heyward said. “(Schwarber) was trying to make the play. That’s that. Just got to go onto the next thing. Just relax and (remember) the game is not over. Just give him some love there. It’s a tough spot and you know he wants to come through. We all do.”

Heyward had already wiped away errors by Quintana and Zobrist when he stared into the sun and made a running catch on the warning track to rob No. 3 hitter Anthony Rendon, ending the third inning.

[MORE CUBS-NATS: How Jose Quintana overcame early nerves and exceeded expectations in Game 3]

Heyward needed to follow his own advice after killing that seventh-inning rally, making a rare miscalculation on the ball Addison Russell drove into center field, committing to trying to score from first base and thinking it would fade away from Michael A. Taylor. Wrong.

After that 8-4-3 double play, Heyward said, “Guys were telling me: ‘Hey, so what? Now what?’ Tie game, got some baseball left to play. That’s the only mindset that we have.”

Here’s how Kris Bryant summed up the mood in the dugout while Scherzer stomped on and off the mound: “He’ll break. ‘Q’ was doing his thing, too. I didn’t think there was a sense of urgency or anything. I think we were all pretty fine.”

Whether it’s homegrown players like Bryant and Almora who only know winning in Chicago – or big-ticket free agents like Heyward and Zobrist who were signed to change the culture in Wrigleyville – the Cubs don’t really care how good the Nationals are or worry about what might go wrong. That’s what makes the defending champs so dangerous this October.

“So what? Now what? What are we going to do?” Zobrist said. “That’s the thing around here: Everybody’s going to make mistakes at times, but we got to pick each other up. And that’s what we do.

“We proved that we have that kind of mettle in our system last year. And there’s more to it.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Yu Darvish, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa and more

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Yu Darvish, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa and more

Tuesday on Sports Talk Live, David Kaplan along with Chris Bleck, Rich Campbell and Jordan Bernfield discuss:

            -the posibility of the Cubs signing Yu Darvish and the need for one more pitcher in the rotation

            -Jim Thome looking like he'll be inducted into Cooperstown tomorrow

            -Sammy Sosa's Hall of Fame chances

            -Corey Crawford back to working out as the Hawks losing continues

            -DeMarcus Cousins with a game for the ages, but is his baggage worth signing him?

            -Do the Eagles have a chance of beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl?

Day after reported offer to Yu Darvish, now Brewers have trade offer for Christian Yelich, too?

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USA TODAY

Day after reported offer to Yu Darvish, now Brewers have trade offer for Christian Yelich, too?

The Milwaukee Brewers apparently mean business.

How much that business will pay off in superstar players remains to be seen, of course, but a day after the Cubs' division rivals to the north reportedly made a contract offer to free-agent starting pitcher Yu Darvish, there's a report out there that they also have put together a trade offer for Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich.

There's been plenty of discussion involving Yelich this offseason as a trade target for just about every team in the game. The Marlins — and more specifically their new regime led by Derek Jeter — sparked speculation that they'll deal just about anyone after trades that shipped Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon out of South Florida. That fueled guesses that Yelich would be next considering how attractive a trade candidate he is, with five seasons of major league success under his belt (including a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger) and a desirable contract that keeps him under team control for another five seasons.

So of course it's no surprise that any team, including the Brewers, would have "strong interest" in acquiring Yelich. The Brewers, however, might be a more attractive trade partner than most considering their rebuilding efforts that have produced a bunch of young talent the Marlins might find appealing. And with the Brew Crew advancing their timeline last season and becoming unexpected competitors with the Cubs in the National League Central, adding a player of Yelich's caliber could change the dynamics in the division.

Social media is home to plenty of Cubs fans who'd like to see Yelich land on the North Side, seeing an opportunity to upgrade in the outfield after less-than-ideal 2017 campaigns from the likes of Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist. But after the Cubs' own wildly successful rebuild and last summer's trade with the White Sox, the minor league cupboard isn't as fully stocked as it used to be, and that could make crafting a return package difficult. That is, if the Cubs were even interested in acquiring Yelich in the first place. They're pretty happy with their already populous outfield.

The team across town has been involved in plenty of online speculation regarding Yelich, too. But while the White Sox have a tremendous amount of minor league talent, they might not be far enough along in their rebuild to part with any of their highly rated young players until they know exactly what they have.

The Brewers, for what it's worth, had six of the top 100 prospects in baseball as of MLB Pipeline's most recent (and soon to change) rankings: the Nos. 13, 59, 81, 82, 86 and 97 guys. Is that enough to fetch Yelich? And is Yelich enough to put the Crew on even footing with the Cubs in 2018 and beyond? And what if Darvish takes the Brewers up on their offer?

All valid questions. But the biggest question involving the Brewers: Who's going to sponsor the sausage race?