Cubs

Five takeaways from Game 2: While Dodger bullpen dominates, where was Wade Davis?

Five takeaways from Game 2: While Dodger bullpen dominates, where was Wade Davis?

LOS ANGELES – You could feel Dodger Stadium shaking on Sunday night once Justin Turner slammed John Lackey’s 92-fastball out toward center field, clearing the wall for a three-run, walk-off homer that landed in a fan’s glove and left the Cubs two losses away from the end of their season.  

Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” blasted from the sound system once the Dodgers grabbed control of this National League Championship Series, a sellout crowd of 54,479 celebrating a 4-1 victory that left the defending World Series champs down 0-2.   

Where was All-Star closer Wade Davis in the ninth inning? That became the first question in Joe Maddon’s postgame press conference. The manager pushed lefty Brian Duensing into an extra inning and went with Lackey, a 38-year-old pitcher working on back-to-back days with almost zero experience as a reliever.

“I really just needed (Wade) for the save tonight,” Maddon said. “He had limited pitches. It was one inning only. And in these circumstances, you don't get him up and then don't get him in. So if we had caught the lead, he would have pitched. That's it.”

· The Cubs still would’ve had to score against a Dodger bullpen that’s now faced 25 hitters in the NLCS and only allowed one base-runner across eight no-hit innings.

The Cubs can’t count on winning a seven-game series filled with 2-1 and 3-2 games. A team that poured so much capital into its offense will need more from Bryzzo Souvenir Co. and the players – Ben Zobrist, Javier Baez, etc. – who delivered so many clutch hits during last year’s World Series run. A good sign: Addison Russell drilling a Rich Hill pitch down the left-field line and into the seats for a fifth-inning homer.   

But the Dodgers built a bullpen for October, working backwards from $80 million closer Kenley Jansen. This lineup went 4-for-30 with a walk in a Game 1 loss – and all that came within the first five innings against Clayton Kershaw. Meaning it got harder once the Cubs knocked out a three-time Cy Young Award winner.

· No doubt, Jon Lester is extremely talented, but he evolved into a three-time World Series champion and a borderline Hall of Famer through the force of his will. Tired? Achy? Under the weather? Who cares?

Lester took the ball four days after throwing 55 pitches as a $155 million reliever, trying to finish off the Washington Nationals in the divisional round. It takes guts and a feel for pitching to work around five walks and limit the Dodgers to one run in 4.2 innings. Turner did the only damage with a two-out RBI single through the right side of the infield in the fifth inning – and Lester got bailed out when embattled reliever Carl Edwards Jr. struck out Chase Utley swinging at a curveball that left the pinch-hitter hopping in frustration.   

The Cubs will need that veteran leadership and stabilizing influence once the NLCS shifts to Wrigley Field. As Lester said: “All we can we do is show up Tuesday ready to play.”

· With Lester maxed out at 103 pitches, the Cubs still needed to cover the next four innings. This isn’t the time for moral victories, but credit Edwards, Pedro Strop and Duensing for at least keeping it a 1-1 game into the ninth inning, and maybe that will be a confidence boost for this bullpen, because the Cubs need those relievers to be viable if they want to keep playing through October.  

“You just don’t run away,” Maddon said. “There’s nowhere to run. These guys got to keep playing. And you got to keep putting them out there at what you think is the right time. That’s how you win, because we have eight games to win, not one or two.”

· Maddon worked for Andrew Friedman when the Tampa Bay Rays became known as a cutting-edge organization constantly looking for any advantage that would allow a small-market team to compete in the American League East. That philosophy is now combined with super-team resources in Los Angeles.

So, no, Maddon wasn’t surprised to hear that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts described Corey Seager as feeling “normal-ish,” the day after a back injury forced the All-Star shortstop off the NLCS roster. For now.

“Of course, did you expect anything different?” Maddon said. “We’ll just see how it all plays out.”

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

In the latest CubsTalk Podcast, Kelly Crull and David Kaplan look ahead to Thanksgiving and discuss the official coaching hires for the Cubs.

They also talk about where the Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, whether Alex Cobb could factor into the rotation plans and Kap goes off on the 11:30 a.m. Opening Day start time.

Check out the entire podcast here: