Willson Contreras

How Joe Maddon's Game 4 freak out could've been even crazier: 'I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap'

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USA TODAY

How Joe Maddon's Game 4 freak out could've been even crazier: 'I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap'

Don’t make Joe Maddon angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

This NLCS umpiring crew found that out the hard way Wednesday night.

The Cubs’ skipper didn’t turn green or smash anything, but he came about as close as one can to turning into the Hulk in real life, losing his mind over an egregious blown call in a pivotal moment in the eighth inning of his team’s 3-2 win in Game 4 at Wrigley Field.

As more than 40,000 people rained boos down on the umpires and started chanting about bovine excrement — and as the Wrigley Field video board showed repeated evidence of how wrong the umpires had gotten Curtis Granderson’s third-strike whiff — Maddon was going off on any and all umpires he could set his eyes on.

It’s perhaps the angriest and most argumentative fans have seen him during his tenure on the North Side. Perhaps it’s the most nuts he’s ever gone in a game.

But there’s a way it could’ve been even worse.

“If Granderson hits the next pitch out, I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap,” Maddon said.

Now that would have added a whole extra level of insanity to what had already been the new bar-setter for insanity in this roller-coaster Cubs postseason.

To make a long story short for anyone who missed the sequence of events, Wade Davis got Granderson to strike out in a big moment in the eighth inning. The Cubs’ closer had already surrendered a homer to Justin Turner to start the inning and had a man on first with one out in a one-run game when Granderson came to bat.

You didn’t need to have eagle vision or an in-depth understanding of the rulebook to know Granderson missed Davis’ pitch for the third strike. And the initial call was just that, as Granderson was ordered back to his dugout alongside Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who came out to get his own explanation of the play. But then came a lengthy infield conference featuring all six of these NLCS umpires, and the call was reversed. No video review, just an on-field conference. Granderson had new life after supposedly foul-tipping the pitch.

Maddon did not like that decision. More so, though, he didn’t like how it was reached.

“It was not a good explanation,” Maddon said, still hot after the game ended and his team won. “Listen, I'm all about the umpires, first of all. I'm not going to sit here and bang on umpires, and I love a lot of guys on this crew. I've known them for a long time. But that can't happen.

“The process was horrible. To have that changed and if Granderson hits the next pitch out, I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jockstrap. That was really that bad. So you can't permit that to happen. The process was wrong. The explanation, eventually it turned into hearing two sounds. Not one of them saw a foul tip or thought it was a foul tip. It was based on two sounds, which I totally cannot agree with that process whatsoever.

“When you have 40-some thousand people, it's late in the game. The other sound could have come from some lady screaming in the first row. I have no idea. I can't buy that process.

“Could have been a guy, too. I don't want to bang on a lady.”

Certainly most if not all of Cubs fandom and really anyone watching in the stadium or at home had to agree with Maddon. Even home-plate umpire Jim Wolf said he blew the call after the game, going as far as saying he was "dead wrong" and that he "talked himself into" switching the call. Granderson got an extra strike and could have changed the dynamic of a one-run game with it. Maddon had reason to be upset.

But it was the way he got upset that was really something to see. Take your pick of a famously short-tempered cartoon character — Donald Duck, Yosemite Sam, the Tasmanian Devil — Maddon was doing his best impersonation of all of them, spinning around, walking around, confronting every umpire on the field and screaming right in their faces.

It earned him his second ejection of this postseason.

“I was yelling at everybody, man,” Maddon said. “That was bad process. … That's what I'm yelling at. I know Wolfy for a hundred years, I know Mike (Winters, the crew chief) for a hundred years, I know a lot of these dudes for a hundred years. But I can't accept that under those circumstances. If that next pitch goes out of the ballpark, obviously, on a wrong call, I am really not a good guy at that point.

“And there is no way, no way I'm not getting ejected at that point. I've got to make my point. Just being honest.

“I mean, I was upset. I mean, listen, this is an elimination game, man. This isn't just another one. This isn't June 23, this is an elimination game. … With all due respect, under those circumstances, that can't happen. It can't happen. If Granderson hits the next pitch out of the ballpark, that can't happen. The process was not good. That's my argument. The process was a bad process. That's my argument.

“If I don't do that, what do my players think if I don't stand up for our guys like that? What do they think in that moment?”

Everything ended up fine for the Cubs, of course, with Granderson completing his strikeout once again on Davis’ very next pitch. Davis worked his way out of the inning and then batted in the bottom of the eighth, an interesting decision that Maddon watched from the clubhouse, and then got a game-ending double play to seal the game and stave off elimination for at least one more night.

But Maddon gave fans a highlight for the ages with his on-field antics. And he showed his players he wasn’t going to take that potential game-changing situation lying down.

“He's got to do his job, you know?” Javy Baez said. “Obviously turning a play like that that could have turned the game around, he was just trying his best to get that out because it was obviously out. The umpires didn't really see it, but you can't do nothing about it.”

As for the end result?

“I don't know why they overturned the call,” Willson Contreras said, “but the ball never lies.”

Grandpa Rossy and the 5 biggest things from Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 4

Grandpa Rossy and the 5 biggest things from Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 4

The Cubs aren't dead yet.

Once again, this team has proved they play their best when they're forced to with backs against the wall.

The Cubs finally showed some urgency for the first time in the NLCS, continuing to pile on and smashing the narrative that scoring first on an early home run is not a good move. 

The door won't shut on this 2017 season for at least another day, thanks in large part to this guy:

Farewell, Jake

Making what is almost assuredly his last start in a Cubs uniform and at Wrigley Field, Jake Arrieta was masterful, navigating a relentless Dodgers lineup and giving the Cubs a much-needed deep outing, tossing 6.2 innings.

He struck out 9, working around 5 walks and 3 hits while throwing 111 pitches, his most since May 21 against Milwaukee.

And how's this for justice? Arrieta tied the Cubs all-time postseason record with his fifth playoff victory Wednesday night.

Arrieta had his ups and downs Wednesday night, but he did plenty to remind Cubs fans of all he's done in blue pinstripes the last five seasons.

I mean, just look at the movement on some of these pitches:

A hat-tip to Arrieta for a brilliant Cubs career:

Grandpa Rossy = Bill Murray?

David Ross went full Bill Murray Wednesday night, hyping up the crowd just by his mere presence. In the first few innings of NLCS Game 4, these were the biggest cheers from the 42,195 in attendance at Wrigley Field:

1. Willson Contreras HR off the video board
2. Javy Baez HR to the left of video board
3. David Ross shown on video board

Ross was hanging around the Cubs before the game, visiting with old teammates and chatting for a few mins with "son" Anthony Rizzo during batting practice.

The Cubs finally looked like the team that displayed legendary resiliency from last fall with Grandpa Rossy in attendance. Don't even try to act like there's no concidence there.

Javy Time

Baez was 0-for-20 this postseason entering Wednesday night and that number bumps up to 0-for-23 when taking into account last fall, too.

So naturally, he hits two bombs and shows everybody why Joe Maddon keeps writing his name in the lineup.

Let's tell the story of Javy's night in GIFs:

Ball don't lie

Joe Maddon wasn't f-in around. He brought in Wade Davis in the eighth inning against the heart of the Dodgers order and of course, this game couldn't end without controversy and some edge-of-your-seat thrills.

A few batters after yet another Justin Turner homer, Davis appeared to have struck out Curtis Granderson on a pitch in the dirt. But after a conference by the umpires, they ruled it a foul ball, despite what seemed like pretty clear evidence on replay that Granderson did not make contact with the ball.

Joe Maddon erupted, leading to a lengthy argument that resulted in his removal from the game.

After nearly 10 minutes without throwing a pitch, Davis roared back and struck out Granderson anyway.

After throwing 34 pitches in the eighth, Davis came back out firing in the ninth to shut the door for a six-out save.

Power plays

Willson Contreras hit a ball 491 feet, nearly taking his own face out on the left field video board.

It was the first Cubs run of the game, giving them the lead for the fourth time in the series off a longball. The other three times in the NLCS all resulted in Cubs losses, but this time, however, they crushed the narrative with one blast after another into the wind blowing out to dead left field. 

The Dodgers responded with their own homers - first by Cody Bellinger in the second inning and then by Turner (also off the scoreboard) in the eighth.

The first five runs in the game were all scored on solo homers.

Cubs-Dodgers Game 2 prediction: Baby steps for Cubs offense

Cubs-Dodgers Game 2 prediction: Baby steps for Cubs offense

Everything seemed awfully rosy in the first few innings for the Cubs Saturday night.

They were having good at-bats off Clayton Kershaw - including a two-run homer from Albert Almora Jr. - and Jose Quintana was dealing.

But everything changed quickly and all the Cubs' postseason issues reared their ugly head: too many walks, bullpen unreliability, punchless offense.

The Cubs didn't have a baserunner the last 2/3 of the game and had absolutely no answer for the Dodgers bullpen.

But the offense will break out at some point. Theo Epstein was sure of that and there's no reason not to think the same. 

The Cubs had baseball's best offense in the second half of the season, averaging 5.7 runs per game while posting a .273/.352/.459 slash line with an .811 OPS. 

The Cubs hitters are simply too good to keep having results this poor. They scored nine runs in Game 5 of the NLDS, but most of those without a hit thanks to a slew of Washington errors. 

In the other five games of the postseason, the Cubs have just 10 runs, averaging two runs a game.

Bullpen issues aside, that is not a good recipe for success.

The Cubs offense struggled through the first few games of the postseason last fall before eventually breaking out at Dodger Stadium in L.A. They clearly are hoping that is in the cards once again Sunday evening.

Here's the lineup they'll roll with as they face Rich Hill:

1. Jon Jay - LF
2. Kris Bryant - 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Willson Contreras - C
5. Albert Almora Jr. - CF
6. Addison Russell - SS
7. Jason Heyward - RF
8. Javy Baez - 2B
9. Jon Lester - P

The Cubs need more from every offensive player, but they especially need to see their big boppers step up. Bryant, Rizzo and Contreras have been awfully quiet the last few games.

Prediction

Cubs 4, Dodgers 2

This isn't the breakout game for the Cubs offense, but they had so many good at-bats early in Saturday's game, I bet they get back to that point and cash in a bit more in Game 2.

Baby steps. Then the offense really finds its groove again later this week at Wrigley Field.