Cubs

Travis Wood is looking like a keeper

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Travis Wood is looking like a keeper

CSNChicago.com

NEW YORK Travis Wood doesnt seem to enjoy talking about himself, clipping his answers after a sentence or two.

But Wood isnt a frontrunner. Win or lose, hes been that way ever since he showed up in Arizona for spring training, as the centerpiece to the Sean Marshall trade with the Cincinnati Reds who didnt make the team out of camp.

At least on Friday night at Citi Field, Wood didnt have to try to explain a Carlos Marmol meltdown in the ninth inning. And the 25-year-old left-hander is starting to really look like a keeper.

Wood watched from the clubhouse as the Cubs hung on for an 8-7 victory over Johan Santana and the New York Mets. Instead of walking around the room in dead silence, the Cubs (32-51) blasted music.

It was getting interesting, Wood said, but he pulled it off.

Given a four-run lead, Marmol finally ended it when Lucas Duda lined a shot right back at the pitcher, who underhanded the ball to first base for the game-ending double play.

Wood saw his scoreless streak snapped at 19.2 innings. He wasnt particularly sharp, walking four batters, but he got through six innings, giving up three runs, two earned to notch his fourth consecutive win.

Wood (4-3, 3.05 ERA) got a ton of support from Anthony Rizzo, who went 4-for-5 with a three-run homer off Santana, and leadoff man Reed Johnson (four hits, three runs scored).

I was very excited to face (Johan), a Cy Young winner who threw a no-hitter a couple of weeks ago, Rizzo said. (You) just try not to do too much against him. Hes a great pitcher.

In the same way that Rizzo seemed to have benefited from the extra time at Triple-A Iowa, enabling him to explode onto the scene, Wood has bounced back from his struggles in spring training and found something in the minors.

Wood has had to bring his A-game. Hes already beaten Santana twice and Jake Peavy and lost to Barry Zito and Justin Verlander.

Hes really been a boost, Rizzo said. I feel like he goes out there pretty much every time: Youre facing another ace today. He competes and hes a gamer.

As the Cubs take a long-range view of their future during this lost season, they may have found a legitimate rotation piece and their No. 3 hitter for years to come.

Ive been throwing the ball well, Wood said. As a team, weve been playing pretty good baseball the last couple weeks. We get a little (All-Star) break and get to settle down for a little bit. Hopefully. we come back and just keep it going.

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

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USA TODAY

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.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

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USA TODAY

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to Blues: What's up with the power play?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night:
 
1. Nick Schmaltz returns but sizzle doesn’t.

You didn’t expect the fireworks of the season opener but you figured Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane would connect pretty quickly again. The speed was certainly there. The connections on passes were not. It wasn’t just that second line, though: it was another night on which the Blackhawks’ offense was sluggish. 
 
2. Tripping along.

I joked that tripping is the new slashing. Maybe that’s not the case league-wide but it was for the Blackhawks on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks took five tripping penalties overall, including three in the first period. It was a clear sign that the Blackhawks were trying to play catch-up all night, and they didn’t fare well at it.
 
3. Power play gets something but…

It took until late in the third period (when the Blackhawks’ offense seems to get going lately). The Blackhawks got two late power-play goals, a reminder of what they can do when they battle for the puck and show some spark.

“Our sense of urgency in the puck area, be it 5-on-5 or on the power play, that’s the differential of keeping the puck in the offensive zone and making plays off it is one of our strengths,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t do that very often and we haven’t won many battles.”
 
4. Starting slow.

Why these are happening is a mystery, and they’ve been most evident in the Blackhawks’ last three games, which have all come against division opponents. Too much relying on Corey Crawford again and not much in terms of shots, be it quality or quantity through the first two periods. The Blackhawks were outshot 17-8 through the first 40 minutes on Wednesday. While they created little they gave up way too much.
 
5. Patrick Sharp OK?

Sharp was injured late on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks-Blues game got chippy in the final five-plus minutes. Quenneville thought Sharp was fine but he wasn’t positive at the time of his postgame press conference.