Cubs

Jed Hoyer: Rain delay was 'divine intervention' for Cubs

Jed Hoyer: Rain delay was 'divine intervention' for Cubs

CLEVELAND — In between ducking random streams of champagne, general manager Jed Hoyer described Wednesday night’s rain delay as divine intervention.

The Cubs needed it in the worst way.

In the midst of a potentially epic collapse that would have exceeded their 2003 National League Championship Series meltdown, the Cubs took advantage of a 17-minute stoppage of play as rain began to fall upon an exasperated Progressive Field crowd.

Before they returned to action with the score tied at 6, right fielder Jason Heyward convened Cubs hitters for an emotional meeting to discuss how they wanted to proceed after blowing a four-run lead. Moments later, Kyle Schwarber singled to start a game-winning rally that would erase 108 years of torment. The Cubs scored twice in the top of the 10th inning and then held on to for an 8-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the World Series.

“I really feel like in some ways that rain delay was kind of divine intervention,” Hoyer said. “The game was going really fast for us at that point. Dexter (Fowler) had just missed winning the game for us (in the ninth) – (Francisco) Lindor made a heck of a play. And to get that little break right there, it helped us a lot.”

Make no doubt about it — the Cubs were reeling when the heavens opened up and rain began to fall. Shortstop Addison Russell said some players cried after the Cubs, on the verge of an epic comeback from a 3-1 series deficit, watched as the Indians erased a three-run deficit in the eighth inning against closer Aroldis Chapman, including a game-tying two-run homer by Rajai Davis.

Thanks to Lindor’s outstanding range and a scoreless inning from Chapman, neither team scored in the ninth. But even a high-wire escape wasn’t enough and Heyward decided to call a meeting in the weight room, about 15 feet away from the steps up to the dugout.

“There was obviously frustration and Aroldis felt terrible,” Series MVP Ben Zobrist said. “But everybody’s like, ‘Hey, man, we got you. We’re going to pick you up.’ I think there was even some applause, some claps for him. ‘Don’t worry about this. We’re going to come back and win this game.’

“JHey called the meeting and said, ‘Let’s forget about everything that’s happened up to this point. Let’s believe that we’re going to do this.’ That’s all that needed to be said.”

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Veteran catcher David Ross said Heyward spoke passionately for several minutes. And because Heyward has proven to be reserved in his first season with the club, players knew to pay attention.

“When a guy like Jason talks, you listen, because he doesn't do it that often,” Ross said.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon loathes holding team meetings. He prefers for them to be organic and rarely makes the request. So when he noticed his players huddled, Maddon had a good feeling.

“It’s crazy how things happen for a reason,” Maddon said. “I don’t know. But I walk off and I see them all gathering in that little room down below there.

“I hate meetings. I’m not a meetings guy. I love when players have meetings.

“So they had their meeting and the big part of it was, ‘We don’t quit. We don’t quit.’

“It’s incredible how this all plays out sometimes.”

It didn’t hurt that the Cubs had the middle of the lineup due in the 10th inning against Cleveland reliever Bryan Shaw. Hoyer recalled feeling the same way in the 2003 American League Championship Series moments before Aaron Boone’s walkoff homer — that if his Boston Red Sox could extend the game, they’d win because the heart of the order was due to bat.

The Cubs were quick to take advantage of an opportunity the Red Sox never had.

Schwarber — who hit .412 in the Series and had a .971 OPS — singled on the second pitch he saw from Shaw and pinch-runner Albert Almora tagged up on Kris Bryant’s deep fly out to center.

“Schwarber got the first hit and it just steamrolled,” Zobrist said.

Indians manager Terry Francona opted to have Anthony Rizzo intentionally walked to put two aboard. Zobrist then ripped a 1-2 cutter for an opposite-field RBI double past third base and the Cubs didn’t look back.

“It’s actually a really comforting feeling knowing how those guys are,” Hoyer said. “You could hear all the guys that were part of that inning talking — it allowed them to regroup.

“We had the best part of our lineup coming up and I do think that taking that break, kind of regrouping (helped). ‘Let’s win the inning. If we win one inning, we win the World Series.’

“We had the right guys up to do it.”

More on the World Series victory

--Joy to the World: Cubs finally end 108-year Series drought

--Finally: The Cubs are World Series champs

--The wait –and the weight- is over: Cubs fans celebrate World Series title

--Barack Obama congratulates Cubs World Series championship

--Famous Cubs fans celebrate World Series title on Twitter

--Ben Zobrist becomes first Cub ever to win World Series MVP

--Numbers game: statistical oddities of the Cubs World Series title

--Jed Hoyer: Rain delay was ‘divine intervention’ for Cubs

​--Fans give Cubs a taste of home in Cleveland

--Ben Zobrist delivers exactly what the Cubs expected with massive World Series

--‘Dreams come true’: Bill Murray reacts to Cubs winning the World Series

--Big surprise: Kyle Schwarber plays hero again for Cubs in World Series Game 7

- Ryne Sandberg: World Series ‘made it able for me to live in the present’

Quintana's script against Brewers flipped

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USA TODAY

Quintana's script against Brewers flipped

Before this afternoon's game against the Brewers, Jose Quintana had a 0.95 ERA against them, but thanks to some first-inning longballs, that changed quickly. Milwaukee, on their way to a 7-0 win at Wrigley Field, had sort of stumbled in to this two game series thanks to shaky bullpen performances against the Padres and Braves in their previous two series, and given Quintana's past success against them, it didn't appear likely going into the game that things would change.
 
It took all of two pitches for Lorenzo Cain to homer to left, and then later in the first inning, for Ryan Braun to do the same with a two-run shot that gave the Brewers a quick 3-0 lead. Braun, who before today's game was hitting .143 without even an extra base hit against Quintana, ultimately homered twice.
 
"Everything he’s thrown me, he’s had success with," Braun said of Quintana. "Everything he’s shown me had worked for him."
 
As a team, the Brewers were hitting just .202 against Quintana, so they knew scoring opportunities would be at a premium.
 
"A guy as good as him isn’t going to make many mistakes, so any mistakes he does make you have to take advantage of," Braun said. "He’s had so much success against us, the odds were we were going to find a way to score a couple runs, we were able to do that against him today."
 
In the first inning, Cain homered in the first on a fastball left too far in the zone, and Braun on a curveball that didn't break away from the sweet spot. Braun's second homer came on a 75 mph curveball after Quintana fell behind in the count 2-0.
 
Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin said that going into the game, he was thinking about how much his offense has struggled against Quintana, but seeing them score so early eased the pressure on him and allowed him to work with his slider and fastball a little more aggressively.
 
"A couple of big-time players stepped up in the first inning, and I mean, yea, we've really struggled against this guy," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of the first-inning success against Quintana. "You put up three runs in the first inning with two homers, it flips the script pretty fast."
 
With the onus off of Chacin, he was better able to throw seven scoreless innings on the way to his sixth decision in his last seven starts. Today's was an especially important win for Milwaukee, who entered this week's short series three games behind the Cubs. Brewers players differed on whether or not they'd call it a must-win, however.
 
"We have six more after these against the Cubs, but I feel like any game is must-win right now," Chacin said.
 
Braun, who has seen firsthand how much games in August and September can change the course of what had been a successful season, called it a little differently.
 
"It’s pretty close to a must-win. If we want to stay in the division race, I think we had to win one of two, ideally you gotta win both," Braun said. "These guys are really good, you obviously didn’t want to leave here down five games."
 
Against the packed crowd of 40,441 Tuesday, Braun said that he enjoys the atmosphere at Wrigley as the opponent.
 
"I’ve always enjoyed playing here. As a competitor, there’s no more enjoyable atmosphere to play in than this. The more hostile the environment is, the more enjoyable it is as a competitor. This place is always packed, it’s always loud. It’s a very challenging place to win," Braun said.
 
Even with another win tomorrow, the Brewers will still remain a game behind the Cubs, but Braun said that he is thankful to be playing in meaningful games at this point in the season regardless. After tomorrow, the Cubs and Brewers play two series in the first half at September, one at Miller Park and one at Wrigley Field.
 
 

Ben Zobrist earned his first career ejection thanks to one hell of a zinger

Ben Zobrist earned his first career ejection thanks to one hell of a zinger

Two days after David Bote turned in the best moment of the Cubs' season, Ben Zobrist delivered the best line of the Cubs' season.

As the top of the ninth inning was getting underway, the 37-year-old mild-mannered veteran was seen talking with home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.

As Jorge De La Rosa finished his warm-up pitches and the inning was about to start, suddenly Zobrist and Cuzzi got animated and the next thing anybody knew, Zobrist was slapped with his first-ever ejection.

"When you have good, quality at-bats as a hitter and you feel like it's kinda taken away from you, you want some sort of an answer," Zobrist said. "Or you want to be assured that they're gonna go back and make an adjustment and that's what I asked for.

"It was met with, basically, he didn't want to talk about that. He didn't want me to tell him that. I just basically said, 'Well that's why we want an electronic strike zone.'"

MIC. DROP.

This came after a passionate discussion between the two men in the bottom of the sixth inning when Zobrist was called out on strikes on a full count pitch he thought was clearly off the plate. On that play, Joe Maddon came out to intercede and was ejected, but Zobrist walked back to the dugout to collect himself and remained in the game.

So before his next at-bat, Zobrist wanted to say his piece. A calm discussion transformed into something more and while Zobrist didn't apologize for what he said, he was willing to admit his pride played a factor.

"It is what it is," he said. "I'm not gonna lie. When you're dealing with that and you're trying to have good, quality at-bats and you feel like it gets taken away from you, sometimes your pride gets in your way and you say things that are going to upset them. Obviously that upset him and he tossed me."

Zobrist's strikeout wasn't an altogether huge moment in the game, but the pitch — a breaking ball off from Jhoulys Chacin that started off the plate and remained off the plate — should've been Ball 4 and would've given the Cubs runners at first and second with nobody out for Jason Heyward. Sure, it was a 7-0 ballgame, but with the wind blowing out and the Cubs had 12 outs left, crazier things have happened (which Bote just proved).

The Cubs never went on to record another hit, but they didn't blame Cuzzi for that.

"Whenever Zo argues, as a manager, you better get your butt out there," Maddon said. "He's rare to be that way and eventually to get ejected, that's unfortunate. But regardless, there was a couple bad calls, but we gotta do a better job offensively. My god."

Zobrist said he's been more animated and riled up at other points in his career compared to Tuesday afternoon, but obviously that zinger was enough to get the job done to notch his first-ever ejection.

Almost a year ago to the day, Zobrist was very nearly tossed in a game against the Reds, but Maddon once again got in the middle.

This is the latest chapter in what has become a surprising trend of the Cubs vs. umpire debacle. 

For the third straight homestand, the Cubs have had an issue with the umpiring crew — from Javy Baez getting tossed against the Cardinals last month to Anthony Rizzo getting heated with Angel Hernandez two weekends ago to Maddon getting the boot a few days ago against the Nationals.

Only Rizzo's was related to balls and strikes, but between him and Zobrist — two guys who rarely argue — getting heated in the span of 9 days, it begs the question: Does Major League Baseball need an electronic strike zone?

"I'm just gonna leave it at that," Zobrist said. "I think that discussion will happen eventually. But I'm just gonna leave right now at the fact that I said that today. That's it."