SAN FRANCISCO – Joe Maddon delivered a simple message to the Cubs before the playoffs started: Things will go wrong, so how do you deal with it? The point being a 103-win team shouldn’t change its focus or routine while the outside world obsessed about 1908 and the pressure of World Series expectations.
Now let’s see what the 2016 Cubs are made of – if this 6-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants in the 13th inning will be remembered for the right or wrong reasons.
What a head-spinning night of October baseball, from Madison Bumgarner looking human in a five-inning start, to Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta drilling a three-run homer off the Giant, to Aroldis Chapman melting down, to Kris Bryant creating another MVP moment, to several breathtaking defensive plays.
When Game 3 finally ended late Monday night on the West Coast, nearly 2 a.m. Tuesday back in Chicago, the Giants clawed back into this National League Division Series, now down 2-1 after Joe Panik drilled a Mike Montgomery fastball off the right-field wall to score Brandon Crawford from second base.
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
But after a walk-off loss, the Cubs didn’t show any signs of panic in the visiting clubhouse, recognizing this has been an epic best-of-five matchup against a battle-tested team that won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
“There’s no worry here,” said Bryant, the budding superstar who never gets too high or too low, an attitude that helped turn this into another instant classic that lasted five hours and four minutes. “You just have to appreciate that it was a great game.
“We’re all pretty exhausted, but that’s playoff baseball at its best.”
Bryant had tied the game in the ninth inning, launching a Sergio Romo slider into the left-field seats for a two-run homer. At that point, the Cubs had already gone through five relievers on a night where they would use three different catchers. Enter Montgomery, the lefty who showed why the Cubs believe he can become a big part of the rotation in 2017 and beyond, throwing four scoreless innings before the Giant breakthrough in the 13th.
“We’re a confident group of guys,” Montgomery said. “We know we got a good team. We’re not going to let one game like this effect us.”
Tuesday night will definitely be a Big Boy Game for John Lackey, who has won two World Series clinchers and will start opposite San Francisco lefty Matt Moore. The Giants have now won 10 playoff elimination games in a row, part of an unbelievable run that has already seen them win 11 straight postseason series, which ties them with the 1998-2001 New York Yankees for the longest streak in major-league history. No one ever said this would be easy for the Cubs.
“Just because we’re down doesn’t mean we’re out,” Panik said. “If we’re breathing, we’re still fighting.
“If we’re breathing, we’re not out of it.”
The Cubs and their fans may want to invent and use one of those Men In Black neuralyzers because the four-game series in Cincinnati was one to forget.
The Reds finished off a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday with an 8-6 win. The way the Reds won the finale will be especially painful for the Cubs considering they led 6-1 after six innings. Mike Montgomery appeared to tire in the seventh inning and Pedro Strop got rocked out of the bullpen to lead to a seven-run seventh for the hosts.
The Reds have now won seven in a row and 10 of 12, but still sit 13 games under .500. Bizarrely, the Reds also swept the Dodgers, the Cubs’ next opponent, in a four-game series in May. Duane Underwood will start for the Cubs Monday against the Dodgers and make his major league debut.
Here are some other wild facts and figures from the series:
- The last time the Reds swept the Cubs in a four-game series was back in 1983. That was the first week of the season and three weeks before the infamous Lee Elia rant.
- One positive for the Cubs from the game was Montgomery’s start. Through six innings he allowed one run on three hits and two walks. However, he gave up a single, a double and a single in the seventh before Strop relieved him. Montgomery had gone six innings and allowed one run in each of his last four outings.
- Strop was definitely a negative. On his first pitch, Strop gave up a home run to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker, the second home run for a Reds pinch-hitter in the game. Then Strop allowed a single, a walk, a single and a double before getting an out. Strop’s final line: 2/3 inning pitched, four runs, one strikeout, three walks, four hits.
- The Cubs led in three of the four games this series, including two leads after five innings.
- The Cubs were 5-for-23 (.217) with runners in scoring position in the series. On the season the Cubs are hitting .233 with RISP, which is 22nd in the majors and fourth-worst in the National League (but ahead of the division-rival Brewers and Cardinals).
- The Reds outscored the Cubs 31-13 and scored at least six runs in every game. The Reds are now 6-3 against the Cubs this year after going a combined 17-40 against the Cubs from 2015-2017.
It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.
Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit.
Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini.
The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.
The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.
Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.
Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.