Cubs

Sitting on the brink of elimination, Cubs dealt another dose of misery

Sitting on the brink of elimination, Cubs dealt another dose of misery

As Jason Kipnis touched home plate and was greeted by his Indians teammates in the first base dugout, Wrigley Field fell so silent, sounds of the Cleveland celebration could be heard on the opposite end of the stadium.

Wrigley Field was that quiet after Kipnis - a native of Northbrook - drilled a backbreaking three-run homer into the teeth of the wind blowing straight in from right field.

That was the icing on the cake for the Cubs as they were handed a gut-wrenching loss for the second straight night, a 7-2 defeat at the hands of the Indians in front of packed house of fans forced to endure another dose of misery.

The festive mood of the Halloween weekend in Wrigleyville has transformed into a anxious mess of frustration and bewilderment.

"We gotta do our best to not even worry about that stuff," Kris Bryant said. "It’s fun for us to see that, the pictures of everybody outside and so many people. We can’t get too caught up in that.

"Hopefully we win out and these first, whatever, four games will be forgotten."

The Wrigley crowd actually had a lot to cheer about early on as Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the first inning with a double and came around to score two batters later on Anthony Rizzo's RBI single.

John Lackey, the battle-tested veteran who was signed for these "Big Boy Games," immediately gave up the lead, however, as Carlos Santana led off the second inning with a solo homer. 

Jason Heyward pointed to that moment as the change in momentum in the ballgame and he was right. It was all Cleveland from there.

The Indians added another run on Bryant's second error of the second inning when he threw away Corey Kluber's swinging bunt.

"We gave up the homer; that ball was properly struck," Joe Maddon said. "The other run we kind of gave to them. The ball never left the infield and they got another run."

The Indians added solo tallies in the third and fifth innings before Kipnis' knockout blow in the seventh made Vince Vaughn's rendition of the Seventh Inning Stretch a muted affair.

"We've been here before," Heyward said. "Tonight, if you go back and look at the video of that game, we took a lot of good swings. It's not an excuse. It just is what it is. If the ball doesn't go, it doesn't go."

Dexter Fowler homered in the eighth inning, proving Andrew Miller is not a cyborg and is merely a man who is really, really ridiculously good at pitching.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

It was the first run Miller has given up in his postseason career in 24.1 innings. 

It was also the Cubs' first World Series homer since Game 1 in 1945.

The Cubs now have their backs against the wall, but send Jon Lester to the mound Sunday night in an effort to push the series back to Cleveland, where Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks will be ready to pitch and Kyle Schwarber will be reinserted into the lineup as the designated hitter.

"We just need that one moment," Maddon said. "We have to have a one-game winning streak tomorrow and if we do that, I really would be feeling pretty good about going back to Cleveland."

On a mistake-filled afternoon, Javier Baez does what he does best and saves the Cubs

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USA Today

On a mistake-filled afternoon, Javier Baez does what he does best and saves the Cubs

Consider the Cubs’ starting middle infield in Saturday’s 6-5 win over the San Diego Padres to be comprised of two extremes. 

On one end of the spectrum was Addison Russell, who started at second base. Russell was doubled off second base on an Albert Almora line drive in the second inning — a ball hit hard enough where, had it fell in for a hit, he wouldn’t have scored. There was no spinning Russell drifting far enough off second base to be doubled up; it was simply bad baserunning. 

Russell, too, was thrown out at home on an Almora ground ball in the fourth inning. He appeared to lose a pop fly in the sun, too, which fell in for a double in the third inning. 

Manager Joe Maddon was willing to excuse the pop-up double — “The sun ball, there’s nothing you could do about that,” he said — but sounded frustrated with Russell’s far-too-frequent baserunning gaffes. 

“He’s gotta straighten some things out,” Maddon said. “He has to. There’s no question. I’m not going to stand here — he’s got to, we’ve talked about his baserunning in the past. 

“… The baserunning, there’s some things there — we’re making too many outs on the bases and we’re missing things on the bases that we can’t to be an elite team.”

Russell’s mistakes were part of a larger sloppy showing by both teams. As Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler put it: “No lead was safe. It was really just who was going to survive and not make so many mistakes.”

Javier Baez ensured the Cubs would survive by not merely avoiding mistakes, but by coming up with two massive plays. 

Baez’s three-run home run in the fourth inning gave the Cubs’ the lead for good, and he fell a triple short of the cycle. He’s homered in consecutive games, and Maddon senses the 26-year-old is emerging from a slump that dropped his OPS to .853 after Wednesday’s game, his lowest mark since the small-sample-size landscape of mid-April. 

But it was Baez’s masterful tag in the bottom of the ninth inning that captured most of the attention around Wrigley Field, reminding everyone in the dugouts and stands just how incredible “El Mago” can be. 

Craig Kimbrel walked Wil Myers to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, and after budding superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. inexplicably bunted (he popped out), Myers took off to steal second base. Kimbrel sailed a fastball high and inside, and Victor Caratini’s throw was well to the left of second base. Myers appeared to have the base stolen until Baez gloved the ball and rapidly snapped a tag onto Myers’ left leg:

”We needed a play made, and he made it,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s what he does.”

Baez’s home run increased the Cubs’ win expectancy by 35.7 percent; his tag on Myers upped it that mark from 83.3 percent to 96.5 percent. This is why the Cubs’ mantra, even when Baez is in a lull, is to let Javy be Javy. 

One player can’t carry a team forever — Baez had his best season as a pro in 2018, only to see the Cubs crash out of the Wild Card game, of course. But it’s hard to not think about the kind of plays Baez can conjure up when the Cubs need them the most in 2019’s playoff race. 

After all, stuff like that tag on Myers — the Cubs have come to expect that from Baez. 

“You saw a lot of plays today, they weren’t baseball plays,” Maddon said. “The game is clamoring for baseball players who know how to play this game, and he’s one. He is one. He’s got the biggest hard drive, the most RAM, he’s got everything going on every day. 

“He sees things, he’s got great vision. Technically, he’s a tremendous baseball player. He’s going to make some mistakes, like everyone else does, but what he sees and sees in advance — it’s like the best running back, it’s the best point guard you’ve ever seen. It’s all of that. As a shortstop, that’s what he is.

“… We needed him to be that guy today and he was. And again, it’s not overtly surprising.” 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Dare we ask... are the Cubs back?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Dare we ask... are the Cubs back?

Rick Telander, Ben Finfer and Seth Gruen join Kap on the panel.

0:00 - The Cubs beat the Padres from their 6th win in their 7 games since the All-Star Break. Are they really this good or are they just feasting on sub-.500 teams?

7:00 - The White Sox have lost seven straight after the break. Should fans be furious with the slump or still optimistic about the future?

13:00 - The Bears report to Bourbonnais in 6 days. Will the 2019 season be a failure if they do not make it to the Super Bowl?

19:00 - Kap gives out his play of the night in the FanDuel Friday Faves.

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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