Archive for the ‘General’ Category

NLCS Game 1 Notes – Cubs 2 @ Mets 4

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

All day Saturday I paced the house and looked at the clock. Gametime couldn’t come fast enough. I had it all lined up. I was going to a friend’s house who is a big Mets fan with a few other guys, some of them Cub fans, to watch the game on his big screen. All day I was looking forward to it. Then it all started to unravel. My friend sent a text around dinner that he was not feeling well and was going to have to take a rain check, which left me watching at home. I fired up the Roku box (we’re recently cord cutters) and loaded my Sling App that I’m on a free trial of, and the internet was having some speed issues. Thankfully those cleared up before first pitch, but another thing going wrong. Then the first few innings happened and it was basically all down hill from there.


I knew the Mets had a good starting staff and I knew that Matt Harvey, last night’s starter, was really good. I went into the series knowing this, but I still felt like we could out slug them. It just didn’t happen. Harvey pitched like a boss and basically tied the leash on the lineup. They couldn’t do a thing. Even when it seemed like we were going to get something going when a ball was lined off of Harvey, he picked it up, made the play at first base, and kept on sticking it to us. In his one other start against us, he pitched really well as well, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise as more of a disappointment.

Jon Lester took the ball for the second series in a row for game one and for a second time, the Cubs left the park with a loss. Like last time, I didn’t feel like Lester pitched bad, but when you’re being called on to get a win, you have to pitch better. You have to raise your game up a notch and will yourself to put up zeros. Lester was just too hittable and the Mets capitalized with a couple home runs and a key base hit with runners in scoring position. They put more guys on base than we did all night and took advantage when needed. It happens and it needs to go in the books and stay in the books. Lester didn’t get the win, but unlike in the NLDS, he’ll get another shot and he needs to take advantage.

As for the bullpen, they did what could do, with Justin Grimm, Clayton Richard and Trevor Cahill all chipping in to patch up the remaining outs, but it didn’t matter much. I’m still amazed that the Cubs have been able to get positive things from Richard and Cahill, two guys that were left in the baseball dump to rot. I don’t know what will happen to either of them, as both are free agents at year end, but it’s been interesting to see this front office hit on more lottery tickets.


Not much to talk about here, with the exception of two runs. For the first few innings I worried seriously that I was going to see a no hitter. There just wasn’t any offensive firepower coming from the bats. David Ross was in at catcher since Lester was on the mound, so that weakened the bottom of the order, although Ross did just miss a home run by about five feet. Lester came up with a big situation at the plate, but was unable to take advantage. It is what it is. Did you expect a bad hitter to find a nut in that sitiatuion? If you did, you set yourself up for dissappointment. In the end, there were just two plays to discuss.

First, was the 5th inning. After Anthony Rizzo led off the inning with a hit by pitch off the right elbow, Starlin Castro came to the plate and hit a rocket line drive over the head of Juan Lagaras and Rizzo came around to score. In the box score it looks great, but should Castro have been on 3rd? Take a look at the highlight.

You’ll notice, especially on the slo mo replay after the play, that Castro was very slow out of the box watching the ball. Had he hustled from the first step out of the box, he probably reaches 3rd as the throw goes to the plate to try to get Rizzo. That was a big play, because the very next play, this happened.

If Castro is standing on 3rd base after his hit, he scores easily on that play. It’s little things like this that drive Cub fans bananas, and I don’t blame them. I’m a Castro supporter. I like him and I want to keep him, but I say that knowing things like this happen. I’m not blind to it and I don’t take the approach that it will suddenly get better with age. Some guys are smart baseball players and some are not. Some play with their head up and some play with their head down. Castro is a head down kind of player with a lot of raw talent and last night it got us a run and it cost us a run.

The other offensive note to mention was Kyle Schwarber‘s monster shot. This guy is  a beast and he continues to hit moon balls.

Up Next

We turn our eyes and our hopes to Jake Arrieta. While it’s not a series ender if he can’t win tonight, it would be quite damaging and dig us a pretty deep hole to come back from. Here is your pitching matchup for tonight.

Met’s Fans are dumb. That’s all I have to say about that. Here is the only evidence I need and then I can drop the mic.

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Can You Name the Cubs Opening Day Lineups Since 1991?

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

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NLCS Preview: Cubs vs. Mets

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

General Thoughts

This is kind of tough, because I really don’t hate the Mets like I do the Cardinals or Dodgers. I’m not nearly old enough to remember what happened in 1969, and in a lot of ways their team this year reminds me of the Cubs because they have lots of young talent that has caught the eye of the rest of the league and brought them deeper in the playoffs than what was expected. In New York’s case, it’s the pitching staff, so this could make for some interesting showdowns between our young hitters and their young pitchers. That said, there’s no question that I will be disappointed if we don’t advance to the World Series. We all know by now that the Cubs are favored to win it all, but for now I would at the very least like to see them end one drought, and that’s the lack of World Series appearances. Prior to their last trip to the World Series in 1945, the Cubs had made pretty frequent visits to the championship (7 World Series appearances since their last victory in 1908), so it would be nice to see them get at least that far this year.

But I’m really getting ahead of myself. In front of us, there’s what will probably be a very challenging NLCS against the Mets. As is always the case, and like I said against St. Louis, the goal in the first two games in New York should be to take at least one of them, but I think there’s a genuine possibility of winning both. I like our chances in game 2 with Jake Arrieta on the mound and given the possibility that Noah Syndergaard might not be able to pitch because of the lengthy bullpen session during game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday night. And the Jon Lester vs. Matt Harvey matchup in game 1 tonight presents a good chance for the Cubs to start this series off with a win. Call me crazy, but I think we could see the Cubs up 2-0 as they leave New York. Hey, I did say the Cubs would beat St. Louis in 4 games, after all.

The biggest trouble for the Cubs will of course be their starters after Arrieta and Lester. Kyle Hendricks will probably pitch game 3 in Chicago on Tuesday and he has shown that he can be pretty reliable lately, but I still don’t have full confidence here. This is why I think the Mets could win 2 of the 3 games in Chicago. This will send us back to New York for 2 more games with the series at 3-2 Chicago. Depending on the pitching matchups, I think the Cubs get that 4th win in either game 6 or game 7, but I do think it happens. Yes, the Cubs were 7-0 in the regular season against the Mets, but that was before they bolstered their offense at the trade deadline in July. Don’t get me wrong, I am still confident that we will beat them in this series, but their additions of players like Yoenis Cespedes will make this much more difficult. The Cubs have similarly remade themselves this season, but not through trade deadline acquisitions.

On Thursday, news came out that shortstop Addison Russell would not be on the NLCS roster because of a hamstring strain. This injury kept him out of game 4 of the NLDS, but it didn’t seem then like he would miss extended time because of it, so him being left off of the NLCS roster is a bit of a surprise.

Not to be dismissive about this loss, but on most other teams, it would have a much, much larger impact. But for us, it just means that Javier Baez takes over at shortstop, and I am not worried about what he will be able to do. It thins our bench, but I would rather Russell not play at all in the NLCS and be fully healthy for the potential World Series appearance. Being able to say that Baez is your backup is a rare and very nice problem to have.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at the schedule:

Game 1: Saturday, October 17 @ 6:30 – New York

This is a really tough matchup, and will make for a very interesting game 1. That said, I think the Cubs can beat Harvey. I expect a low scoring game where the runs come early.

 Game 2: Sunday, October 18 @ 6:30 – New York

Even with his heavy workload in the bullpen on Thursday, I tend to think that the Mets will go to Syndergaard tomorrow night. That way, they have a chance of using him again next weekend if needed. Assuming Arrieta pitches like he has every other game since the All Star break (with game 3 of the NLDS as an exception), I still like our chances here.

Game 3: Tuesday, October 20 @ 6:30 – Chicago

The starters here are unkown, but we could see Jacob deGrom vs. Hendricks in this start. This obviously does not favor us, and although deGrom looked hittable against the Dodgers on Thursday night, this is going to be a tough one to win, if he pitches this game.

Game 4: Wednesday, October 21 @ 6:30 – Chicago

Might this be Bartolo Colon day?

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Either way, this is probably our bullpen day. I’m not sure if you have Jason Hammel the start here or not, because he just hasn’t shown that he can go more than 3 or 4 innings reliably. I hate to keep thinking that we can rely on our bullpen guys like Travis Wood, Clayton Richard, and Trevor Cahill to put together a win, but they might be called upon to do that on Wednesday.

Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday, October 22 @ 6:30 – Chicago

It would be quite a guess to try and surmise who will pitch this game for either team, but I expect that much of that will depend on who has won the first 4 games. I do have to wonder if the Cubs somehow have the chance to finish the series in game 5, they might turn to Lester.

Game 6 (if necessary): Saturday, October 24 @ 2:30 – New York

If this goes to game 6, ignore the college football for an afternoon. If Lester does not go in game 5, I expect that we see him again here. Harvey might pitch again here too, depending on whether or not the Mets want to keep to their regular season plan of keeping him rested and limiting his innings. I have to think that if they are on the verge of elimination, however, that they’ll do what they need to in order to push things to a game 7.

Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, October 25 @ 6:30 – New York

Peter Gammons thinks this series will go to 7 games and the Cubs will win it (he was interviewed on 670 The Score yesterday morning, you can stream or download here), and I have to wonder if he won’t be right. This would probably be Arrieta’s day, and I have to admit that it would be awesome to see him get the final win to send the Cubs to the World Series for the first time since World War 2.

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Am I Ready For This?

Friday, October 16th, 2015

On October 27th, 2003, VFTB was born. It came about in direct response to the feelings I was experiencing and had experienced in the 2003 season. That was the year the Cubs made it to this exact spot, the NLCS. In fact, in case you are a brand new Cubs fan, that was the year they were five outs away from seeing their first World Series appearance since 1945. This doesn’t happen very often. Sure, people know it’s been over a century since the Cubs last won it all, but when you really start to look at the numbers, it’s staggering to think of the futility of this franchise. I’ve tried to explain it to my wife, so she can understand a little about how I’m feeling, but it’s no use. People who don’t live and die with this team don’t get it. So, I’ve decided to use the blog for it’s original purpose this morning and that is as a way for me to get on the couch and share my feelings.


Obviously, this has to be the first emotion I’m feeling, but it’s twofold. While 2007 and 2008 were “playoff years” for this blog, let’s face it, there wasn’t much to be excited about. Two tail between your legs sweeps and we were out before you could even blink. It wasn’t exciting, but this, THIS is exiting. The present is very exiting. I find myself having trouble concentrating at times because I’m thinking about the next game. I find myself wondering what it feels like to have a baseball team that actually wins. It’s exciting to still be watching baseball and only baseball while my fantasy football team goes to hell. I’ve not watched an ounce of football because of how excited I’ve been about this post-season. However, I also find myself very excited about the future. We’ve been talking about that for a while now, but it’s finally here and it’s exciting to know that as good as this team is now, the team is going to get that much better and continue to be exciting. In 2003 the average age of the team was 31+ years old. Average age of this team is 26 years old. I’m excited that the window is just starting to open.


With excitement comes pride. I’m proud of this team. It’s not embarrassing to say you’re a Cubs fan right now. People recognize that your team is good and pundits everywhere talk about how they could be the favorite to win it all. It makes you proud to hear your baseball team being talked about on Mike and Mike or Baseball Tonight or, well, everywhere. It makes me proud that rants and videos like this can be made.


With pride comes that devil on my shoulder that constantly tells me that my team can’t win. They can’t overcome all the futility. They can’t win anything. I find myself anxious and worry that something will go wrong. Enough eggshells have been walked on to feed an army of men omelets for life. I don’t like feeling this way, but history shows that we can’t help but feeling this way. I fear that this team is going to come into the series with the Mets believing all the hype, letting it all go to their head and then having the entire Jenga tower come toppling down. Then the fear turns into the last feeling.


2003 hit me very hard. I remarked to my wife that it felt as if someone had died. She found that silly, but it truly did feel as if I had experienced a horrible loss in the family. I don’t want to feel that again. I remarked on Twitter:

So am I ready for this? I don’t know, but we’ll find out.

I don’t want to get you down and leave it like that, so I leave you with this to make you feel better.

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The Culture Change in Chicago

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

I’m running on pure adrenaline these last 6 weeks or so. I have gotten less sleep but have never felt more energized. Like all of you, I’m watching a Cubs team that has done things that I absolutely did not see coming, or at least not to this degree. What has been nearly almost as exciting has been the shift in culture among the fans and sports writers around the team. Sure, there are a few who refuse to let themselves get excited about what’s going on and just absolutely insist on being wet blankets (looking at you, Nick Vlahos), but as a whole, there is a culture change that has taken place and just continues to grow as the Cubs go deeper into the playoffs.

A lot of us who have followed this team through the lean years and who have payed close attention especially as the later part of the 2014 season developed started to have a sense that this was coming. With the call ups of Javier Baez and Jorge Soler last August and September, we got a glimpse of what was coming in 2015. And this was without seeing what Kris Bryant or Addison Russell would be like (and, let’s be honest, I don’t think many of us had Kyle Schwarber on our radar as an impact player in 2015). The 2014-2015 offseason only stoked the fires of expectations with the additions of Joe Maddon and Jon Lester.

Then, when spring training started, excitement came early. On March 10, long before the casual fan starts paying any attention, the back-to-back-to-back home runs from Soler, Bryant, and Baez prompted the official Cubs twitter account to feel compelled to check in on all of us:

Even just a few weeks into the regular season, I could see a difference in this team, so much so that near the end of April, I wrote on another blog about the fact that this year’s team felt so much different, even from the most recent team to have regular season success, the 2008 Cubs. After a 12-8 April, they went just a bit over .500 for May-July and then especially after the sweep at the hands of Cole Hamels and the Phillies July 24-26, it started to feel like the preseason predictions of a 81 or 82 win team were probably pretty likely.

But no. Just no. From July 27 through August 15, they lost just 2 games. TWO. They were 16-2 in that stretch, with two walk off wins. Then, of course, from the start of August to the end of the season, they were 42-18. In late August, Sports Illustrated put them on their cover, and for a change, it didn’t feel like a jinx. It felt like recognition coming that the Cubs had earned.

At the approach of the wild card game, I think many of us were trying to temper our expectations, but we had a feeling that this team was good enough to make a deep run. In fact, there were a few hype videos (watch here and here) that sparked a fervor that I don’t remember being here even in 2007 and 2008 when they won the division in back to back years. As they have progressed through the playoffs and look to face either the Dodgers or Mets beginning on Saturday, the vibe is much different. Even while listening to a caller on 670 The Score, I heard him say, “Even if they don’t win it all this year, it’s okay. They’ll just do it next year.” This isn’t “Wait ‘Til Next Year.” It’s a much different thing. Just yesterday, Laurence Holmes wrote this gem (seriously, stop reading this for a second and at least bookmark it). The national media will be falling all over themselves to bring up Bartman, black cats, the goat, and 1908 (if you’re so inclined, that would be a heck of a drinking game – but don’t. You might not make it through game 1 on Saturday without a hospital visit), but I don’t get the sense that many Cubs fans – and certainly not the manager and players on the team- care about that anymore.

Whatever does happen in the NLCS and going forward from there, I think something very important for the future of the Cubs happened in the NLDS: They beat St. Louis. And in 4 games. Sports has a rich history of prior examples to provide as a metaphor here, but someone else articulated it before I could even think of it (@dabynsky on the Twitter – go follow, he’s great):

As someone who watched his first NBA games in the late 80s, this struck an immediate cord. It feels like it could very well be a similar conquest. I fully expect that we will have many years of battling with the Cardinals ahead of us, but winning this series feels like they cleared a hurdle that will propel them to do something that they have done in…you know, a while. If it’s not this year, it’s happening. Very, very soon.

Oh, and just for fun, listen to the TBS announcers on Schwarber’s home run on game 4 on Tuesday: “Mercy. What in the world?”


2003: Steve Bartman, the Cubs fan who deflected a foul ball in Game 6 of the NLCS, releases a statement explaining his actions. During a weepy apology, the 26 year-old human resources company worker asks Chicago fans to redirect their negative energy into positive support for the team during Game 7 of the championship series.

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NLDS Game 4 Notes: Cardinals 4 @ Cubs 6

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

It’s honestly a little difficult to know where to begin and just how to articulate all of it. When I wrote my first post here back in the heart of the offseason and then as it looked like I’d have a chance to contribute here regularly (something I absolutely love doing), I certainly didn’t imagine or expect that the 2015 season would entail all that it did. Back in March, I thought 90 wins was kind of a long shot, and didn’t expect the playoffs. I know I’ve said all of this before, but I feel the need to reiterate it as the NLCS series is beginning this weekend, and wonderfully, the Cubs are in it. Not at all to pat myself on the back, but I had a feeling going into this that the Cubs could win the NLDS in 4 games. But let’s take a look at how it happened in game 4:

Game Notes

Before the game even started, it felt like the Cardinals were on their heels, and not just because they were down 2 games to 1. More so because, while they accomplished their goal to get to Jake Arrieta on Monday, they still couldn’t win. And then it sure felt like opting for John Lackey on short rest yesterday was a move by a team that didn’t feel good about their chances.

The first inning home run from Stephen Piscotty made me feel for a moment like we might be seeing a game 5, and I really did not want a game 5. That was just a scary thought. But that’s kind of the old way of thinking at work. Past Cubs teams would probably have rolled over at that point, but the 2015 Cubs have never been that way. Not from the start. In the very next inning, Jason Hammel, for as bad as his start might have been, knocked in a run that set up a beautiful 3 run shot from Javier Baez. And, just like that, it’s 4-2 Cubs.

Even as the Cardinals brought it to a tie in the 6th inning, I didn’t feel like this wasn’t going to go our way. It’s hard to quantify, but this Cubs team has just never felt like one that was going to lose a game like this. And right on cue, Anthony Rizzo blasted one into the right field bleachers to put the Cubs back in the lead.

And then came the Kyle Schwarber home run in the 7th inning. A shot that, as I write this a couple of hours after the game ended, might not have landed yet. Or maybe it’s in Oakland:

From there, while I was nervously pacing the house and cheering every out, I felt like this was really going to happen. We were really beating the Cardinals and advancing to the NLCS for the first time since 2003. The 8th and 9th innings from Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon were just something to behold. 2 Ks apiece, just one baserunner allowed, and a fantastic finish to what was a great series. I expect that we will be seeing many more dogfights like this one in the years to come.

As the game ended, my oldest son, who has been to two Cubs games with me this season, knew immediately what to do. Go get the W flag and put it up:

That was a great memory. Funny to think that he will grow up probably never knowing the Cubs as the “lovable losers.” Not to get ahead of myself (but I’m going to do it a little bit anyway), he might not even know the Cubs as the team that went so long without winning it all.

Looking ahead to the NLCS

The Cubs clinched a playoff series at home for the first time at Wrigley Field last night, and will be headed to the NLCS for the first time in 12 years. That series will start on Saturday, but the opponent is not known yet. It will, of course, come down to the Dodgers or the Mets, but as I am writing this, it looks like the Dodgers will beat the Mets in game 4 and force a game 5 on Thursday. Whoever wins that very probably 5th game, here’s what the NLCS will look like:

Game 1: Cubs @ Dodgers/Mets – Saturday, October 17

Game 2: Cubs @ Dodgers/Mets – Sunday, October 18

Game 3: Dodgers/Mets @ Cubs – Tuesday, October 20

Game 4: Dodgers/Mets @ Cubs – Wednesday, October 21

Game 5 (if necessary): Dodgers/Mets @ Cubs – Thursday, October 22

Game 6 (if necessary): Cubs @ Dodgers/Mets – Saturday, October 24

Game 7 (if necessary): Cubs @ Dodgers/Mets – Sunday, October 25

The Cubs are lined up for Jon Lester and Arrieta to take games 1 and 2, with Lester very likely going in game 1, if that’s how Joe Maddon chooses to go about things. Otherwise, he could save Arrieta for game 3 at home next Tuesday.


1906: The White Sox, known as baseball’s ‘hitless wonders’, complete their unbelievable World Series upset of their powerful crosstown rivals, beating the Cubs, 8-3, at South Side Park. The Cubs had won a record 116 regular season games.

1908: In front of the smallest crowd in World Series history, Chicago, behind the strong pitching of Orval Overall, beat the Tigers in just 85 minutes to capture the Fall Classic. The 6,210 fans, witnessing the fifth and final World Series game at Detroit’s Bennett Park, have no idea it will be the last time the Cubs will win a World Championship in the next 100+ years.

2003: Holding a 3-0 lead and needing only five more outs to go the World Series for the first time since 1945, the Cubs give up eight runs, on five hits, three walks and an error to the Marlins. The team appears to come apart after a fan, later identified as Steve Bartman, sitting along the left-field line at Wrigley Field, tries to catch a foul ball that was about to be caught by Chicago outfielder Moises Alou for the second out of the inning.


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NLDS Game 3 Notes – Cardinals 6 @ Cubs 8

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

Executing the Game Plan

The plan for the Cubs was to split in St. Louis and then come home with Jake Arrieta on the mound in game three to take a nice lead in the series. Mission accomplished in St. Louis, so it set up nicely last night to complete the mission. However, the Cardinals also had a game plan. They wanted to come out, get good at bats against Arrieta, run up the pitch count as much as possible against a guy who may just be part cyborg, and try to get to that Cubs pen early. Mission accomplished by them as well. Jake posted his shortest outing since June 16th, posting just 5.2 innings of work and allowing 4 earned runs. Had you told me that was going to happen before the game started, I would have assumed we had lost. Thankfully we did not. When it comes down to it, game three belonged to the offenses, as Michael Wacha struggled as well and was pulled without even completing the 5th inning. It was just one of those nights at Wrigley, where the wind is blowing out like crazy and you have to expect a slugfest.

Power Surge

If you look at the box score on ESPN, it lists the wind at 17 mph. If you watched the game, you know that is not accurate. I saw numbers that said it was gusting as much as 25 to 30 mph straight out of the ballpark. We saw it on a few pop ups that turned into a bit of an adventure.

I took a look at the numbers this season and there were 16 regular season games in 2015 at Wrigley Field with the wind blowing at least 15 miles per hour out to either LF, CF, or RF. The Cubs were 11-5 in those games. They played to the conditions and they did it again last night with six home runs as a team.

For an offense that was sorely lacking production from the boppers in the middle of the lineup, a six home run night is what the doctor ordered. In fact, Luke Stuckmeyer even nailed it on Twitter before it happened. I wish there was a timestamp, but know this took place right before Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo went yard.

Series Over?

It’s easy to subscribe to the theory that the Cubs are up 2-1 with two shots to close it out, so the series is essentially over. One Cardinals fan was quite discouraged last night.

NLDS Game 3 Preview

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Today marks the beginning of the Wrigley Field portion of the NLDS, and in a position favorable to the Cubs. After tying the series at 1 with a burst of offense on Saturday in St. Louis, the Cubs return home feeling confident and assured that this trend can continue. The confidence not only stems from the upward trend of offensive firepower due to the dangerously deep bench and uber-talented cadre of rookies, but also one man’s presence; that one man is Jake Arrieta. With all of that said, what follows are breakdowns for each team, and my own, subjective opinion on who has an advantage in each given area. We will start now, with…

Offense: Cubs’ vs. Cardinals
EDGE: Cubs

With Saturday’s game providing an objective look at just how deep the Cubs are in these playoffs, the North Side offense takes the edge here. Jorge Soler, since returning from injury, has looked like a man rejuvenated and reborn as the hybrid power-hitting and for-average-hitting outfielder he was advertised as when first called to the big leagues. Kyle Schwarber, with a few days off after exploding in a mushroom cloud silhouette during the Wild Card game and Game 1 of the NLDS, has now had a few days to rest and re-center. Chris Denorfia has become a top-tier defensive, late-game substitution for Joe Maddon, to give guys like Schwarber and Soler extended rest. Austin Jackson, too, has provided both offensively and defensively, and his veteran presence in the outfield has continued to instill confidence in the platoon of Maddon’s club. The Cardinals, conversely, while being a dangerous offensive club themselves, have one major handicap: Yadier Molina and his catching thumb. A power-hitting catcher who is even more proficient defensively is a rare hybrid, and he has it. His thumb, however, has rendered him largely ineffective in the batter’s box. While both teams are, on paper, more evenly matched in this regard, the easy and shorter answer for why the Cubs have the edge comes in the form of a full name: Jake Arrieta.

Defense: Cubs’ vs. Cardinals
EDGE: Even

Even with the Cardinals’ two glaring errors on Saturday, with Kolten Wong struggling on defense (he actually did lead all shortstops with 17 errors on the year), the Cardinals and Cubs finished the season towards the bottom of the pack defensively and in relatively close proximity. With the Cubs having versatility in late game situations, and relatively sure hands in the outfield, the Cardinals have Yadier Molina behind the plate, whose arm is unaffected by his catching thumb injury. And Starlin, while on an upswing defensively as of late, has the overall tendency of being error-prone. In all, the defenses of each team seem average, and even-keeled, going into Game 3.

Pitching: Jake Arrieta vs. Anybody/Michael Wacha
EDGE: Cubs
Jake Arrieta has been on as historic of a run as there has ever been, and unfortunately for Michael Wacha – who is having a superb season – he drew the smallest straw, in theory, metaphorically, once Mike Matheny announced him as the starter. Jake makes the game feel handicapped in the Cubs’ favor, which I have not truly felt since Kerry Wood. In case you haven’t seen the tangible numbers, here are the popular few. Since August, Jake Arrieta has a 0.41 ERA; since the All-Star break, he possesses a 0.75 ERA. To contextualize these numbers, in the vast, rich history of Major League Baseball, the next closest lowest ERA post-All Star break stands nearly a quarter run greater. His 1.77 regular-season ERA is the lowest for a Cubs pitcher since 1919. The advantage here lies with the Cubs, and should continue to for the near future.

The Cubs, with Jake Arrieta on the mound, will seek to jump early and often onto Michael Wacha offensively, forcing the Cardinals into using their bullpen early once more. Wacha, despite his dominant-looking record of 17-7, struggled against Joe Maddon’s kids this particular season, managing a meager 1-2 record with a 6.86 ERA. And the Cubs will be seeking the first playoff win at Wrigley since the fateful 2003 season, where diet sodas, cups of coffee, and mugs of Old Style were spilled out of exasperation the world over. With these factors meticulously considered, I pick the Cubs to win solidly, improve to 2-1 against the Cardinals in the series, and seek to clinch an NLCS berth Tuesday. What a sentence; what a year.

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NLDS Game 2 Notes: Cubs 6 @ Cardinals 3

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

Going into these first two games in St. Louis, and even after the frustrating Game 1 loss on Friday, I kept telling myself that our aim needed to be to win at least one of the first two games on the road, because then with Jake Arrieta pitching at Wrigley on Monday, we could practically ensure that we would be up 2 games to 1 going into Game 4 on Tuesday, which is also at Wrigley. I felt a little bit crazy for saying it, but as I wrote the NLDS Preview post that went up Friday morning, I thought that the Cubs clinching in 4 games was a legitimate possibility. And so far, things are lining up nicely for that to happen. I don’t want to start counting on things that aren’t there yet, however, so let’s take a look at how Game 2 went:

Game Notes – Cubs win, 6-3

Take away three mistake pitches and Kyle Hendricks actually had a very nice game. He did exactly what he needed to, and when the time came for Travis Wood to take over for a few innings, Wood also did just what we hoped he would in this type of situation. So while it is tempting to give all the credit to our offense that put up 5 runs in the 2nd inning, I wouldn’t feel right not giving credit first to our pitching staff that put together a very nice game. Trevor Cahill‘s lights out 8th inning was something that I will keep saved on the DVR for a while to re-watch during the long, dark winter.

Hendricks, though, deserves a longer mention. He did only throw 4.2 innings, but coming into this series, I had only anticipated 5 or 6 innings from him in this start anyway. And again, take away three bad pitches that turned into home runs for St. Louis, and you are looking at a shutout from our pitchers. In those 4.2 innings, though, Hendricks had 7 strikeouts and did not walk a single batter. Outside of the home runs, he gave up just one other hit.

Wood also had a phenomenal showing. He did not allow a single run and only gave up 1 hit during his 2.1 innings of work. At risk of sounding like a broken record, our pitchers did exactly what we needed them to do yesterday. The bulk of the credit should go to them.

But I can’t forget Jorge Soler. He had himself an outstanding day at the plate yesterday, going 2 for 2 and then getting 2 walks, so he was on base every time he came to the plate on Saturday. He started the game off with a first inning double that the rest of the Cubs offense did not capitalize on, but then in the 2nd inning, he hit a 2 run bomb off of Jaime Garcia that was a big part of the 5 run 2nd inning that ultimately decided the game.

Credit too, to Dexter Fowler, who had two hits and scored one of the runs as well, and while Anthony Rizzo still didn’t get a hit, he took a walk that led to him scoring later on that inning. Rizzo and Kris Bryant will have to be more productive however (Bryant was 0 for 4 yesterday and did not have a hit in the wild card game either), if we are going to keep winning. Thankfully, our offense as a whole has a lot of weapons, but when Rizzo and Bryant are clicking, they can do some real damage.

Was Garcia sick?

I will admit my obvious bias here and say that if this were any other team in baseball, I’d be more inclined to believe it, but after Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia left the game yesterday, news slowly came out that he had apparently been suffering from a “stomach ailment.”

The word came out during the 5th inning, after he had been out for 3 innings, that he had told them team beforehand that he wasn’t feeling well:

Garcia told the team he felt a bit ill about an hour before the game but thought he’d be fine.

“I was going to pitch. it was my game,” Garcia said after the Cubs tied the series. “I worked so hard all year for this situation, and unfortunately, it didn’t go my way, but no excuse.”

Fine. So he didn’t feel well before the game started, but he decides to try and tough it out anyway. It’s not like there isn’t a precedent for that kind of thing in the playoffs. And an hour before the game, it wasn’t as if Mike Matheny was going to get another starter ready. But this is really the kind of thing that makes me roll my eyes while coughing into my hand and saying “bullsh–.” But that’s just my inner 12 year old coming out. The Cardinals just remind me too much of that bratty kid in your neighborhood who takes his ball and goes home when he’s not getting his way.

What could benefit the Cubs here is that this alters the pitching plan for St. Louis, especially on Tuesday. We could look back and see that because Garcia couldn’t go longer into the game yesterday, it made things easier for us in Game 4. Lance Lynn very likely won’t be able to start that game because of the innings he put in yesterday, so the pitching plan for the Cardinals is much less clear. And call me heartless, but this bothers me not at all.

What’s on tap?

Monday’s game start time is not yet determined, but here’s a look at the two starters:

Michael Wacha

4-2, 3.48 in the playoffs in his career, but the Cubs have dominated him this season. He has a 6.86 ERA against Chicago in 2015. In his last two starts against the Cubs in the 2015 season (on September 8 and 19), he’s pitched 9 total innings and given up 10 earned runs and 12 hits.

Jake Arrieta

Interestingly, Arrieta has not pitched against the Cardinals since July 7 (he went 6.2 innings for the win, giving up 7 hits and 2 earned runs and striking out 4). One of his rare bad starts this season did come in St. Louis, but that goes all the way back to May 7. And before we read too much into that, he did pitch 7 scoreless innings against them in game 2 of the season, striking out 7 and allowing just 3 hits to give us our first win of the season on April 8. Whatever the case, this matchup very, very clearly favors Arrieta and the Cubs.


1911: Ty Cobb (Tigers -AL) and Frank Schulte (Cubs -NL) receive cars for being chosen the first-ever Most Valuable Player in their respective leagues. Known as the Chalmers Award, the new honor is sponsored by Chalmers Automotive, a Detroit based automobile company.

1929: The Cubs become the first National League team to win a Fall Classic contest since 1926 when the Redbirds beat New York in Game 7. Chicago breaks the Senior Circuit’s ten-game World Series skid in Game 3 with a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia at Shibe Park.

2002: Former Yankee and Diamondback skipper Buck Showalter is hired by the Rangers to be the team’s manager. The Cubs, Mets, Devil Rays and Brewers had also expressed an interest in the ESPN commentator.

2003: The Cubs (6) and Marlins (8) tie the NLCS homer record by hitting 14 dingers in the championship series. The mark was established by the Giants and Cardinals last year.


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