Holy meat balls, that was some friggin’ game last night, wasn’t it?! Am I happy we came up short? No, I am not. Was it a friggin’ epic battle royal cage match fought by two teams refusing to yield to the bloody gloves of the other? In spades, my friend. In spades.
It was Godzilla vs King Kong; the Federation vs the Clingons; the Sharks vs the Jets (no, that ain’t hockey vs football); Neo vs Agent Smith; the Crows vs the Wildlings. You know that scene in Gangs of New York where the Natives and the Dead Rabbits have it out in the square? Last night’s game was like that, my friend. EPIC! It reminded me of the Thrilla in Manilla. Howard Cosell’s grating New York cadence was in the back of my head, deliverin’ the blow-by-blow. Only insteada “Frasier goes down! Frasier goes down! Frasier goes down!” it was “Bryant has tied the game! Bryant has tied the game! Bryant has tied the game!” That was electrifying. No matter what happens through the rest of the playoffs, you’re not gonna see a better game than that.
When Arrieta went yard, I went in my pants. No, not really, but holy crap! I usually need an elevator to get that far off the ground. Whatever Maddon has been feedin’ our staff, it’d be nice if he started givin’ it to some of the rest of the guys. Bryant has obviously discovered where he’s hidin’ the magic dust. But Rizzo? Keee-ryste … he looks like me at the plate. The offensive prowess of our Murderer’s Row pitching staff is probably somethin’ we should not totally rely on if we expect to beat theses yayhoos.
Kudos to Montgomery, last night, too. He gave it up in the end, but I think he did a lot more than anyone expected, including Maddon. And speakin’ of Joe, who is a certified, Grade-A, Wagu genius, I can’t say I thought bringin’ in Chapman when he did was his most Einstein-ish move of the season. What do I know, right? But I read it like a sign of desperation; like we couldn’t play regular and still win. We had to bring the Saturn V rocket arm in early. And that’s what the Giants thought. They smelled blood in the water, started circling and then takin’ chunks outta Chapman’s hide. Hindsight. I know. But I’m just sayin’.
So now Bochy is 10-0 in elimination games. Ten and oh! Unreal. Someone has gotta put an end to that. Personally, I’d like it to be John Lackey and the re-ignited bats of the best offense in baseball. And, if it’s not askin’ too much, it’d be nice if the game is more like we’re playin’ Cincinnati, so when we have a 10 run lead by the 5th, I can relax and enjoy myself a little insteada bitin’ my fingernails down to the second knuckle. Go Cubs!
Hey there, ice chips. How ’bout those friggin’ Cubs, huh?! I gotta tell ya, I luuuuuuvvvvv flyin’ the playoff W. I’d say it makes me feel like I’m on top of the world but that’s kinda stupid. I mean think about it. First — SPOILER ALERT — there’s no Santa Claus up there and second, it’s butt ass cold. It’d be a lot more accurate to say I’m feelin’ like I’m sittin’ on a clothing-optional beach in Bora Bora, the missus has exercised her option, and is feedin’ me pork sliders while I sip on a frosty Old Style. Yeah, that about captures it. Thank you for that, Cubbies.
Anyway, as the Central Division Champs are makin’ their way to the city of whackadoos for Game 3 against the Giants, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on the meaning of the oldest phrase in baseball: Keep your eye on the friggin’ ball.
Lemme start by sayin’ that anyone who pays attention to my microscopic corner of the Cubs universe knows that I live and die with them. If that’s you, 1) thank you for payin’ attention and 2) you know that my 55 seasons have seen a whole lot more dyin’ than livin’. That’s given me a certain … let’s say … perspective. I tend to call it like I see it, rather than wearin’ Cubbie blue shaded glasses. Sometimes the Schlombowski forecast is “cloudy with a chance of losing.” Hey, I don’t make the weather, pal, I just report it.
Don’t get me wrong. I not only think the Cubs are in the driver’s seat right now, I think the Giants have been stuffed into the trunk and are about to get dumped on the side of a dark, winding road out in the middle of the redwoods.
IF they keep their eye on the ball, that is.
And I don’t mean pickin’ up the rotation on Bumgarner’s cheese and watchin’ it all the way to the plate. What I mean is that bein’ up 2-0 to the Giants, even in a best-of-5 series, isn’t a Labron James better-get-the-hell-outta-my-way slam dunk, unless we do one thing: stay focused on the ball that matters — winnin’ the World Series. To me, that mean’s not actin’ like we just won the friggin’ lottery cuz the first two games went our way, or cuz our pitchers have turned into Babe Ruth, or cuz Wood just penned his name in the record books. The Cubs gotta go about their business like they’re mailmen or something. You know … that whole “neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night” thing. Only with us it’s “Neither Mad-Bum, nor Posey, nor wicked line drives off our pitchers will keep us from our appointed victory over the Halloween-colored San Francisco Giants.” Do I think that’s gonna happen? You bet your sweet ivy-covered ass I do. Do I think it’s gonna be easy? Read on, my friend:
The Giants have won three World Series since 2010 and they’re 9-0 in elimination games since 2012. Nine and friggin’ oh! Is that something to sneeze at? No, is the answer. It is not.
In 2012, San Francisco was given a stay of execution twice … TWICE! First, when they came back from a 2-0 deficit to the Reds in the NLDS. Then, after fallin’ behind the Cards 3-1 in the Championship Series, they not only Johnny Cochran’d their way outta the noose, they ended up with a friggin’ ring.
Jump forward to 2014 — yeah, yeah, another even numbered year. The Giants win the Wild Card against the Pirates.
Ditto 2016 against the Mets.
And let’s not forget the Giants figured a way to win Game 7 of the ’14 World Series in Kansas City after losin’ 10-nothin’ in Game 6.
Tomorrow’s starter, Madison Bumgarner is a whopping 12-3 as a starter in the playoffs.
Yeah, sounds like a real piece of cake, for sure.
If I’m Joe Maddon insteada Joe Schlombowski (and boy, wouldn’t that give the missus a reason to do cartwheels) I’m not countin’ any chickens just yet. I’m not even mentioning the word “chicken.” In fact I’m Google mappin’ things so the team bus avoids any route where there’s even a remote possibility of a KFC sighting between the hotel and the ball park. And I sure as hell am not havin’ one of those lighten-the-mood onesie parties. It’s time to keep the eye on the friggin’ ball.
However … there IS a silver lining. Yes, occasionally there happens to be one of those around the Schlombowski black cloud. And here why:
In their 3 post-season games so far, San Francisco has sent 102 batters to the plate and only 3 of ’em have produced runs. There are a lot of ways to describe that. Personally, though? I like “pathetic.” That kinda graveyard performance may be good enough to beat a team like the Mets, but we’re not the Mets.
Two words: Jake Arrieta. Our Cy Young winnin’, no-hit, cannon-armed flame thrower will be takin’ the mound tomorrow night. You wanna talk black clouds? I give you Hurricane Arrieta. Things don’t get much darker than that for the Giants.
Just for grins, let’s say the Giants escape one more time, by some fluke of whatever — like Arrieta is hit by lightning, or Rob Manfred institutes another one of his “speed the game up” rules, stipulating the Cubs get only 1 batter per inning. I’m still gonna bring my Alfred E. Neuman face out, cuz Hendricks is still fresh, Lackey and Hammel have yet to throw, and even Lester could come back for game 5 if needed (it won’t be).
Have I mentioned the stacked Chicago Cubs lineup? The Cubs are like Dolly-Parton-with-a-boob-job stacked. Bryant, Rizzo, Zobrist. Boom, boom and boom. I’ll put our bats up against anyone’s. So I don’t really give a crap if Madison friggin’ Bumgarner is on the bump. Gettin’ through the Cubs order without needin’ oxygen is highly unlikely.
Pinch hitters Wood and Hendricks.
Aroldis “you can’t hit what you can’t see” Chapman.
Rondon and Strop to set him up.
Joe Maddon’s King Kong-sized brain.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. That is: The Giants are a tough ball club, especially when the chips are down. But if the Cubs keep their eyes on the friggin’ ball, that’s just not gonna matter.
There were 2,430 games played this season, and it took the very last one for the Giants to manufacture a chance at the Post Season. How you interpret that can either give you hives or a grin the size of Prince Fielder’s butt.
It’s hard to figure a team like San Francisco. They’ve got a good staff, a line up of veterans, a damn good manager in Bruce Bochy, and a ton of experience with the post season in the last decade. A little too much. Like there should be a special episode of Hoarders about the Giants. And yet they still sucked like Linda Lovelace with a Dyson since the All Star break.
This is also an even year, which holds sway over the superstitious. Not that Cubs fans are immune to that condition. Two words: Billy Goat. Me, personally? I never, ever change my underwear in the middle of a winning streak. Needless to say, I got a little crispy now and then this season. Totally worth it, though. Anyway, Giants fans believe that even numbered years belong to their team — that they own ’em. And I gotta tell you … it would give me a world of satisfaction for the Cubs to prove what a Mount Everest-sized pile of crap that is.
The fact that the Giants made it to the Wild Card game at all, in spite of playin’ the second half of the season like the fog had rolled all the way into their clubhouse, says a whole lot about them, none of which I like very much. But I think an even numbered year has about as much to do with the Giants makin’ the playoffs as the color red does.
And that’s the thing. If they didn’t get in because of some voodoo, witchcraft, hocus pocus BS, then what’s the reason? As much as the legacy of Barry Bonds still sandpapers my backside, I gotta hand it to the Giants; they’re a grizzled lineup that plays team ball, doesn’t give up, and somehow finds a way to survive when they’re nose-to-nose with the grim reaper. Those are admirable qualities in a ball club, no question, and even though the words are gonna taste like the south end of a sick rhino, I gotta say that the Giants are probably for real and, unlike the geeked-out, cucumber mist bottled water-drinkin’ fans they got, they’re probably not big believers in the make-me-laugh, even-numbered-year thing.
Full disclosure: I was pullin’ for the Mets last night. And I gotta tell ya, after what happened last year, that felt a whole lot like havin’ a heart transplant without anesthesia. I just figured the Cubs would have an easier time with them than San Francisco, and that they’d do the same thing that the Giants did — chip away at the Mets’ pen.
Of course if Mad-Bum and his band of Halloween-colored honyocks think it’s gonna be more of the same against the Cubs, they’re sorely mistaken. No way Chicago is first pitch flailing at anything in the northern hemisphere like New York. LlNot a chance. Just 21 pitches got Bumgarner through the first 3 frames. That was epically-stupid on the part of the Mets, who wasted a brilliant outing by Thor and now will be swingin’ golf clubs this weekend instead of bats. And by the way, I don’t take Syndergaard out. He’d given up a grand total of 1 hit and had somethin’ like 10 K’s over 6 innings. Yeah, yeah … Granderson saved his narrow hiney on that deep drive to center, but that had more to do with where he was positioned than Thor runnin’ outta gas. It was a long out, nothin’ more. Look, all I’m sayin’ is if my horse has won the first two legs of the Triple Crown … do I replace the jockey at Belmont? No. I do not. What idiots.
It’s that kinda moronic hitting and coaching that played right into the Giants’ hands, and was a big factor in last night’s outcome.
And what about Yoenis Cespedes? He looked like a friggin’ crayon with that hair. I’m sorry, but if you’re doin’ that sorta crap as you head into the playoffs, you’re not focused. You’re tempting the gods to make an example of you. And did they ever? He went 0-4 with 2 strike outs, and got nothin’ on the ball when he did make contact. But, hey … LOVE your hair, Yoenis.
The gods weren’t done by any stretch, either. Enter Conor Gillaspie. Seriously? Conor … Gillaspie? A Conor Gillaspie could be a bank manager. A Conor Gillaspie might sir on the Supreme Court. But steppin’ into size 16 hero shoes in a win-or-go-home game? No. That’s the gods at work, my friend. Plain and simple.
If you look at the last week of the season, and last night’s game on top of that, you might conclude that the Giants have reacquired their mojo, and will now be an even-numbered foregone conclusion to be reckoned with. And that’s fine. The Force has a powerful effect on the weak mind.
But as the Wizard so emphatically put it to Dorothy, “Not so fast. NOT so fast!”
Anyone — and I’m mostly talkin’ to you Giants fans, now — anyone thinkin’ the Cubs are gonna pull a Golden State Warriors against the G-men oughta get a CAT scan right now. The best record in baseball means nothin’ to a team that hasn’t won a ring since William Howard Taft was diddlin’ interns in the Oval Office. There’s a whole lot more they’re playin’ for. On the very tip-top of that list would be writin’ the biggest sports story on the planet in the last 7 decades. The entire city of Chicago and, hell, half the country wants to see the Cubs doin’ the champagne boogie. I’ll bet the Giants won’t even be all that broken hearted when Rob Manfred is handin’ the hardware to Ricketts. Point is, the Cubs have a distinct purpose, and it’s one helluva lot bigger than just winnin’ the Series. It’s about healing. It’s about burying the damn curse. It’s about givin’ something to back to Cubs fans for 108 of stickin’ with a team that coulda been mistaken for a possum. And I believe the Giants are about to find out just how important that is to Chicago.
Thus, in spite of San Francisco’s do or die last night, and their willing themselves past LA to even get that far, there happens to be another possible scenario besides them findin’ their mojo. In fact, there may be no mo jo in their mojo. That is possible, my friend. What they’ve had to do just to get there may be all they could muster.
Whether they’re runnin’ on fumes or emotionally topped off with full-octane Willy Mays karma, I don’t think it’s gonna matter one iota. (What the hell is an iota, anyway?) I think the Cubs are bound and determined to finish what they started in April, and unless they come down with a team-wide case of the Black Plague, nobody — not Mad-Bum, not Posey, and certainly not Conor Gillaspie — is gonna be able to do a damn thing about it.