Hey there, grease traps. You know, the missus happens to be a big fan of Chopped, a cooking show where the contestants have to make somethin’ tasty using surprise ingredients. If they don’t, they get eliminated … or chopped. Clever.
It got me thinkin’ about the Cubs, and how every season is like a mystery basket full of ingredients — winning streaks, slumps, heroes and goats, dazzling plays, mental errors and player chemistry. No matter what’s in your basket, though, you gotta put somethin’ on the field that can win. If you don’t, you get chopped. Or you’re the Phillies.
This season, the Cubs haven’t exactly been turnin’ the baseball world on its tastebuds. In fact, last night’s roasting of the Marlins — tasty as it was — was little more than one of those amusing bush things you get at a place like Alinea. It was a taste; somethin’ to get your appetite going. Problem is … you never know if they’re gonna follow it up with a gigantic slice of chocolate covered winning streak, or a dried out, nasty tastin’, stick-in-the-throat, pathetic two hit loss.
That’s been the recipe so far this year — outlined below — and it’s left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. I don’t know about you, but it wouldn’t break my heart if Maddon figured out how to serve up some of that 2016-style, deep dish Cubbie pie.
CUBS RECIPE FOR DISASTER
(Serves approximately 3 million people)
1 fresh World Series champion baseball team
1/2 (approx.) season of baseball
1 disabled list
Remove any remaining glory from last year’s championship team and discard. Separate out Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist and set aside. Combine the 37 wins and the 35 losses until they reach an average consistency. Remove the skin from Jason Heyward’s hand, and fully strain one of Ben Zobrist’s wrists. Add both to the Disabled List. Let chill for 10 days. While chilling, bring Addison Russell’s marriage to a boil and spread it out all over the newspapers. Finally, take one partially seasoned Kyle Schwarber and send him down to Triple-A, Iowa. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients with errors or until fully bland.
May cause indigestion, headaches, hair loss and occasional bouts of Tourette’s Syndrome.
Now I don’t think it’s time to go full on Gordon Ramsay or anything just yet. There’s a lotta baseball left. Plenty of time for the Cubs to whip up a batch of wins and make it to the playoffs. But they better turn the heat up pretty soon if they wanna pair any champagne with their season.
The bunt. No one likes to bunt. Pitchers bunt, but that’s cuz they can’t hit. Except for Cubs pitchers — who CAN actually hit — which means they don’t like to bunt. There’s no majesty in a bunt. No glory. Not a single player has ever been signed to a multi-year, silly-money contract cuz he could lay down the perfect bunt. You won’t see the Bunt Derby substituted for the Home Run Derby at the All Star Break. Ever. They don’t hand out plaques at Cooperstown for tappin’ the ball down the line. And no fan will ever bid a hundred grand for a ball that went 37 feet. Most of the time, a bunt means you’re willing to give yourself up for the cause. It’s noble in that regard, but in the arsenal of offensive weapons, it’s the BB gun.
Yet, with all 10 mph of its minuscule exit velocity, last night’s bunt, by Ben Zobrist, was perhaps the most powerful blast of the night. Yeah, yeah … Rizzo and Russell went yard. But I say that four run 4th doesn’t even get started without Zobrist makin’ the bunt heard ’round the world. It was the catalyst for the entire 10 run barrage, and simultaneous collapse of the Dodgers’ ability to play defense. In fact, if you consider what happened from that point forward, it would be more accurate to call it a lionalyst or tigeralyst than a catalyst. Name it what you want, Ben’s willingness to get the ball rolling by … uh … getting the ball rolling was what it took to CPR the Cubs offense. In psychological terms, that bunt was a 500 foot moon shot over the center field bleachers.
After that, the genie was not only outta the bottle, he was grantin’ just about every single wish that could possibly come to the mind of a Cubs fan. At least the ones that can happen in front of 54,449 people, and that don’t involve Salma Hayek, Scarlett Johansson and a can of Reddi Whip. We’d gone 21 innings without so much as sneekin’ a peek at the plate, and had accumulated just 6 hits in 60 at bats in games 2 and 3. For a while there I was hopin’ we could pull Mario Mendoza outta retirement. Instead, Zobrist ignited the Cubs’ jets by doin’ somethin’ most clean-up hitters probably have written outta their contracts. What followed was epic.
Four runs in the 4th. Monkey? What monkey?
In the bottom of the 2nd, Adrian Gonzalez is called out in a close play at home, but on review it’s plainly obvious that he was safe. Still, the bozos in New York uphold the call. That was baffling. I mean what’s the point of havin’ reviews if the umps in New York are gonna leave their seein’ eye dogs at home?
A one-run 5th. After givin’ back a couple of runs in the bottom half of the 4th, Rizzo says, WTF, and takes one of ’em right back.
During this particular at bat, Rizzo starts headin’ to first on what he believes is ball four, only to be called back by the called strike of home plate umpire, Angel Hernandez. Then, in the words of Harry Caray, “ho-leeeee coooooowwwwwww!” Instead of standin’ on first with a walk, Rizzo deposits Pedro Baez’s pitch in the bleachers. Don’t know if he said anything to Hernandez when he crossed the plate, but I think a thank you would have been in order.
How ’bout five more runs in the 6th? Cubs world, Cubs world! Party time! Excellent!
Rizzo and Russell gather 3 hits each, and both had round-trippers. I don’t know how many times that’s happened, but I can’t imagine it’s been very often.
In a game where just about everything goes right for the Northsiders, Zobrist gets a second bunt single, of the swinging variety this time, makin’ it a multi-hit game. This one involved a close play at first, and Zobrist was originally called out. But the review went in favor of the Cubs, again, and the call was reversed. This time, New York got the call right.
Like Zobrist, Fowler, too, has a couple of hits, including a double.
Contreras unloads the Guns of Navarone on Justin Turner, pickin’ his bushy red ass off — not first, not third, but second. Awesome.
The Dodgers, who made just 80 errors over the course of the regular season, make four in this one game. So no matter how much Adrian Gonzalez whines about that call at home plate, or how much momentum he thinks was stolen from them as a result, the Dodgers dirtied their own diapers, defensively, last night. They LOST the game. AND they were beaten. And how did they handle it? Like you’d expect. They were moanin’ louder than the entire stable at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch.
Montgomery, in keeping with the hitting prowess of the rest of the staff this post season, bangs out a single.
Heyward, although 0-5 and pretty much as anemic at the plate as he’s been all year, has a couple of good at bats, one that ended up drivin’ in a run.
All in all, things were different last night, for both ball clubs. The Cubs finally started playin’ like the Cubs, and the Dodgers had their season-long luck run out, followed by a heapin’ helpin’ of sour grapes in the clubhouse afterwards. Given the trouncing we took in games 2 and 3, it would give me a world of satisfaction to tell LA to “go get your shine box” right now. But it ain’t over. It’s down to the best 2 outta 3. No room for mistakes.
Though never definitively proven, Isoroku Yamamoto, architect of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, was believed to have said afterwards, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” I think LA unleashed their Pearl Harbor in games 2 and 3, and now the sleeping giant is wide friggin’ awake.
Was that the Chicago Cubs I saw in Dodger Stadium tonight, or a Sears tower-sized turd? I think the latter.
At first, when the whole pre-game thing filled the ball park with instant smog, just to remind everyone where the hell we were, I thought maybe that was makin’ our guy’s eyeballs water, which would explain why they were havin’ so much trouble seein’ the ball. But as the game wore on, it became apparent that what was really happening was the Cubs has succumbed to the whole “Hey, look, Larry King is sittin’ like … RIGHT THERE” thing. Whatever it was, stars or smog in the eyes, Chicago swung the bat tonight like Helen Keller. Blindfolded. I kept hopin’ LA would put a 10 year old girl in to pitch, cuz I know we couldn’t get a hit off a 12 year old one.
It pretty much went like that for most of the night. Then, in a move that makes about as much sense as Donald Trump, Maddon decides it’d be a good idea to pinch hit Heyward for Russell in the 7th. I grant you, right now Addi with a bat in his hand is about as dangerous as Mother Theresa. But I’m at a total loss to explain Heyward as the stick of the moment. You have Wilson Contreras on the bench, who can actually make contact with the friggin’ ball, by the way, but Joe goes with the most over-paid, underperforming player in Major League Baseball. You pull one no-hit bat (Russell) for another, and what happens? What the F do you think happens? He watches a strike 2 meatball go by that Louis Braille woulda tattooed, then wildly swings like a kid at a piñata party at a pitch that was in the next time zone. What’s the logic, Joe?
We can’t even get a friggin’ sacrifice when we need one. Of course if it were up to me, we’d tie Kershaw down on a makeshift altar, sprinkle him with a little Beverly Hills poodle blood or somethin’ and set his ass on fire. There’s your sacrifice, pallie. Maybe that would appease the baseball gods, which seem to be extraordinarily pissed off at the Cubs right now. Even if it didn’t, we’d have at least done something to help our chances against these Hollywood yayhoos.
Rizzo’s 9th inning stroke-of-luck, broken bat, squeeker of a hit was a symbol of what Chicago’s offense has been throughout the playoffs — a shattered remnant of it’s former self. That hit — and it was a helluva lot more like a 50 foot putt than a batted ball — brings Rizzo’s average up to a scorching .077. Watch out!
The Cubs have now gone 18 consecutive playoff innings without crossin’ the plate. Besides being a King Kong-sized, steaming pile of inept crap, that means our offense just broke their previous playoff record of 16 scoreless innings, set during the 1906 World Series … which we lost. I’m just sayin’. When your season is only 7 games long, maybe less, you can only go so far if you can’t hit the damn ball. There aren’t another 155 games to even out the slumps. If the Cubs wanna have a chance at puttin’ the curse to rest, it’s time they started swingin’ the bat like the Chicago friggin’ Cubs, not the Elmhurst Little League Cubs. No offense, Elmhurst.
Tonight’s fun facts: There are no fun facts tonight. There are facts, but none of ’em are fun. 1) The Cubs were 4 for 31 tonight. 2) We struck out 10 times. 3) We also left 11 guys on base. See what I mean? No fun.