Out Of Hibernation

Look who we woke up.  Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and the rest of the Cubs’ bats.   For all the LA Times reporters who were pre-reporting on the Cubs choking and subsequent demise, look again.  They’rrrrre baaaa-aack.  And they’re in the driver’s seat.  I’m sure the columns posted on the walls of the Cubs’ clubhouse made for ideal motivational fodder for Joe Maddon.  Now, they get to face Kenta Maeda tonight in a must-win Game 5 for the Dodgers.  Yes, MUST-win.  And Kenta is simply not a must winner.  He’s going to get shelled.  It would be extremely difficult for me to believe otherwise.  The Dodgers, meanwhile, have to face Lester.  So, it’s back to Wrigley with the Blue down 3-2, backs against the wall.  The Cubs will not lose two in a row in Wrigleyville.  They just won’t.  They’re too damn good.  Think last night’s game was important?  Yeah, pretty much.

They should just stop using instant replay.  I mean, if they’e not going to use it properly, then why use it at all?  Of course, the world knows, A Gone was clearly safe on the play at the plate that would’ve given the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning.  Would it have changed the outcome of a 10-2 Cubbies blowout?  Maybe, maybe not, buy you have to get the call right.  How in God’s name could New York not have seen that he was safe?  This whole not having visible proof bullshit has gone far enough.  If you can’t get the call right, then just get rid of replay.  It takes too much damn time anyway.  It seems like the Joe Buck (I think it’s no secret he hates the Dodgers) and the whole country outside of LA and the officials and umpires in Chelsea New York are all on the Cubs bandwagon.  Even the Ravine is filled with Cubs fans.  I think A Gone is right.  It certainly is the Dodgers against the world.

How sick are we of everyone handing the Cubs the Commissioner’s trophy in June and July?   Apparently, they already made a bat for the supposed curse-breaking champion team of 2016 to sign.  You can buy it for $129.99.  Come on.  The games still have to be played.  Unfortunately, the Dodgers momentum has been dropped like a ton of bricks.  Not just because of that stupid call at the plate, but because they played like crap.  With dreams and miracles, the big question is, “When will we wake up?” and “How long will it last?”  Did the magic and the dream finally come to an end last night?

I think the Dodgers are making a mistake by starting Maeda today instead of Kershaw.   If they can win today, they can maybe even pitch Clayton again in a Game 7 if he’s needed.  Unless the Blue can score a gang of runs against Jon Lester, Maeda will lose tonight, there’s just no doubt in my mind.  Maeda is terrible.  By starting Kenta, they’re essentially conceding Game 5 to the Cubs.   But, in deference to Doc, Friedman and Zaidi left him with very few options.

Some quick notes:

Congrats to the Tribe.  Outside of Cleveland, who saw that coming?

Why did Doc leave Stripling in so long?  He was clearly awful.  It might have been less of a blowout if he takes him out sooner.

Grandal needs to have better at bats.  The home run the other night notwithstanding.

Why is Kike playing 2nd base?  Ever?  We have Utley AND Kendrick?

Utley needs to start hitting.

Joe Buck after Puig’s great diving catch and throw: ‘He can still be electrifying every now and then.’  What?  Is Puig an aging outfielder whose career is on the wane?  Puig is always electrifying.  Not always great, but always electrifying.

Baez looked like vintage Baez from the first 2/3rds of the season.  Terrible.

Well, everyone, I applaud how far we’ve gotten and I’m proud of this team, but I don’t like our chances now.  We need more Clayton and more miracles.

Go, Blue!

Now, THIS is happening…

Well, Hill did it.  What a gem.  They are on fire.  All cylinders.  This is an amazing ride the Dodgers are taking us on and I don’t want it to end.  The last time the Dodgers led an NLCS was Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-eight, year of our Lord.   Today, it’s extremely young Julio down by the schoolyard vs. the extremely experienced John Lackey.  Once again, it’s a huge game.  It could decide whether Kershaw starts Game 5 or they wait to throw him game 6 in Chicago.  Urías’s start could go really well or really badly.  I’m typically cautious, but hopeful.

Bill Plaschke and others could be a little cautious as well.  I would refrain from calling the Cubs chokers or questioning how good they really are. They’re having trouble with the bats right now against the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Jansen and an amazing performance from Rich Hill.  But, in the alleged words of Yamamoto, why awaken a sleeping giant?  Yeah, we’re up one, but this team is only 3 wins away from defeating us, so here’s hoping we can keep their offense at bay for at least 2 more.  They won 103 games for a reason and they should not be wholly discounted.   I feel like tonight’s game is almost a must win.  If we can go up 3-1 in this series, I would start Kershaw in Game 5 at the ravine and try to close it out here.

Seager caught fire.  Grandal brought a bat to home plate.  J.T. hit it.  Toles did his thing.  A Gone and Puig and Reddick had great ab’s.  This is happening, people.  It’s happening and I can’t believe it.  Do I believe in miracles?  I should.  After all, I lived one in ’88, but for some reason, I’m not quite there yet with this one.  But I’m a lot closer to it.   Man, I never thought being consistently wrong could be so much fun.

Go, Blue!

Huge Hill to Climb

A short post before I go.

In Clayton Kershaw, we are witnessing not only one of the greatest pitchers ever to play this game, but one of the greatest athletes ever to play any game.  Any myths of his being a post-season choker are dispelled.  He is the apotheosis of a champion and he, unfortunately, is once again carrying the team on his herniated back.   Kudos, also, to Kenley and A Gone for their contributions to this series thus far.  (And kudos to Adrian for his refusal to stay in the Trump Hotel.)

The Dodgers could be in a much worse position than to be tied a game apiece coming back to LA.  Rich Hill MUST pitch better than he’s been pitching.  Read the Tribune take and the Cubs are feeling pretty confident about the rest of the Dodgers staff not named Kershaw.  Rich Hill needs to step up big time.   Tonight is an extremely important game.  If we can somehow get to Arrieta and/or their pen and win Game 3, we have a shot.  I still don’t like our chances, but perhaps this is indeed a miracle in the making.

Some quick notes:

Anybody seen Howie Kendrick?

What the hell was Puig thinking with that dumbass bunt attempt against Chapman?

Anyone catch the postgame press with Kershaw.  Never seen him so annoyed.  It was like he lost 12-0, rather than won 1-0.   He got some stupid questions about Doc’s 7th inning visit to the mound, his talking Roberts into letting him stay out there, and Javier Baez’s subsequent blast that wasn’t.  “Were you freaked out?  Did you think it was a home run?”  Kershaw just stared open- mouthed at the reporter.  “THAT’S your first freakin’ question?” he shot back.  Not only is Clayton a stud on the field, but he doesn’t suffer fools gladly off of it.

Time for Yasmani to start coming to home plate with a baseball bat.

Guess I was wrong about Toronto getting back to the World Series.  The Tribe is suddenly very scary.  Here’s hoping it’s not a World C-ries.

The Worst Pitch Ever

In 1985, Tommy Lasorda elected to pitch to Jack Clark with 2 outs, rather than walk him and pitch to Andy Van Slyke.  Tom Niedenfuer grooved a fastball and Park hit it to Glendale.  The Dodgers season was over.  Up until last night, that could be the worst pitch and decision I’ve ever seen.   Last night at Wrigley, after the gritty Dodgers tied the game up 3-3 against the great fireballing, Aroldis Chapman, they had the Cubs on the ropes.  During a weird 8th inning, where Doc went with his normally reliable Joe Blanton, he decided to try to get Chapman out of the game.  He had Blanton walk 2 guys intentionally, and, with 2 outs, up comes Miguel Montero to pinch hit for Chapman.  Blanton has him down 0-2 and then it happened.  The worst pitch I’ve ever seen in my life.  Grandal set up for a pitch right down the middle and that’s exactly where Blanton threw it.  He grooved a fastball right down the middle with an 0-2 count and Montero hit it a mile and it was suddenly 7-3 and soon to be 8-3, Cubs.  What could Blanton have been thinking?  How could anyone throw that pitch?  It didn’t look like he missed his spot or anything, it looked like he just chose to throw a fat 2 strike pitch to Montero.   I’ve never seen anything like it.  Then, obviously rattled and shaken, he left up one up to Fowler and gave up another bomb immediately after.    I just don’t see how Blanton and the Dodgers bounce back from that.    Yeah, yeah, it was only Game 1, but big home runs like that tend to have a lasting effect on a series.   For example, the namesake for this blog.

As I predicted, Maeda stunk and they had to try to win a bullpen game at Wrigley.  Almost an impossible task, but they played their hearts out and I was every impressed with the way they came back.  Yes, once again, I question some of Doc’s moves – the decision to start Kike over Utley being one of them – and, yes, the decision to put all those guys on base after Blanton gave up the leadoff double to Zobrist in the 8th.  I see why he did it, you wanna get Chapman out of the game, but it’s more than a little risky.  Kershaw goes tonight, which I agree with, but it’s short rest again.  This is going to be a very short series.  The Dodgers just don’t have the pitching to stop the Cubs.  May be a long offseason for Blanton.  I still can’t believe that 0-2 pitch.  My lord.

Bring On The Wrong!

Thursday night’s marathon 9 inning game may be one of the top 5 best baseball games I have ever seen.   It was my opinion, as you read in this space the morning of the game, that the Dodgers had little or no chance to win and advance to the NLCS.  Kershaw had already pitched Game 4 and thrown 110 pitches and would not be available.  Rich Hill was going on short rest and was wrongly pegged to start over Urías.  The Nats ace and probably 2016 Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer was starting at home.  The Dodgers simply weren’t hitting and were leaving too many runners stranded.  The Nats had too many tough lefties in the pen should Mad Max falter.  In 1988 miracles happened.  The Dodgers had no business beating the mighty Mets in the NLCS, but they did.  Orel Hershiser seemed liked he was always on the mound in that series and unlikely heroes like mike Scioscia and Mickey Hatcher provided the punch.  Our Bulldog in 2016 is clearly  Kershaw, who heroically walked in from the pen after tossing his 110 only 2 days earlier to record the final 2 outs and record his first ever big league save.  Unlikely hero, Carlos Chooch Ruiz provided the hits along with the only other 2 guys who really hit the entire series, J.T. and Pederson.  Kenley Jansen threw an unprecedented 51 pitches and Dave Roberts did his best Lasorda/Torre/La Russa imitation, managing a masterful game.  The only truly questionable in-game move he made, in my opinion, was his decision to have Charlie Culberson hit for Urías in that 7th inning.  Julio was pitching well and he wanted Charlie to bunt, at which he failed miserably.  Couldn’t Urías have fa just as miserably and remained in the game?   Anyway, it all worked out.  It was a 4 hour and 32 minute fairy tale and I haven’t felt that way at the end of any story since 1988.  Wow.    I’m proud and happy to say, once again, I was wrong.

So, today, at 5:00 PDT, the Dodgers will be at Wrigley Field to take on the mighty Cubs. the Cubs won over 100 games this year, dispensed the Giants in 4 games in the NLDS and have the best team in baseball, by far.  The Dodgers played the Cubs tough this year, winning 3 out of 7 and keeping their scoring relatively low.  But the Cubs, who have not even been to a World Series since 1945, or won one since 1908, are the heavily favored team.  I’m pretty sure not one single baseball expert is picking the Dodgers.  The Cubs have home field advantage.  The Cubs are well rested.  The Cubs have a much deeper rotation.  The Cubs have Joe Maddon.  The Cubs have the entire country outside of LA (including MLB)  behind them.  They have the sentiment, the history, the “Our time has finally come factor,” and the hitting.  So, given all that’s happened this year, all my wrong predictions and vitriol toward the Dodgers front office and all my cynicism and negativity, and taking into account the magic of this 2016 season and it’s odd similarities to 1988, what do I predict?  Cubs in 5.

Look, I’m so sorry, and I’m so proud of what the Dodgers have accomplished, but so many things have to go right for the Blue to pull this off.  First of all, Kenta Maeda’s season ended over a month ago.  He’s gonna get his tits lit today in Wrigley.  I hope I’m wrong, but just look at his last 5 or 6 outings.  He’s been awful.  It’ll be up to our exhausted bullpen and our questionable offense to keep us in the game against the great lefty Jon Lester.  Oh, yeah, and we don’t hit lefties.   The team is tired, but that might not be such a bad thing.  Then it looks like we’re going with our ace tomorrow and I actually think maybe we should wait til Game 3 and get him rested and ready to go, but he IS Clayton Kershaw.  Then, who we got?  Rich Hill has been bad for quite a while.  Urías, however, is intriguing to me.  It almost seems like he should be our number 2.  He’s poised, he’s balking guys off first base, and he’s hitting his stride a little.  But, still, the Cubbies have absolutely no question as to which of their FOUR ACES starts which games.   All I’m saying is it’s gonna take a miracle like 1988 for the Dodgers to pull this off.  Not saying it can’t happen, just saying it probably won’t.  After all, that’s why miracles are miracles.  Because they’re unlikely to happen.

Oh, yeah, there’s this other league playing too.  I know the Tribe unloaded the mighty Bosox as if it was child’s play and they now hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven against Wild Card Toronto, but I still believe Toronto is the better team and will prevail in that series.

If anyone hasn’t read Bill Plaschke’s column in today’s LA Times, they should do so.  He says he’s “sick and tired of the Cubs” and I see where he’s coming from.  He echoes my sentiments about the favoritism afforded them by Major League Baseball with regard to the start times of game in the NLDS and how the Dodgers and their fans got royally screwed.  Just another merit badge on the Dodgers’ sash.  The Overcoming Adversity Badge.

Corey Seager isn’t the only young stud to be struggling in the post season.  Cubs first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, has looked like shit.  If Rizzo can keep struggling and guys like Corey, A Gone and Toles can get it together this series,  and J.T. and Pederson can keep it up, it would add valuable big bats to an otherwise quiet offense.   I’m curious as to what Kendrick and Puig will do tonight against Lester.

If any of you peops go back and read my posts from the beginning of the season, you can call me an asshole and tell me how wrong I’ve been all year.  I love it.  I STILL don’t like Friedman and Zaidi and I still hate that they coveted injury-prone, hack pitchers and left the Dodgers with a half-assed starting rotation.  I like what Chooch has done in the P.O., but who’s to say A.J. wouldn’t have contributed in a similar fashion?  (Okay, well, I may lost that argument.)  I still don’t like that they left us with very few big right handed bats, and I’m actually worried they may not re-sign free agent-to-be, J.T. after the season.  But has this been fun or what?  Here’s to me being wrong again.

The thing that was glaringly missing during Thursday’s game?  Vin Scully calling it.  Missed him so much, I imagined hearing his voice delivering Pederson’s bomb, Chooch’s hit, and the Red Dreams double.”And there’s a deep fly ball to center field, Trea Turner going back… it’s off the wall!  Here comes Kendrick!  Here comes Ruiz!  And the Dodgers lead is four to one!”  “The count is one and two to young Wilmer Difo…Kershaw, a long look at Bryce Harper at second base, the pitch… slider, swung on and missed!  Dropped by Ruiz, he throws to first, and the Dodgers go to Chicago!”  Can you hear it?

Go, Blue!

The Joy of Being Wrong

When a three-time Cy Young award winner starts to walk off a mound thinking he has a guy struck out, chances are, he struck him out.  Tom Hallion has got be, without a doubt, the worst umpire I have ever seen.   Clayton Kershaw struck Bryce Harper out TWICE in the 7th inning.  How do you not call either of those pitches strikes?   The Dodgers should’ve won that game 5-2 and Kershaw should never have given up those 5 earned runs. Then there was Puig’s at bat.  Puig didn’t swing.  Didn’t come close to swinging.  How do you not get help on that call?  Hallion is the very, very worst.  I’m sure he was disappointed the Dodgers pulled it out.  He sure umped like he would be.

As far as Kershaw’s rough 7th inning, it would have helped if Corey Seager makes that play to force Espinosa.  Sorry, I love Corey as much as you all do, but a really good shortstop makes that play.   He seemed out of position and then he soft tossed the ball to Chase.

So, we got the win Tuesday.  I completely disagreed with Doc’s use of his pen.  I just don’t think you put Baez in with a bases juiced situation.  He’s not good in those situations and he showed it again when his first pitch plunked Werth and he walked in a run.  Then, why go with Avilan?  Why EVER go with Avilan?   I think you go with Blanton there and let him throw sliders away to Murphy once he deals with Werth.  Avilan stinks.  I’d have gone with Dayton again before I went with Avilan.  Although, Avilan’s first pitch to Murphy was clearly a strike that Hallion, once again, called a ball.

The Dodgers pulled it out and I’m very happy, but let’s face it, their offense looks like crap.  They managed 7 lousy hits against Joe freakin’ Ross and company and a lot of those were off the bat of JT, the only guy who’s really hitting.  A Gone got a pitch up and finally knocked one out, but if you ask me, he still looks weak up there.  Seager, if you throw out the first innings of Games 1-3, has looked like shit.  He’s just not doing the job.  Grandal has stunk in ways I can’t describe.  They all need to come out and hit today and they need to score runs throughout the game.  A tough task with Scherzer on the mound.  Great pieces of hitting by Utley and Ethier and great job getting on base by Toles the other day.  Amazing performances from Pederson, Blanton and Jansen, who I thought would suck.  And what a gutsy performance by Kershaw!    I was proud of them.

It is my opinion that the Dodgers have little or no chance today.  Sorry.  I would much rather be wrong and have the Dodgers advance than be right, but I just don’t see them winning.  Sure, it’s one game between two teams and either team could win, but I really believe that team will be the Washington Nationals.  They have the probable Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer rested and ready to go while the Dodgers are scrambling to decide whether they go with the recently ineffective Rich Hill on short rest, or the untested, extremely young Urías, who hasn’t pitched in forever.  Chances are, they go with both of them.  Hill will start and Julio will pick him up.  This is why you need good starting pitching.  If Andrew Friedman had acquired the starting pitching we needed, we wouldn’t be in this situation.  I like Hill, I think he’s a decent starter and he had a good year, but he’s not the lights out kind of arm you want pitching an elimination game.  And, lately, he’s just plain stunk.  He’s been way too amped up and he doesn’t seem to have the poise to get the job done.  But, let’s give him a chance and see how he does tonight.  It just seems like our Blue may have shot their wad on Tuesday and the Nats appear to be a lot stronger.  Trea Turner is killing us at the top of the order and Werth, Murphy and Rendon are consistently causing havoc.  (Bryce Harper, on the other hand, has done next to nothing.)    Their pen, particularly their lefties, have been very tough and we haven’t been hitting.  I just don’t like the trend.  But, it’s 2-2 and we have a shot, as slight as it may be.

Finally, by virtue of the fact that there are no more series to be decided, the Dodgers get an evening game.  Isn’t it enough that Dodger fans have had to endure the Time Warner deal for the last 3 years, then MLB screws us by putting all our playoff games at crappy times where we can neither attend, nor watch live?   On a scale of 1-10, how much do you think MLB is rooting for the Cubs?  I’d say 11.

Go, Blue.

Put A Fork in ‘Em.

The thing that makes today’s drubbing at home to the Nats even harder to swallow is Friedman signed Maeda to an 8-year deal.  Seven more years of that weak ass shit?  Yeah, he was effective for a couple of stints, and yeah, he got us 16 wins with a solid ERA, but the dude only tossed an average of a little over 5 innings per game.  The bullpen saved his butt most of the year.   The guy is weak and it showed tonight, just as I suspected it would.   He’s just not the guy you want pitching in a big game.   I got a little excited about him in September, but he’s really not very good.  Neither, it appears, any longer, is Rich Hill.   Friedman and Zaidi’s inability to acquire elite starting pitching is coming back to bite them in the ass in the post-season.  Their bullpen is taxed and Dave Roberts made a dumb, rookie manager mistake putting in Kenley Jansen with the team down 4-3 in the top of the 9th.  He’s used way too many arms and backed himself into a corner, but that’s when I would’ve gone with Stripling.  Now, if a miracle happens and they actually have a lead tomorrow in the 9th, Jansen is barely available and, frankly, under-confident as hell. Boy, did he stink today!

The mighty Dodger offense managed 6 hits against some crappy pitching today, and they left another 9 guys on base.   Maybe Corey Seager should just play the first inning, since that seems to be the only inning he hits anymore.  Howie Kendrick had some good at bats, but I’d rather see Chase Utley against a crappy lefty like Gio Gonzalez than Charlie freaking Culberson starting in a damn playoff game.   What is this sudden love affair with Charlie Culberson??   You gotta play the damn guys who got you there!   You need to play Chase Utley for f**ks sakes!   And can Adrian Gonzalez possibly look any worse?   And how bad is Grandal?   His at bats are simply awful and he needs to get his body in front of the damn ball behind the plate.   What a crappy series he’s had!   Hey, and nice play by Reddick out there against the wall.   A good Major League outfielder makes that play 99 out of 100 times.  Finally Chooch Ruiz contributed big time, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

No, friends, this team has achieved their yearly goal and apparently they’re happy with it.  They won the West, they had their wild party, and now they’re ready to enjoy their annual NLDS elimination and go home for the winter.   The Nats have no chance against the Cubs, but at least they’re playing like they want a shot at them.  The Dodgers look like shit warmed over and the Three-Headed Idiot are still taking congratulatory phone calls for a job well done.   Makes me ill.

It did seem like the Nats got all the calls, and I gotta tell you, we got screwed by MLB in this series.  The game scheduled for Saturday afternoon should never have been rained out.  There was rain in the East Coast, but, from what I understand, there was actually no rain in D.C.  They just predicted it because of Hurricane Andrew.   Had they just played the game as scheduled, that would have allowed the Dodgers to have a day off to fly home and regroup and have everybody follow their normal schedule.  But Rob Manfred and MLB is so in love with the Cubbies that they didn’t want an evening game in D.C. to interfere with the evening Cubs/Giants game on TV, so they just decided to change it.   Then, today, the Dodgers had to play a 1:00 PM game at the Ravine because the Cubs had to be on at prime time in San Fran.   They gotta fly in from the East Coast and play another playoff game in less than 24 hours??   The Cubs and Giants didn’t even play yesterday!  Couldn’t they have played the earlier game?   What it also means is not as many fans can make it to the game in LA because they have to work.   It just isn’t fair.   In D.C., the Nats had an evening game and a weekend day game, so the fans could come.  The Dodgers should at least have the opportunity to have a sellout crowd.   Now, the game tomorrow is scheduled for 2 PM?  Even though, it appears the Giants will be eliminated tonight?  I don’t get it.  Since the AL is set with the Jays and the Tribe, and there are no other games besides the Dodgers/Nats, shouldn’t tomorrow’s game be in the evening??

None of this matters to the Washington Nationals, they just showed up and played.  The Dodgers did what they’ve been doing since Culberson hit the home run to beat the lowly Rockies and clinch the division.  They mailed it in.    So, who starts tomorrow for the Blue?   At this point, it’s kind of moot.   Most Dodger fans and pundits will say Kershaw on short rest.  Kershaw will want the ball for sure, but if they somehow win, I don’t think you want Urías to pitch the deciding game in D.C. on Thursday.  I think you go with Urías and hope for a miracle.  These Dodgers just have too much going against them.  I was wrong in my earlier post.  Clearly,  the Nats are just a better team.   This time tomorrow, barring a miracle, we Dodger fans will be embarking upon another long off season, watching 4 better teams continue to play.   With all the money this team has, and all the resources, this is really the best we can play in the post season?

This is exactly why you don’t allow your team to party after winning the division for the fourth year in a row with no World Series appearances in the last three.  It means nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Again.