Justin Dukes covers the Chicago Cubs and their developments for WARR.com
Watching Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper approach the plate as his team’s final out in the 9th inning in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs, there was this feeling of a large moment presenting itself to the star slugger for the Nats, along with a feeling of doom for Chicagoans.
Of course, the opposite happened for both sides. Harper swung and missed on the series’ final pitch, D.C. skunk into the off-season with the first round monkey still on their backs while Cubs Nation celebrated.
The exaltation that occurred when Harper was short lived though, it lasted no longer than Game 1 of the NLCS, which the Cubs dropped. Still there was some sense of calm remaining — after all, it could be expected to lose one game in L.A., especially after working so hard to shake off Washington.
Then came Game 2, and Game 2s 9th inning, which saw Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner clinch his team’s fifth straight victory this postseason with a 3-run walk off home run.
Laughing in celebration of the win as he ran the bases, Turner’s smirk seemed to be a personification of that very moment of defeat the Cubs escaped in the previous series.
Now with the team down 0-2 in the series, it would be too vague to say the Cubs have been here before. Yes, they have fought back from deeper holes, but they’ve also failed to climb out of their fair share as well.
While the Dodgers are trying to make their first World Series appearance in over 25 years, Cubs manager Joe Maddon has been receiving his share of criticism for making history by choosing not to insert a closer with a tie score in Sunday’s Game 2, electing instead to go with starter John Lackey, who had never pitched on consecutive days before.
“Nobody is a really great matchup against Turner, so it just did not work out,” Maddon said to the collected media afterward.
Not to pile on Maddon, but I believe his gamble wasn’t worth the risk.
Pitching for the Dodgers has been far more efficient this series, and with the score being tied going in to the 9th inning and considering how average the Cubs’ non-starting pitching has looked on top of having one of the opposing team’s best hitters approaching, my preference would’ve been to come away with a win by using Wade Davis rather than giving him slightly more rest. There will be time to manipulate his bullpen, but Maddon won’t be able to manipulate wins and losses.
Game 1 of this year’s NCLS appeared to have steal written on it as the Cubs jumped to an early 2-0 lead on the Dodgers off a two-run Jack by Albert Almora.
Like the Nationals’ Harper, pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers has made his name mainly through regular season play, and seemed to be living up to that reputation early in Saturday’s game before being relieved.
Fortunately for him the Dodgers bullpen was able to right the ship just in time for clutch offensive contributions from players such as right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor to help them take the lead and never look back.
Repeating as champs sounds nice and all, but going in to Game 3 I’ll be looking for any sign of consistency with the Cubs. Kyle Hendricks will be starting, but he will face a Dodgers team much more powerful than the squad he helped shut down to advance last year.
While many of the Cubs are accomplished champions now the phrase, “What have you done for me lately?” seems to ring in my ears as we can only go over their past accomplishments in order to gloss over present setbacks.
The guys are capable of pulling this out, but they need to find their rhythm soon. The key in repeating will be in executing rather than being the lucky team to make one less mistake than the other.
Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio; Justin Dukes is a Chicago-based sports writer, follow him on Twitter @1kingzdream.