Justin Dukes covers the Chicago Cubs and their developments for WARR.com
After the Chicago Cubs’ victory in Game 4 of the NLCS Wednesday night there was this low-toned “anything is possible” energy radiating on the edges of fans’ lips throughout the Windy City with regard to the Cubs pulling off the unlikely and winning the final three games to close out the series.
Unfortunately, the loud crack of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Enrique Hernandez’s bat, that which launched several home runs into the stands Thursday night was the silencer to those whispers.
A Reggie Jackson-like performance of 3 home runs and 7 RBI earned the commonly known as KiKe Hernandez October glory he’ll carry with him for a long time, regardless of what the Dodgers do in the World Series, which LA clinched a berth in via an 11-1 score Thursday night.
As tough of a loss this was for Cubs faithful, it reminded us that humans are creatures of habit, and that same inconsistent team that got themselves into a 1-3 hole was the same team that was showing up Thursday night. No great turn around was in the cards this time.
There wasn’t a great deal of suspense throughout this game.
The Cubs seemed unsure from who any major contributions could come from and they seemed more hopeful their opponent would endure a similar lull and they could use that to pull off another narrow escape.
Three home runs later from Hernandez and you can already start seeing the celebratory tee-shirts and champagne bottles being eased out of the Dodgers dugout.
Confirming the reports as they were likely broadcast on a wide variety of networks since the 4th or 5th inning Thursday — after LA had the game drastically in hand — the Dodgers will be returning to the World Series for the first time since the late 1980s, doing so with a vengeful streak against the team that defeated them in last year’s NLCS.
With the somewhat convenient revelation by Hernandez of a promise to hit a home run for his mother post game, this ball club definitely has the team of destiny type of feel to them. Jokes aside, they were the better team this series and definitely deserve to be in the championship series against the winner of the ALCS.
Not one for moral victories, but it is a good feeling going into an offseason with the pressure of expectations as opposed to the near century without. Coming in to the post season with a variety of healthy injured players, a long divisional series, and the NLCS with rain delays and flight delays and good team hitting it’s stride, it just wasn’t our time.
“I hope that’s something that nobody ever takes for granted here or anywhere else,” Maddon said when the Cubs past few seasons of success were brought up to the manager.
This year marks the third straight season the Cubs have appeared in the NLCS, but aside from this fact, there is still work that needs to be done with the team.
For starters, the bullpen was simply a giant question mark this year. Wade Davis, who is set to be a free agent was pretty much the only reliable name to emerge from that area of the field when production was needed. Now with John Lackey possibly heading for retirement and Jake Arrieta being also a hot commodity on the free agent market, there will be some large holes for team president Theo Epstein to fill.
Ironically, after Hernandez mentioned his promise to hit a home run for his mother, he mentioned that she told him to just focus on “putting the ball in play”, which was the perfect advice for the home run centric Cubs this series. From what few runs we did score, most them were from home runs, but the timing just never seemed right.
Names like right fielder Jason Heyward and second basemen Ben Zobrist just didn’t deliver when it mattered the most, and with such large contracts, they’ll need to be pulling their weight this time around next season.
While all is not gloom and doom for still one of the more promising teams in the league, the Cubs can’t afford to get complacent. Yes, you have Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo on your roster, but this team isn’t nearly as deep as advertised as shown in the 2017 playoffs. Specifically, the bullpen and many position players on the roster need a second, third and fourth look.
This loss was a reality check, but the Cubs should have one of the more interesting off seasons in the league. The hope is that this version of the team is still living out its glory days, but only time will tell.
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.