Optics illusion? Lackey growls, young Cubs shrug it off, win 2

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John Lackey and rookie catcher Willson Contreras during Wednesday’s game.

LOS ANGELES – The optics couldn’t have been worse.

But it’s actually an optics illusion, the Cubs say when it comes to the impact of veteran pitcher John Lackey’s wrathful emotions on young teammates and his relationship with his manager.

Even when they manifest on the national stage of the baseball playoffs in the form of snapping on second baseman Javy Baez and rookie catcher Willson Contreras after mistakes in the field Wednesday night.

And it didn’t take an expert lip reader to see Lackey saying “you gotta be f— kidding me,” when manager Joe Maddon went to pull him from his start two batters into the fifth inning.

“John gets angry, and it shouldn’t surprise anybody,” said Maddon, who actually took a more circuitous rout to the mound than normal to get Lackey that night. “I took a deep breath.

“You have to understand I’m dealing with some really, highly charged personalities here. Guys that have been there, done that. And they’re good, and they’re very proud men.”

Maddon said before Thursday’s game he hadn’t talked with Lackey since those charged moments that lingered in thinly veiled anger into the clubhouse afterward. But the manager seemed to expect he would.

The bigger issue would seem to be the impact on young teammates. But as Maddon alluded, it’s nothing new.

“Once I got here I realized how Lackey acts. That doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve just got to deal with it,” Contreras said. “I don’t care if he showed me up or not. I’m not trying to make a [catcher’s] interference. I’m just trying to play the game as hard as I can. He knows that I’ll be there to do my best for him.

“He’s just a gamer, and everybody knows that. He wants to win,” Contreras added. “Especially in games like this, we can’t make those mistakes. But we did. We’re human beings.”

“It’s John,” Maddon said. “He vibrates on that frequency. You know that. He’s an edgy human being. He’s an edgy baseball player. If you’re surprised by it, that’s your fault.”

As for the kids, “they handle it really well actually,” Maddon said. “I don’t think they cower to any of that.”

Edwards escapes injury

Right-hander Carl Edwards Jr., who left Wednesday’s game in the seventh inning because of a tight hamstring, was diagnosed with nothing more than a cramp and was considered available Thursday.

“He feels really good [Thursday],” Maddon said. “From a medical side, there’s nothing wrong with him. He’s fine.”

Notes: Kris Bryant (10) and Dexter Fowler (eight) rank 1-2 in career postseason extra-base hits in Cubs history. No. 10 for Bryant was a one-out double in Thursday’s fifth inning. … With his third-inning single, Justin Turner has reached base in 15 consecutive postseason games, a Dodgers franchise record. … Baez turned his ankle slightly rounding second on his bases-clearing double in the eighth inning but stayed in the game and said afterward he was fine.

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