With all due respect to Madison Bumgarner, who’s going to stop these guys?
In Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the ring-jangled Giants, the Cubs had their ERA-champion pitcher get knocked out of the game in the fourth inning by a line drive, their MVP-candidate third baseman make two errors on the same batted ball in the fifth and their Game 1 hero get thrown out at second because he pimped a “home run” that didn’t actually get over the fence in the sixth.
And they won.
Saturday’s 5-2 victory over ex-Cub Jeff Samardzija and the Giants opened a commanding 2-0 series lead in the best-of-five set that heads next to San Francisco.
What could possibly go wrong?
Besides, if Game 2 is any indication, would it matter anyway?
“You got some champs over there, man,” Cubs leadoff man Dexter Fowler said. “They’ve won World Series before. So it’s never over.”
Come on. Every time the Cubs have ever taken a 2-0 lead in a postseason series – wait a minute. Never mind.
“That’s what I’m saying,” pitcher and hitter of the night Travis Wood said. “It’s baseball. Nothing’s ever over. Not until the last out’s made. Anything can happen.”
The Cubs won the first two games of a postseason series only twice before in franchise history, the last time in 1984.
“That’s crazy,” Fowler said.
That year, of course, they headed to the West Coast one win away from the World Series only to watch their opportunity roll through their legs like a Tim Flannery grounder, all the way to elimination.
“Don’t tell me all that,” Fowler said. “That’s the last thing I want to hear.”
Not that most of these Cubs have much of a concept of the ‘80s, much less a few ballgames 32 years ago in San Diego.
“We’re too young. I wasn’t born in 1984,” said Kris Bryant, the presumptive MVP who made those two errors on pinch-hitter Bumgarner’s grounder in the fifth – a bobble allowing Bumgarner to reach first, followed by a bad throw allowing him to take second.
“I don’t know the history,” Bryant added. “We’re going to try our best to rewrite our own history.”
Again, who’s going to stop them?
It was hard to look at the fourth inning Saturday without at least a fleeting thought about destiny. Or at least depth and ability.
With the Cubs leading 4-2 and two outs in the top of the fourth, Angel Pagan drilled a line drive back to the mound that hit starter Kyle Hendricks on his pitching forearm..
Hendricks, who led major league baseball with a 2.13 ERA, threw a few practice pitches under the supervision of manager Joe Maddon and trainer PJ Mainville, and then was replaced by Wood.
X-rays were negative, and the club said he escaped with a bad bruise.
“Apparently, there’s nothing wrong as far as we know right now,” Maddon said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take for him to be well enough to be able to pitch, but he’s fine.”
Meanwhile, Wood quickly got the final out of the inning and pitched a scoreless fifth. In between he became only the second relief pitcher in history to hit a postseason homer, first in 92 years (Rosy Ryan of the Giants).
The knockout blow in the series?
“We can’t get too big of a head,” Wood said. “You’ve got to stay humble and know that that’s a great ballclub over there, because it is.”
It’s also a club that came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Reds in the NLDS on the way to a championship in 2012 — and that has all-time postseason ace Bumgarner starting Monday.
Then, again, that other year the Cubs won the first two games of a postseason series? It was 1908.
“Nice,” Bryant said. “We all know what happened then.
“But we’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” he quickly added. “It’s going to be a tough Game 3. But we certainly are ready for it.”