MORRISSEY: Cubs’ response to World Series hopes? Walk Yu
Embarrassment used to be the Cubs’ constant companion, back when they couldn’t win for trying, when black cats were on a first-name basis with rosters covering parts of two centuries and when things went wrong for the same reason that fish swim and flowers bloom.
But embarrassment was a stranger to these Cubs, the defending World Series champions, the team that was making its third straight appearance in the National League Championship Series.
Then Tuesday night arrived.
The Dodgers brought out Curtis Granderson to pinch hit for Yu Darvish in the sixth inning of Game 3 of the NLCS. The bases were loaded, there were two outs, these were the playoffs and – this can’t be overstated – Darvish is a pitcher who had a .059 batting average this season.
But then, for reasons that seemed as clear as mud, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called Granderson back into the dugout and had Darvish bat.
Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. proceeded to walk Darvish on four pitches, bringing in a run and giving the Dodgers a 4-1 lead.
Walking the pitcher with the bases loaded is so yesteryear.
It was beyond one of those I-can’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing sequences. It harked back to a dark time, when the earth was covered with ice and the Cubs lost baseball games in ways that seemed to defy rational explanation. It was a question followed by an answer.
He just walked the pitcher with the bases loaded?
He just walked the pitcher with the bases loaded.
Edwards struck out the next batter, Chris Taylor, an actual hitter, to end the inning. The crowd booed Edwards all the way to the dugout, and you had the deep suspicion that it would have booed him all the way to Iowa, given the chance.
“It’s called making pitches,’’ Edwards said. “And I didn’t.’’
The Darvish walk was followed in later innings by an error, a wild pitch and a dropped third strike. It was as if the ghosts of 1969 and 2003 had taken over an early Halloween party and then egged Wrigley on the way out. The final score was 6-1, but if there was ever a time when a score missed the point, this was it.
If there were anyone more surprised than Darvish about the sixth-inning turn of events, it would probably be, oh, everyone. But he was surprised, too.
“I’m facing a guy who throws 95, 96 with a cutter,’’ he said. “He had something special going. So I didn’t think I had a chance to hit. So I just wanted to try to do something, draw a walk.’’
The Dodgers are the better team. They have better hitters than the Cubs. They have a far better bullpen. It’s why they’re up 3-0 in this series and why, barring a miracle, the Cubs won’t be the defending World Series champions for much longer. What happened on a clear night at Wrigley is a reminder that no matter how high you’re riding, the ground is always there to break a fall and bruise an ego.
The Cubs are a proud bunch, but they look worn down and out of their league right now. It’s a jarring sight from a team that won 92 games in the regular season.
Darvish became the first pitcher to be walked with the bases loaded in a playoff game in 40 years. That’s a silly statistic. It’s not one that fits this Cubs team. And, yet, there it is.
Roberts said he valued an additional inning of pitching from Darvish more than he did the chance to get another run.
“We got a two-run lead right there, and Yu was throwing the baseball really well,’’ he said. “I felt he could continue to go and get us outs. … To still get a base hit (from Granderson) was not a gimme at all.’’
The Cubs had Kyle Hendricks, their best starting pitcher, on the mound for Game 3. There was reason to be confident. He had struggled in the deciding game of the Cubs’ NL Division Series victory over the Nationals, yielding two homers and four runs in four innings. It was the antithesis of a typical Hendricks start. But it was one of the reasons the Cubs were confident entering Tuesday’s game. What were the odds of a pitching machine malfunctioning two games in a row? What could go wrong?
Enough, as it turned out. Hendricks allowed two more home runs Tuesday night.
Game 3 wasn’t his fault. The Cubs haven’t been able to hit in this series, in much the same way they weren’t able to hit in the series. But somehow they got past the Nationals, thanks, in part, to a strange inning in Game 5 that included a passed ball, an error, a catcher’s interference and a hit batter. It was the kind of sequence that might have happened to the Cubs in another year, in another decade, back when bad things were expected.
The team’s slogan this year is That’s Cub. It was meant to point out to everyone in the organization that the club did things, both big and small, the right way. The slogan carried with it the possibility of abuse if the Cubs struggled. But that seemed like a low-risk proposition.
Tuesday’s slogan was That Used To Be Cub. Nobody came to watch that at Wrigley, other than the Dodgers.