I went to Cubs-Dodgers last night, and sat in the third row of the left-centerfield bleachers. In some particular order, these were my thoughts:
1) Clayton Kershaw was just unreal. Everybody who watched that game on television surely observed that, but it bears repeating. It was one of those games where it felt like each and every pitch he threw was going into the precise baseball-sized window that he decided upon. Consequently, in the event the Cubs made contact, it was rarely square.
Kershaw, who has volunteered to be rode like a horse in this postseason presumably out of a desire to exorcise his past demons, was a tractor.
2) The top five batters in the Cubs lineup — Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, and Addison Russell — went a combined 0-17 (Rizzo did draw a walk). Rizzo is 1-23 this postseason, Russell is 1-22. The only Cubs who are really hitting in these playoffs are Bryant and Javy Baez. While the bats could certainly wake up, and there has generally been a timeliness about them — NLDS Game 4, NLCS Game 1 — that’s concerning.
3) Kershaw and the silence of the bats had an immeasurable effect on the crowd. It’s not that there was tension or doom and gloom, but there just weren’t any eruptions. When you plunk down a few hundred dollars for one of these games, you envision capturing a moment like in Game 1 where Miguel Montero hit a pinch hit grand slam and there’s absolute pandemonium. It never really enters your mind that you could be walking into a buzzsaw.
4) The wizardly Javy Baez double play was awesome and we should all watch it again right now:
5) I still feel like an impostor as a Cubs fan. I moved to Chicago about seven years ago, and have probably been to 70+ games at Wrigley. When the Yankees won the World Series in 2009 with a joyless, mercenary roster in a sterile new stadium where many seats behind home plate remain conspicuously empty, I renounced my fanhood in them. (There’s unfortunately a non-zero chance those empty seats strike Wrigley when they unveil their new tony underground club.)
Nevertheless, it would be an exaggeration to say I’ve full-fledged adopted the Cubs. I also love going to White Sox and Brewers games. The latter syncs up nicely with my fervent devotion to the Badgers and Packers. So, I like the Cubs, and probably watched more than half their games this year, but I’m also a polygamist. I’m fully aware this starkly violates the rules we’ve set for ourselves as we all let wealthy strangers in logo’ed laundry and a lot of random luck dictate our emotions.
It’s a strange thing to walk out of an early-series loss like last night. You go in thinking the stakes are really high, but there’s not a sense of finality in the exit. The times I’ve left Lambeau after a playoff loss, which are many, you’re stuck with the realization that there’s no football again for what feels like eternity. At 1-1, the Cubs and Dodgers will at the very least play again tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday.
6) Still, the emotions have shifted wildly. With the aforementioned comeback against the Giants in Game 4 and late-inning heroics in Game 1 of this series, the Cubs felt like a team of destiny. They weren’t a flash in a pan like you can sometimes see in the crapshoot baseball playoffs; they were the best team in the marathon regular season from wire to wire.
One dominant opposing pitching performance is enough to swing the pendulum from the utmost confidence to creeping doubt. I still believe the Cubs will win this year and that my adopted city will have the party of a lifetime, but last night was a reminder that these things are fickle and if it happens it won’t be without adversity.