A baseball season is a marathon. Six-plus months of everyday action. It’s not wise to overreact to the peaks and valleys. Then the playoffs begin and something changes. The sport is treated like the NFL on a Monday or, gasp, the NBA after a Finals game. Wild shifts in narrative change perception built during the previous half year, even for the best teams.
No one had more success during this year’s regular season than the Chicago Cubs. They sprinted out of the gates and coasted to 103 wins. They embraced their role as World Series favorites head-on, breaking with the status quo the North Side has suffered through since 1908.
If anything, the rallying cry of “we are good” is outdated. “We are great” would not cause much blowback.
It took all of two games to forget this.
Back-to-back shutouts put the Los Angeles Dodgers firmly in the driver’s seat going into Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. Lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill made the Cubs’ lineup appear overeager and toothless. Lefty rookie Julio Urias took the mound Wednesday night with the chance to put the long-suffering Cubs on the brink of what would be among the most painful of exits.
For three innings, the teams traded zeroes, though the Dodgers arguably scored on a play where Adrian Gonzalez was called out at the plate, which was controversially held up on replay. The Cubs needed something — anything — to spark the slumbering offense. It came in the form of a Ben Zobrist bunt. A little thing led to big things as Addison Russell capped the four-run inning with a two-run homer. Anthony Rizzo, who entered the game 2-for-26 in the postseason, homered in the fifth as part of his three-hit night.
After the Dodgers cut the lead to 5-2, the Cubs wasted no time assuaging the anxiety of fans by scoring five more runs in the sixth en route to a 10-2 rout.
That sound you hear on the banks of Lake Michigan is a giant sigh of relief. The Cubs are back in control of the series and have homefield advantage. They can still avoid an elimination game against Kershaw.
The double-digit run outburst is exactly what the doctor ordered. Four of the eight hitters in the lineup had multi-hit games. Even Jason Heyward contributed with an RBI groundout.
Evening the series in style helped wash away the two previous failures. They proved they can score with power, contact and productive outs.
All is right and the Cubs look good. Of course, that could all change tonight. Such is the nature of playoff baseball.