Now that we’ve had a sleep to digest what happened in the second winnable game of the NLDS, let’s step back and see what we can do about the disappointment on Saturday night. After all, nothing screams fandom like hastily drawn narratives and knee-jerk overreactions.
Shall we begin?
Boy, the Cubs should have scored more runs! But consider that for most of the night, the three runs was enough and we felt somewhat confident that they handed a two-run lead to a bullpen that we should trust. Then again, it’s not like the Washington Nationals are a bad team, having gone 4-3 against these very Cubs during the season in several closely-fought contests. Which brings us to…
Why, oh why, does Joe Maddon keep using Ben Zobrist? Well, let’s first concede that Zo is on the wrong side of “old” and seems obviously in decline with both the glove and the bat. They could’ve kept in Ian Happ, who didn’t do much with the bat anyway, but probably could have at least gotten a tip of a glove on the Ryan Zimmerman game-winning just-enough homer. And maybe Happ strikes out instead of having a game-ending double play grounder. But we know what a healthy Ben Zobrist used to be capable of, and might be again especially in playoff situations, and sometimes a manager manages from his gut. I would keep Zo as a bench bat myself, but you gotta trust the manager who just led the team to three straight postseasons after 108 years. He just might know what he’s doing more often than not.
Let’s recall who is on the pitching staff for this NLDS and slated for bullpen duty:
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) October 8, 2017
And for the sake of our hearts, it made sense to avoid using Justin Wilson unless it got to Daniel Murphy (which it did, but that was Mike Montgomery’s batter in this case), and to reduce the workload on Wade Davis having already won the first game. And it also made sense to avoid using John Lackey, who is the emergency starter and not as familiar in a relief role no matter the leverage. So with a short pen for this series, the options were limited.
I think Carl was a good choice. I did wonder whether Montgomery or Duensing could have been a better choice against Harper, but Carl had just struck out Trea Turner with great stuff and only gave up a snort of a single to Adam Lind because of the shift and some goofy luck. Both he and Montgomery hung pitches, and in relief roles, especially in the playoffs, every mistake gets magnified, so the overreactions rained down.
Carl had only thrown 11 pitches on Friday night and got through that inning without incident. We all know what Montgomery has done and is capable of. There was nothing wrong with the decision to use them. The pitchers just didn’t execute, and they owned it in post game.
Bryce Harper is a perennial MVP candidate and is very good at baseball when he isn’t the MVP, even when he’s coming off injury. Ryan Zimmerman has been good in the past (which is why he was extended to a long-term contract with the Nats) and certainly this year. We know that Anthony Rendon is probably going to get MVP votes and that Daniel Murphy is still an asshole. So yeah, eighth inning narratives, but that was a very tough part of the lineup. You’d expect that part of the lineup to beat you, and not scrubs like Wilmer Difo.
The Overall Narrative
I’m on record as saying I’m OK with a split. I think Dabynsky says it well here:
Human brains are funny things. You know we'd feel completely different right now if Cubs lost Friday and held onto that win last night.
— dabynsky (@dabynsky) October 8, 2017
But because the Cubs outplayed the Nats for the first 16 and a half innings of the series it feels like a huge let down to be here.
— dabynsky (@dabynsky) October 8, 2017
The Nats are a good team with good everything. The fact that the Cubs split the series in DC is good. The fact that Jose Quintana and Jake Arrieta are going to pitch at Wrigley is also good. The fact that Kyle Hendricks will pitch a potential Game 5 should make you feel good considering the first game. And then there’s the players’ attitude:
"You're not gonna knock us down," said Rizzo, who then reminded everybody of that time the Cubs overcame adversity in Game 7 of World Series pic.twitter.com/z1Lk2dB1rs
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) October 8, 2017
Been there, done that.
- Swept & no-hit by Phillies in 2015? Check.
- June swoon in 2016? Check.
- Down a few runs in Game 4 of 2016 NLDS? Check.
- Down 2-1 to Dodgers? Check.
- Down 3-1 to Indians? Check.
- OMG Rajai Davis?! Check.
- Pretty much this entire year with everyone counting them out because OH NOES NOT WINNING DIVISION IN JUNE BY 15 GAMES?! Check.
And yet, again, series split and going home. One more thing about celebrations:
I think it's possible to be simultaneously frustrated that #Cubs lost a game they should've won, while also appreciating that game was won by very good opponents, and that Bryce Harper was justified in his excitement and his bat flip was awesome.
— Rice Cube (@CubicSnarkonia) October 8, 2017
I guess we’ll see who celebrates come Tuesday or Thursday. Enjoy the off day, fam.