Jolly Cholly Grimm started Hy Vandenburg instead of Hank Borowy. The College of Coaches was decertified in its crib. Leo Durocher didn’t burn out his regulars and make nervous wrecks out of his subs and rookies. Leon Durham fielded the grounder. Steve Garvey made a long out. Dusty Baker lifted Mark Prior to start the eighth. Alex Gonzalez fielded the hopper cleanly and turned the double play.
Something unexpected happened in Wrigley Field Sunday night. The Cubs—the real Cubs, the ones you watched or heard about all regular season long, the ones you remember from their pre-World Series postseason rounds—came to the ballpark.
They left their impressions of Cub calamities past somewhere. Who knows where? Who cares? The hosts who let the Indians make off with the valuables and leave them tied up in the closet didn’t wait for the cops.
Apparently, nobody showed the Cubs Jason Kipnis’s Game Three postgame remarks. Just as apparent in Game Four, it almost wouldn’t have mattered if someone had.
The Indians spent the fourth game of this World Series earning the respect they think, not unreasonably, they’ve been denied. A 7-2 win which felt like they were never behind despite an embryonic 1-0 Cub lead does that for you.
Entering National League Championship Series Game Four, even Dodger fans wondered whether the Cubs would bother showing up. By the time the game was over, the set was tied at two games each, and the Cubs finished a 10-2 bludgeoning of the Dodgers, Dodger fans were sorry the Cubs did show up.
Twenty-one straight scoreless innings was more than the Cubs were willing to dine on. And to think the barrage began with a beautifully timed bunt to open the top of the fourth, by the lineup’s number four hitter, one of the Cubs on whose behalf people were ready to send out search and rescue teams to try finding his bat.
It isn’t exactly time for traditional watchers for Cubs calamity to calibrate their instruments. But the Cubs’ lineup is becoming cause for just a wee dollop of alarm, even as the National League Championship Series shifts to Los Angeles tied at a game apiece.
A team with baseball’s best regular season record who finished third in Show in runs scored on that season should be doing better at getting men across the plate. Even with those late-game dramas that got the Cubs here in the first place.
This is the kind of thing that used to be done to the Cubs, not by them. The Giants went to the bullpen in Game Four of the division series Tuesday night. Leading by three runs. Their mission: save it and force the set to a Game Five in Wrigley Field.
Mission aborted by four Cub runs in the ninth with only one out on the board. Season aborted by a bullpen that began to look like it was finding itself in the postseason until they lost each other, the plot, and the ball game.
Let’s not be too polite about it. The team every expert on earth picked in spring to win the National League East, with no few of them picking them to go all the way to a World Series ring, is doing its level best to make chumps out of every one of those experts. That’s because manager Matt Williams seems to be doing his level best to make sure they don’t even get to the wild card play-in game.