miguel-montero-curtain-callWe deserve the avalanche of incredible moments we’ve received in the last two years, right? Just think about what we as Cubs fans have gotten to experience, starting right there in the first week of 2015 with that Dexter Fowler home run in the 9th inning in Colorado. We are repeatedly treated to HUGE moments in HUGE games, and I can’t help but feel like we’re being paid back for so many years of, well, not having that.

May these moments last at least just a few more weeks …

More coming on some of the big plays last night, and of course the decision to pull Jon Lester, so these Bullets will get into the many other things.

  • Last night’s win was special for so many reasons – obviously, right? I mean, you saw that game, right? – but I keep thinking about last year’s NLCS, and how deeply disappointing that ending was for what felt like such a special 2015 season. Having now won this first game of the NLCS in 2016 feels so important. I’m not saying it’s the satisfying conclusion to the season, of course. But it’s stamp on a different year for the Cubs, and an announcement that this team is not that team. Beating the 2016 Cubs now in four of the next six games is going to be extremely difficult. Possible. But extremely difficult.

  • Last night’s was also the Cubs’ first NLCS win since 2003, which, setting aside the haunting final images of that season, is a great year to remember, and to think about how special it is to be playing meaningful games deep into October. Only four teams are left playing, and the Cubs are now up 1-0 in their playoff series. I can enjoy that today, in isolation from everything else that came before and that follows.
  • I can explain it away this time, but it’s only fair to note: once again, when Aroldis Chapman entered the game in a non-standard save situation, it didn’t work out for the Cubs. By my rough count, every time (except twice, I believe) Chapman has entered a game for the Chicago Cubs in a situation other than a typical 9th inning save, it has not worked out. The guy has been essentially perfect in standard save situations, but when it’s the 8th inning, or coming into the middle of an inning, or trying to extend a game in extra innings, it simply hasn’t work out. When you look at each one of those moments, though, it’s not like they aren’t understandable. Take last night, for example. Any pitcher entering a game with the bases loaded and nobody out is going to have trouble getting out of it. For Chapman, he got two strikeouts, gave up a single, and got a groundout. That’s a perfectly fine inning. But because of the situation, it resulted in the two game-tying runs. Is it really fair to say it was a bad performance? Or that it was the wrong call to bring him in? I can’t argue with it.
  • That Joe Maddon held Hector Rondon in abeyance for the 9th inning as the 7th and 8th innings were playing out probably says something about his confidence in Rondon after a well-discussed rough couple months to end the season. I’m just not sure what, specifically, it says. On the one hand, once Aroldis Chapman came into the game in the 8th inning – after Rondon was not used – it was clear that, if there was any further trouble or (as it played out) a long bottom of the 8th, Rondon was going to have to handle the 9th. On the other hand, there were probably chances to bring Rondon in earlier in the 8th inning, but Maddon went with Pedro Strop and then Chapman. I really don’t know what we can take from it, but I can say that the questions we had coming into the playoffs still haven’t really been answered yet. Consider that Rondon gave up a run in his inning of work and didn’t strike anyone out, but, with a five-run lead and the wind howling out, he had one job: pump strikes. Ultimately, the two hits he gave up were an infield bouncer and a hard double. He got his outs via a standard grounded and then a rocket line drive that turned into a double play. The velocity was great, but the location was only so-so. Once again with him, it’s so difficult to judge the performance because of the situation.

  • There was quite a bit of managerial gamesmanship in advance of the Montero grand slam, with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts electing to intentionally walk Jason Heyward with the lead run on second in order to get to Javy Baez (which worked out), and then intentionally walking Chris Coghlan to load the bases for Montero and force Aroldis Chapman out of the game (which did not work out). Even Montero did not expect that Joe Blanton would stay in the game once Montero was announced, but Roberts didn’t want to bring in a lefty and then have to face Willson Contreras. So he stuck with Blanton, and Montero stuck one in the bleachers.
  • From Montero on that grand slam (Cubs.com): “Obviously, after the first pitch, I’m looking something middle, middle in, and he threw me that slider. It was a really good pitch to hit, and I missed it. And in my mind, I was like, ‘oh, my God, I missed that.’ That was a perfect pitch to hit. But you have to step out of the box and just pull yourself together and try – all I was trying to do was get a base hit. Don’t strike out right here. Get a good pitch and try to put the ball in play and make something happen. But to be honest, in the back of my head, I was like, ‘I want that slider back,’ because it was such a good pitch to hit. And I guess he heard me because he threw it back, and luckily I hit the ball pretty good.” Give me the slider, give me the slider, give me the slider …
  • As I said, we’ll have much more on some of the biggest moments from last night’s game in separate discussions, but I wanted to point out an early play that probably won’t get a ton of attention, what with the other craziness. It was the truly terrible send on Kenta Maeda’s base hit to left field, with Adrian Gonzalez chugging from second:

  • Ben Zobrist fields that ball in shallow left field at the same time Gonzalez reaches third base. Unless there’s a bobble or a brutally bad throw, Gonzalez is going to be out by a mile. And, while Zobrist doesn’t have the strongest outfield arm, you can bet he’s a guy who is going to make an accurate throw in that situation. Gonzalez was toast, and the Cubs kept their early lead.

  • Here’s where I was as Miguel Montero circled the bases last night:

Fall is here, more Cubs games are coming, maybe peruse the Cubs jacket selection on Amazon, eh?

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