CHICAGO – The Cubs gathered themselves, literally and figuratively, Wednesday.
Could we be witnessing the start of a gathering storm?
Before the evening’s 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cubs talked among themselves in the clubhouse. When they came out onto the field for batting practice, they adjourned to the old home locker room down the left-field line.
On the field, they gathered together, knowing that another loss would mean the end of their season and of their reign as defending world champions.
But a gritty effort by starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, a pair of homers by Javier Baez and one by Willson Contreras helped the Cubs stave off elimination in the National League Championship Series. They now trail the Dodgers, 3-1, in the best-of-seven series.
They will pitch left-hander Jose Quintana on Thursday night against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in a rematch of Game 1.
There was plenty of thunder on the field in Wednesday’s game, as Cubs manager Joe Maddon was tossed from his second game of the series.
He was thrown out in Game 1 at Dodger Stadium for being upset about the catcher-collision rule at home plate. After that game, he said his beef was with the rule and not the umpires.
On Wednesday, he was hot with home-plate umpire Jim Wolf after a phantom foul-tip call allowed the Dodgers’ Curtis Granderson to extend his at-bat in the eighth with a man on and the Dodgers having cut the lead to 3-2 off closer Wade Davis.
Granderson eventually did strike out, but he could have done damage after being given an extra strike when Wolf and the umpires, after a conference, ruled Granderson fouled the ball off, with it popping out of the mitt of catcher Contreras. That sent Maddon into another tizzy, as he pointed at each of the six umpires.
With the Cubs being down, 3-0, in the series entering the game, talk is always guarded, with media members and team members dancing around the idea that it could be the last game of the season.
“We’re not conceding anything,” said Maddon, who nevertheless talked up the Cubs appearing in three straight NLCS. “Separate topic would be being in this position again, three years in a row. Look up on the scoreboard. There’s only one other game being played besides yours three years in a row this time of the year. That is pretty darn impressive.
“Speaking to the group, speaking to the organization itself, that is not lost on me, believe me. That’s pretty special stuff because you could ask any other groups in major-league baseball that have not had that same situation and ask them what they think about it. Hopefully everybody understands that. Our fans understand that, how where we’ve come over the last three years, and we intend to stay on the same path for many years to come. I could not be more pleased.”
The Cubs were up against left-hander Alex Wood, who was 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA during the regular season but had not pitched since Sept. 26.
Contreras put the Cubs on the board in the second when he hit a monster home run off the videoboard in left field with one out. The Cubs said the home run measured 491 feet.
One out later, Baez homered down the left-field line to make it 2-0. The Dodgers got a run back in the top of the third when Cody Bellinger lined a homer to right. Baez hit his second of the game in the fifth, before Justin Turner launched a monster shot to left leading off the eighth and making it a one-run game.
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