The Cubs lost 1-0 on the strength of an Adrian Gonzalez home run to lead off the 2nd inning. While many, present company included, felt the Cubs would be able to get to Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher on the planet continued to disprove the idea that he’s not good in October. Outside of giving up the bomb and missing the strike zone with greater frequency than usual, Kyle Hendricks did exactly what he needed to do.
Here’s the thing about that zone, though: it wasn’t good. We should be used to that by now, but Eric Cooper was a living argument for robot umps as his seemingly arbitrary calls floated around on random whims. Early on, it was as though both teams were just guessing. Nowhere was that more evident than in Kris Bryant’s at-bat in the 9th, during which he took a called first strike on a ball that was way inside. Kenley Jansen then got him looking.
It’s a little irresponsible of me to put the amoeba zone on blast so early, thus making it seem as though that’s why the Cubs lost. The bigger issue is that they simply weren’t able to string together enough hits against Kershaw. Other than Javy Baez and Willson Contreras singling with two outs in the 5th, though, nothing landed safely. It looked for a while as though they’d started timing up the dangerous lefty, getting some hard contact and coming close to getting a couple out of the yard.
Anthony Rizzo missed a home run when he yanked a ball just foul in the 4th and Javy came within a few feet of tying the game in the 7th. Both were examples of how baseball is a game of millimeters. If the ball makes contact with the barrel just a hair this way or that, the Cubs are winning. But it didn’t and they weren’t and that’s the way things go.
Losing to Kershaw is nothing to be ashamed of, like failing to break serve against Serena Williams. But with the series tied and headed to LA for three straight, the Cubs might want to think about taking a pair. In order to do that, they’re going to need Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell to show up after being largely absent thus far in the postseason. Of course, the thing about these small samples is that they offer the opportunity to turn things around in a hurry.
We can talk about Willson Contreras failing to take the bat off his shoulder, or even get into anything even approaching a hitting stance, during his first at-bat. Or about how Jason Heyward pops up at inopportune moments. And the strike zone is always a target. Maybe we can just blast the Wrigley Field denizens for thinking every ball hit in the air — yes, even Heyward’s soft fly in the 8th — is a home run. At the end of the day, though, none of the bitching and moaning will change the score or the outcome.
The Cubs have already won one game in California this postseason, what’s two or three more? Rich Hill doesn’t seem like one Maddon’s crew will die on and TBD going in Game 4 isn’t scary in the least. Facing Kershaw again is sub-optimal, but at least he’ll be going on three days rest if he’s indeed the choice in Game 5. And if it’s Maeda, well, even less reason to worry.
Onward and upward, one game at a time, try not to suck. Take your pick of the requisite idioms and axioms and repeat them as a calming mantra over a Cubs-less Monday. And maybe imagine a future in which Javy Baez doesn’t account for a quarter of the Cubs’ postseason hits. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool that the reset of the nation is becoming aware of his magical goodness. I’d just rather the Cubs didn’t have to hitch their wagon to a unicorn.
I hope to have more actual analysis forthcoming, but wanted to get a relatively quick postmortem out there. What are your thoughts on Game 2 and the series in general. Worried about the split, about Rizzo’s slump, maybe facing Kershaw again? Or is it smooth sailing from here on out?