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Post Go Cubs Go!
Created by John Eipper on 10/01/17 7:16 PM

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Go Cubs Go! (David Duggan, USA, 10/01/17 7:16 pm)

The third quarter of the year is in the books, and the Dow Jones increased 5.25 percent in the last 90 days (13% year-to-date), Nasdaq 5.71 percent, and the S&P 500 3.29 percent. Chicago has just been reprieved from a seven-day stretch of record-breaking temperatures in the 90s, the latest period in the year that phenomenon has been recorded. And the Chicago Cubs became the first World Series champions to have won their division (NL Central) since the Phillies did it in 2009 (it didn't end well for the Phillies).

Who says America is a country in search of a second act?

The Cubs actually clinched its division title Wednesday night with a 5-1 victory over their longtime rivals the St. Louis Cardinals. After the champagne-infused celebration, the next night a no-name lineup put the dagger into the Redbirds' playoff hopes with a 2-1 victory saved by Leonys Martin's insane over-the-centerfield fence catch with 2 out in the bottom of the ninth. These things have a way of coming back to bite you on the backside, so look for posters of that catch in the Cardinals' locker room next year.

I'm old enough to remember the Cubs-Cards rivalry from the late ‘60s to early ‘70s. Bob Gibson v. Fergie Jenkins, arguably the two best right-handed pitchers of that era (sorry Tom Seaver, Denny McClain and Nolan Ryan), were regularly pitted against each other and I saw one such game at Wrigley that the Cubs won 2-0, with 2 home runs by Fergie, no slouch with the stick in his hands. More recently, in 2015, the Cubs won the National League Division series against the Cardinals before falling to the over-achieving Mets who promptly dumped the World Series to the Royals. Sorry, WAISers, I'm not old enough to remember the Gashouse Gang-Gabby Hartnett rivalry from the 1930s, when Dizzy and Paul Dean with Pepper Martin battled the Stan Hack and Hartnett-led Cubs.

Friday's game against the Cincinnati Reds was likewise anti-climactic. Gone from the line-up were 3rd sacker Kris Bryant, 1st baseman Anthony Rizzo, and right-fielder Jason Heyward (whose parents went to Dartmouth), but late-season pick-up Jose Quintana was on the mound. He had pitched a complete-game 3-hit shutout the prior Sunday and was lights out for the first three innings, but in the top of the 5th he gave up four straight hits. Despite a nifty catcher-to-3rd baseman-to-first double play on the pitcher's bunt in front of the plate, the Reds had a 4-2 lead before manager Joe Maddon (soon to be played by Bill Murray in a major motion picture) went to the bullpen for a reliever. The Cubs went out quietly in their half of the 5th, 6th and 7th, but after 2 out in the 8th, Ian Happ hit a 3-run homer into the wind to take the lead. Justin Grimm, the Cubs' 4th reliever of the afternoon got 3 fly-ball outs in the bottom of the ninth, and as late September shadows crept across the sun-blessed infield from 3d base to 2d, the crowd of 36,000 sang the Steve Goodman-composed theme song, Go Cubs Go.

Does this team have the stuff to take it all again, becoming the first team to do so since the Clinton era? They start the playoffs next Friday against the Nationals, which won the NL East, the worst division in baseball (no other team was above .500). Next up would likely be the Dodgers which have upset the baseball gods by carrying 14 pitchers to 10 (or 11) field players, the reverse of the normal split. No Dodger starter has gone beyond the 6th inning this year. The Cubs' pitchers including Dartmouth alum Kyle Hendricks, the hero of last year's game 7, are a year older, and 2015 Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta is nursing a sore hamstring. The five starters average 31.4 years and despite the acquisition of closer Wade Davis, the bullpen can be shaky. Kyle Schwarber, the other hero of last year's World Series, hasn't been hitting his weight at .209 (he weighs a solid 235), but Rizzo and Bryant have been taking up the slack. Unlike last year's team which was top-to-bottom the best team in the NL, this year's team has found a way to win when their backs were against the wall.

Prediction: October will be interesting.

JE comments:  My sports predictions are eclipsed only by my political predictions--for being wrong.  Still, wouldn't it be poetic to have a Chicago-Cleveland rematch in the 2017 World Series? 

And sometimes the mighty just go clunk.  WAISer Ed Jajko and I had a friendly bet in the 2012 Giants-Tigers Series.  (Yessir, Ed won that one.)  Now San Francisco and Detroit have the worst and second-worst records in baseball.

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