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World Series Notebook 3: Crisis Averted!

The Cubs are right back in it!

Look, we sort of don't know how to behave going this deep into the playoffs. So suddenly every game has become like a Bears game - win and we're going all the way, lose and everybody should be fired. Or, not that exactly - that's where the analogy breaks down - but lose and the season is an epic failure.

The Score's exasperated on Jason Goff had it right on Wednesday when he said "We just went through this, just a week ago!" and no lessons were learned. That's when losing 1-0 to Clayton Kershaw spelled certain doom for the boys in blue. And yet, it didn't.

Learn, dammit!


So now the Cubs actually come out of Cleveland with a split, instead of Cleveland merely holding serve with the series shifting to Wrigley. Advantage, Cubs.

Of course, if we wanted to not learn for a second, we'd project a Kyle Hendricks victory in Game 3, a Corey Kluber victory in Game 4, and a Jon Lester victory in Game 5. Kluber is slated to start again in Game 7, if the series goes that long, leaving Game 6, featuring last night's starter Jake Arrieta, as the real decider.

If we wanted to return to learning, we'd remember that Madison Bumgarner threw a real stinker against the Cubs in the first round of the playoffs, despite fears he'd be unhittable, and that, of course, the Cubs got to Kershaw in order to get here in the first place.

Oh, and Schwarber.

Super Bam
Well, Kyle Schwarber is certainly making us skeptics look like idiots.

Of course, we couldn't be happier, but geez.

That's not to say, though, that the full tale is told. First, you never know what would have happened in either Games 1 or 2 if, say, Matt Szczur or Tommy La Stella was on the roster instead.

Second, if Schwarber can't play the field the next three games at Wrigley, he gets one pinch-hit opportunity - at best - in each game.

And it's hard to imagine him getting clearance to play the field - though that's what we thought about him playing in this series at all. Then you have to ask yourself: Do you really want to stick him out there, knee brace and all?

Ben Zobrist would move to right and Jason Heyward, Chris Coghlan and Jorge Soler would stay on the bench, which is alright, but holy cow. (Szczur can blame Heyward in part for losing his roster spot because if Heyward's hitting was even marginally acceptable, the team might not have felt like they needed Albert Almora Jr.)

Wait . . . this just in:


Fake Jake
Yeah, I wouldn't say it was vintage Arrieta. I'd say the Cubs got away with one. Their best pitcher Wednesday night was actually Magic Mike Montgomery.

First, Arrieta.

While it's true that he "settled down" after the first inning, his relative success owed equally to Cleveland hitters taking poor approaches. (Cleveland looked out of sorts all over the place, most notably in the field, where they committed two errors and several other miscues that led to most if not all of the Cubs' runs. And when even manager Terry Francona complains about the cold, you know the whole team wasn't comfortable.)

To wit:

From ESPN's David Schoenfield:

Arrieta never seemed particularly sharp, however; indeed, 34 percent of his pitchers were deemed "non-competitive," which means nowhere near the strike zone. That was his highest such rate of the season.

He got better as the game progressed, throwing 49 percent strikes the first two innings and 60 percent after that. The Indians squared up a couple of balls, but after Jose Ramirez flew out to medium-deep center to end the first, they didn't threaten until they scratched a run across on a wild pitch in the sixth.

From The New York Times' James Wagner:

What Jake Arrieta did in rotten weather on Wednesday night during Game 2 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians made little sense. He threw a first-pitch strike to only half the batters he faced. He fired 98 pitches in all, but only 55 were strikes. He walked three batters.

In just 5 1/3 innings.

Tellingly, when Len Kasper came on radio broadcast to call the 5th inning, as he's done throughout the playoffs, he opened with "Jake Arrieta dealing through four." Through four, however, regulars Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer had described in wonderment how badly Arrieta was missing the strike zone.

So no, not vintage. But good enough to win.


On the other hand, another key outing from Montgomery, who has turned into the Cubs' best - and most-trusted - bullpen arm.

Montgomery did give up two hits and a walk in his two-inning stint, but he also struck out four on nasty change-ups before handing the ball to Aroldis Chapman, allowing Maddon to bypass the scuffling Pedro Strop and, especially, Hector Rondon.

ESPN's Mark Simon called Montgomery the game's unsung hero:

Game 2 of the World Series was the third time this postseason that Montgomery pitched multiple innings in relief; he has done so once in each round. He got a loss in the LDS, though he was impressive for four innings before allowing a walk-off hit in the 13th inning. He pitched two innings to get the win in Game 4 of the LCS against the Dodgers.

What was noteworthy from this appearance was that though Montgomery is considerably better against lefties, he got five of his six outs against right-handed batters, including three of his four strikeouts. To do so, he went to his changeup. He threw it six times, all for strikes, and netted three outs with it.

To wit:


Simon also praised Contreras:

Contreras has had the two best games by a Cubs catcher this postseason, as far as getting called strikes for his pitchers: Game 2 of the NLDS against the Giants and Game 2 of the World Series.

On Wednesday, Contreras got four called strikes on pitches that are called for strikes less than 25 percent of the time. In each of the four instances, the Cubs pitcher (Arrieta for three, Montgomery for one) retired the hitter on whom he got the call.

I'd like to put in a word for Zobrist, who followed his 3-for-4 against Kluber in Game 1 with a 2-for-4 night in Game 2, including a triple and a walk.


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Posted on Oct 11, 2021