It's not that I have any good reason to be, losing the first game of a five game series seems to be pretty close to a death sentence. I believe the stat being bandied about is 24 of 28 NLDS Game 1 winners have gone on to win the series, although it' s only 14-14 for the ALDS (that's what I heard on XM this morning). Now, I have no idea why the disparity between two leagues and there's really no logical explanation on why the designated hitter would make a difference, so I'll chalk it up to just one of those statistical oddities that litter baseball's history. Nonetheless, circumstances don't favor the Cubs to win this series.
As for why I think the Cubs are still going to, you should all know that I still believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Okay, that's silly, everyone knows it's just your parents sneaking into your room with a quarter for your incisors. I mean, what kind of rationale being collects teeth? And I have yet to meet a bunny that lays eggs. But no one has still given me a good explanation on how that Atari 2600 showed up for Christmas when I was five, so I'm sticking with the man in the red suit.
As for this series, in the theater of my mind, I saw the Cubs dropping Game 1 and that's why I picked them to win it in four. I just didn't like the match-up of Lowe vs. Dempster. Lowe seems to have had great success against us, especially in Wrigley, and despite the extremely impressive season Dempster had, he's still too walk-happy for my tastes. It's not that I even think it was the wrong decision to start him in Game 1, because other than a healthy Rich Harden, I wouldn't have liked any match-up against Derek Lowe in Game 1.
But I like Zambrano going tonight on the blind assumption that his shoulder is 100%, hell I'd take 80%. And if he does pitch well tonight, I don't doubt that Lou will go with him in a Game 5 over Dempster if the series gets that far. The Dodgers do counter with one of my favorite young pitchers in baseball, Chad Billingsley, but for many of the reasons I didn't trust Dempster last night, I don't like the odds that Billingsley does much against the Cubs. It's his first postseason start, he's a bit too walk happy and he's a good 50 innings over his career max already. Now he had a solid September, but I've already mentioned how it was against some of the worst teams and offenses in the league.
Am I being overly optimistic? Probably, but heck, this is how I envisioned the series to be played out, a Game 1 loss followed by three straight Cubs wins. I could be proven wrong at any point over the next three games, but I'll keep believing until that happens.
As for last night, a few concerns, thoughts, general misery...
- Dempster certainly was wild, but that home plate umpire's erractic strike zone didn't help matters one bit. And that James Loney grand slam had to be one of the more, "I can't believe that just happened" moments I've witnessed as a Cubs fans. Dempster was all over the place already that inning having walked two in a row and the bases loaded and Loney comes up hacking on the first two pitches, two pitches that were out of the zone. I really thought the Cubs caught a break there and then Dempster leaves one up and Loney suddenly takes a good swing.
- While I'm normally no big fan of small ball, I mentioned in an earlier preview that it might be wise for the Cubs to try and put pressure on a mediocre Dodgers defense. In the 5th though, with a groundball specialist on the mound and "Double Play" Lee at the plate, Lou failed to send Fukudome from first and Lee hit into the inevitable rally killer. Now it probably wouldn't have mattered on that particular play as Lee hit it right up the middle, but it's concerning that Lou seemed content to wait for the big hit, rather than try and make some things happen when the opportunity presented itself.
Quick sidenote, how did they give Casey Blake an error on that ball that Fukudome reached on? Blake was playing in protecting for the bunt and Fukudome rocketed the ball off of him. That's a tough error call.
- Back to playing small ball, with the lead still just two runs in the sixth, Aramis Ramirez doubled. Soto was unable to advance him to third base, staring at two strikes over the outside corner before striking out. Concerning once again that the Cubs hitters didn't adapt to the situation that presented itself.
- Finally, the bullpen sure did nothing to ease our fears. Sean Marshall's outing was pretty decent and I just can't fault him for that home run to Manny Ramirez which Manny hit off his shoe tops. Yet he still gave up a run in what was still a very close game. And yeah, Samardzija got burned a bit by a bad defensive play by Edmonds, but still gave up a run. And there's no excuse for Marquis, he just kind of sucks. But 4.1 IP from the bullpen and three runs just isn't very reassuring.
- On a positive note, the Cubs already have as many extra base hits as they did in all of last year's Division Series.
- On an negative note, the Cubs have lost 7 post-season games in a row.
So there we have it, a LONG wait until Game 2 starts and let me tell you, casa de Rob G. was not a happy place last night after the Cubs and Angels games. it doesn't help that I'm surrounded by Dodgers fans at the office either. Hopefully the Cubs give me some ammunition to fight with after tonight.
UPDATE: Just to clarify that LDS stat that I heard this morning - by my count, the Wild Card started in 1995 which would mean 26 NLDS series. There also a division series round in 1981 because of the strike. As for random quirks that don't mean a thing, the four NL teams that overcame a first game defeat.
2003 Marlins - won World Series
2000 Mets - went to World Series
1999 Braves - went to World Series
1981 Dodgers - won World Series
Remarkably, all those teams played the Yankees in the World Series.
BLOCK: Of course any advantage is an advantage. An MLB, NBA, or NHL team getting the extra game at home in a seven game series is an advantage, I just don't think it is enough of an advantage for winning a division and/or having the best record in a conference or league over the course of an 82-game season (NBA and NHL) or 162 game series (MLB).
TEX takes the opening game from TOR (@TOR) 5-3.
TOR lost bautista + donaldson in-game due to injuries...TEX lost beltre...dunno if any will be lingering issues leading to missed games.
Ride the Kid Magic! Schwarber hadn't homered in a long time before last night.
Greg Maddux was 8-18 in his rookie season. Kyle has the 8 wins down pat.
Think Baby Maddux.
Prof. Harold Hill's THINK system at work.
Kyle is on the far left.
I support this. Hendricks has not only looked better lately but seems to start struggling after a few innings which is better than the 1st in the playoffs.
Just tweeted via Jesse Rogers: Hendricks starting Game 2. Wow. Just wow.
That was good!
Well said. On one hand, I thought the HBP was a bad baseball play -- down 4 runs, put a runner on for a red-hot Fowler. On the other hand, they needed to do something -- I hadn't thought about the warning/pitching inside point. Is Hurdle that smart? He does not strike me that way. By the way -- not clear which fan base you are referring to in your "first" 3rd point.
My unsolicited opinions on topics covered in this thread:
1. I hate the fact that after 162 games, a team could be out after 1 game. However, I think the system is pretty close to perfect right now. 2 of 3 isn't feasible unless they shorten the regular season, and it ices the division winners for way too long. This creates excitement, and rewards the division winners.
Personally, I think the game could have had a very different look had the Pirates held onto the ball and tagged Fowler out on the steal in the first. Cole was clearly frazzled, but if they took that runner off the base, it could have relaxed him a lot.
Football games are played once a week. There are 16 games a year. I'm not even remotely following at all how you can compare the two leagues and playoff systems. It is physically impossible to play a home and away series. The idea of not having any road games in baseball playoffs is certainly a head scratcher.
How is not having the first and last game at home a benefit for the division winners and team with the best record? How is it not an incentive to win the division when a WC team has to blow their top pitcher?
Call me lost.
Two 97+ win teams in a do-or-die, great bullpens, overpowering starters, plenty of pop--hard to believe that game wouldn't be tense. A 4-0 lead is not a blowout, especially in that situation and with the Cubs' young bullpen. Not only would a defensive play here or there make a difference, but you get the win there also on the home plate umps strike zone (generous strike calls for Arrieta, including a couple Ks), and on Schwarber sitting on the right pitch at the right time.
I just noticed the Dodger's payroll today. It is just absurd. $300,000,000+!!
Here is where just some of their money is for 2015:
Carl Crawford $20MM
Brandon McCarthy $17MM
Bronson Arroyo $3.5MM
Darwin B $2.2MM
Dan Haren $10MM
Matt Kemp $18MM
Brian Wilson $10MM
Ryan Webb $2.2MM
Dee Gordon $2.5MM
So I think tomorrow will be the most important test of how far we can go. We can win it all with two pitchers since Arietta has shown he can carry over his success to the post season. If Lester can be dominant also then I think we can go far no matter how Hendricks or Hammel do.
And in terms of pitching just went through to see how we could maximize Lester and Arietta and came up with this (Lester would be going on 4 days rest three times and Arietta twice):
i still can't believe that crawford contract (7/142). all that loot and years for a LF'r who's entire hitting game revolves around his legs and line-drive power. those triples that raised his value are deceptive as hell to his true power, but it helped him get paid.
there's also pause about a guy who's ob% is almost totally driven by hits rather than walks. BOS got lucky unloading that crap deal.
I think the Cubs take Berry and Soler off playoff roster and add Hammel & Ramirez. Believe Maddon will find Denorfia & Jackson defense too hard to lose.