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 their game 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 and a pair of homers by Javy Baez and one by Willson Contreras helped the Cubs stave off elimination in the National League Championship Series. They now trail the Dodgers three games to one in the best-of-seven series.
They will send left-hander Jose Quintana to the mound Thursday night against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in a rematch of Game 1.
“You know what’s funny?” Baez asked. “It’s that everybody thinks that we did something different today because we went to the old locker room. I’ve never been out there. We didn’t do anything. We stretched like we normally do. We talked inside the old clubhouse, and that was it, really.”
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 arguing with umpires 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 closed within 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.
“That can’t happen,” Maddon said. “The process was horrible. To have that changed, and if Granderson hits the next pitch out, I might come running out of the clubhouse in my jock strap. That was really that bad. So you can’t permit that to happen. The process was wrong.”
Maddon said the call boiled down to the umpires “hearing two sounds.”
Contreras said no way.
“The fans were too loud to hear a sound,” he said. “It was clear that he swung at the baseball and didn’t make contact. The ball never lies. He struck out on the next pitch.”
The Cubs were up against left-hander Alex Wood, who was 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA during the regular season but who 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.
Davis threw 48 pitches in getting a two-inning save, and Maddon said he would not be available for Game 5.