Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wait 'til ...

No. No, no, no, no.

No, we are not going there yet, not for a minute or so, even if this is starting to look like last year's NLCS all over again. Remember that? Remember all those Mets arms silencing all those potent Cubs bats?

Well, it's happening again, and if you were paying attention, you saw it even before Rich Hill put a Masterlock on the Cubs bat rack last night. The Cubs' big boppers haven't been bopping the entire playoffs, even as the Lovables disposed of the Giants in four games. Now they've been shut out twice in a row, the first time that's happened in the playoffs to a team that was trying (it happened to the Black Sox in 1919) since the Cubs did it to the Tigers in 1908. And we all know what happened that year.

I don't know what you call that. Karma in reverse, maybe.

All I know, right now, anyway, is this looks perilously like choking, as impolitic as that might sound. The Cubs have managed six hits in the last 19 innings. Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell look lost at the dish. They're all squeezing the sticks so hard they're leaving little piles of sawdust in the batter's box; everyone, it seems, is trying to hit a grand slam instead of just piecing together rallies a knock at a time.

That, after all, would take patience. And patience is the first soldier to fall when the pressure starts to mount.

And yet ...

And yet, it's hardly over. The Cubs send John Lackey to the hill tonight, a veteran of many playoff wars. If Lackey can keep the Dodgers in check -- and if someone in the Cubs lineup gets solid wood on the ball just one time -- the floodgates could open. Momentum, after all, is a myth. That's especially true in baseball, where momentum is the next at-bat.

True, it's must-win time. True, even if the Cub level things at 2-2, the specter of Clayton Kershaw's next start tilts the series in the Dodgers' favor. But a win tonight gets the series back to Wrigley, and if this Cubs team gets the series back to Wrigley, it's hard to conceive of them not winning it.

Wait 'til next year?

Wait 'til we see what happens tonight. Then we'll know.

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