Miles: Cubs postseason party starts with another Arrieta gem
PITTSBURGH -- The party inside the Chicago Cubs clubhouse went on Wednesday night.
And then it went on some more.
Case after case of bubbly was wheeled into the visitors clubhouse at PNC Park after the Cubs shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 in the wild-card playoff game.
After their seemingly nonstop party, the Cubs had to board a plane for their nonstop flight to St. Louis. On Friday, they'll open the best-of-five National League division series against their Gateway Arch rivals, the Cardinals, at Busch Stadium. The victory was the Cubs' first in the postseason since the 2003 championship series.
Perhaps team president Theo Epstein put it best.
"It wouldn't have felt right to go home," he said. "We had a little magic going on all year long. It just felt, with all of our being, that we deserved a nice little run here in October. Congratulations to the Pirates on a great regular season. They have every right to feel like they should be going on too."
The Cubs won 97 games in the regular season to finish 1 game behind the Pirates, who earned homefield advantage for this do-or-die game.
But the Cubs had their ace in the hole in the form of ace pitcher Jake Arrieta. The 22-game winner from the regular season went the distance, giving up only 4 hits and throwing 113 pitches.
"Yeah, I didn't want to see anybody in the bullpen," Arrieta said. "I wanted to finish what I started and be the guy to get the last out."
Arrieta was involved in some fireworks, too. In the top of the seventh inning, Arrieta was plunked by a pitch from Pirates reliever Tony Watson. It certainly looked intentional, as Arrieta earlier came up and in on Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli and grazed him with a pitch. He hit Josh Harrison in the sixth.
Benches emptied and warnings were issued. The only casualty was the Pirates' Sean Rodriguez, who was ejected after taking a swing at backup Cubs catcher David Ross. The only thing Rodriguez connected with was the Gatorade jug in the dugout.
Arrieta attributed the fracas to one thing: "The playoffs. There's a lot at stake. Tempers are running hot, and it is what it is."
He added he was not trying to hit either batter he hit.
"Well, you've got a pitcher that's dotting everything up, throwing four pitches for strikes, and Cervelli gets pitched hot up top, so I don't think anybody was a fan of that," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon focused on the win instead.
"I think you can draw your own conclusions fro what you saw," Maddon said. "That said, I really don't want to denigrate this entire moment for our organization and team."
As far as the rest of the game went, the Cubs executed their game plan the way Maddon drew it up. He went with an offensive-oriented lineup to jump on Pirates ace Gerrit Cole early and then sub for defense later.
Kyle Schwarber made it 1-0 Cubs in the first inning, hitting an opposite-field single to left to score Dexter Fowler, who led off the game with a single. In the third, Fowler singled, and Schwarber crushed a home run over the right-field bleachers and toward the Allegheny River. Fowler added a solo homer in the fifth.
"We executed the game plan to a T today," said Schwarber, who started in right field. "Dex got on base pretty much every time except once."
In addition to Schwarber in right, Maddon went with third baseman Kris Bryant in left, with Tommy La Stella starting at third. Bryant eventually moved to third, with Schwarber and La Stella exiting the game.
Maddon was happy about it all.
"Our whole team, you're talking about three rookies starting tonight," he said of Bryant, Schwarber and shortstop Addison Russell. "Pretty much all contributing in a big way, whether it was defensively or offensively. But Jake is a different cat, man. He's just a different cat. I could just think of (Joe) Namath guaranteeing the Super Bowl victory, that's all I could think about the last few days.
"Just sitting in the lounge chair by the pool with all those reporters surrounding him. I was a big Namath fan in '69. That was my thought."
And Joe knew how to party, too.