Baseball over easy, Joe Maddon style
The Chicago Cubs are getting some of that, both literally and figuratively.
They returned to Wrigley Field on Sunday to be treated to breakfast by manager Joe Maddon, who arranged for a spread, including an omelet and egg station, behind home plate before the Cubs held a very light workout in advance of Monday's Game 3 of the National League division series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"It was actually breakfast on Wrigley," Maddon corrected your intrepid reporter. "It was outstanding. Our guys killed it. They killed it. They exceeded expectations."
Expectations now are high for the Cubs, who beat the Cardinals on Saturday at Busch Stadium to even the NLDS at one game apiece.
For the last few weeks, Maddon has talked of playing a home postseason playoff game for the Wrigley Field fans. Games 3 and 4 will be at Clark and Addison, where the fan base is sure to be fired up and hungry for victory.
"Yeah, I mean, listen, to get back home and be able to play in front of our fans is really a unique experience for me, obviously, and for a lot of our players," Maddon said. "I could feel the excitement within the city.
"Again, I say it maybe too often, but I feel really fortunate to be a part of this moment, so I think it's going to be a wonderful, whatever, afternoon or early evening. We don't know what it's going to be yet tomorrow, but very exciting.
"To imagine it being crazier is difficult because we're kind of like that almost nightly. We don't get to really observe what's going on outside the walls, but I know that it's pretty raucous regardless."
To use a sports cliché, this is a "pivotal" Game 3 of the series. The Cubs couldn't ask for a better "pivot man" than ace pitcher Jake Arrieta, who opposes Michael Wacha.
Arrieta went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA during the regular season before he dominated the Pittsburgh Pirates in last Wednesday's wild-card playoff-game victory at PNC Park. He knows the series could turn on him.
"Yeah, I think it's foolish to approach it any other way, but obviously we know this is a big game for us," he said. "You know, mindset is really obviously getting 2 (victories) in St. Louis would have been great, but coming out of St. Louis with 1 is, you know, puts us in a good situation to do some special things here at Wrigley the next couple days.
"We're in a great spot. Everybody is prepared. Two really good teams, obviously, with a lot on the line. Everybody is going to be prepared, focused mentally, and looking forward to an incredible crowd tomorrow night here."
Whichever team captures Monday's game can close it out Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Arrieta got under the skin of many Pirates fans last week when he urged them to bring the noise at PNC Park.
Things seemed quieter this week, but Arrieta isn't lacking for confidence.
"Well, I mean, that's just certain people's opinions," he said of the reaction of the Pirates' fans. "I think that I'm confident in my ability to go out there tomorrow and give us an outing that's good enough to win the game.
"Obviously on their side, you know, Wacha has got the ability to be pretty darned good on the mound himself. You know, I just intend to keep us in the game, regardless of the circumstances, whatever comes up.
"But I like my chances to go out there and win us a ballgame."
The last time the Cubs won a home playoff game was in 2003, when they beat the Marlins in Game 2 of the NL championship series. The Cubs are an upstart team this year, and people have gotten behind them. So Chicago should be rocking the next couple of days.
"I just like the way we're playing," Maddon said. "If people are interested or really getting involved with us, obviously a lot of it has to do with our young players. I think we have a lot of charismatic young players that are attempting to play the game properly.
"I don't think you've heard one excuse from any of them. They're very accountable. All of that, and then of course the candle on the cake right now is the season Jake has put together. I think he draws a lot of attention toward us.
"So I think it's a combination of the youth and maybe one spectacular season out of a pitcher that's really put the spotlight here. And beyond that, the city itself. I mean, when you're opposition and you get a chance to go play in Chicago, you always look forward to that moment just to come to the city.
"So I think it starts with the city itself, the people, and then of course this ballpark and the franchise, but then more specifically our young players that I believe are charismatic, and they do portray well. And then Jake is the guy that's really attracting the attention."