Constable: Cubs woke up, and now fans cling to hope
It can happen.
The Chicago Cubs, running on fumes and about to be eliminated, finally got the bats going against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday to keep hope alive. Cubs' catcher Willson Contreras walloped a 491-foot home run, the longest in the postseason since Statcast started keeping track in 2015. Second-baseman Javier Baez, who had no hits in his previous 20 at-bats, smacked a pair of homers.
Pitcher Jake Arrieta held the Dodgers to 1 run into the 7th inning, when he gave way to reliever Brian Duensing, who got the final out with a 3-1 lead and the tying runs on base. Closer Wade Davis gave up a homer to Justin Turner, the first batter he faced in the 8th inning, to make it 3-2.
Then, for the first time since an infamous 2003 Cubs' postseason game, a foul ball created a controversy. An apparent strikeout was overruled, and Cubs Manager Joe Maddon got thrown out for arguing.
Davis regrouped, got out of the inning with the 1-run lead, and pitched a tense but scoreless 9th inning to preserve the Cubs' season-saving 3-2 win.
Down three games to one in the best-of-seven National League championship series doesn't seem like much of an obstacle to 11-year-old Cubs fan Jake Batiste.
"I mean, they did win the last three games in the World Series last year," the boy wearing an Addison Russell jersey said with the nonchalance acquired during his lifetime as a Cubs fan.
"He's grown up with a different Cubs team than I did," explained his dad, Brent Batiste, 45, who grew up in Arlington Heights and remembers heartbreaking playoff losses, last-place finishes and a 101-loss season.
Does Jake even remember the pain of watching a bad Cubs team?
"Not really," the boy admitted. "They are good."
The Cubs are the reigning world champs, did win the National League Central Division for the second straight year and are playing in a third consecutive league championship series.
But Cubs' batters managed just 13 hits and struck out 32 times in the first three losses of the series against the Dodgers, while Cubs' pitchers walked 18 batters, as the Dodgers outscored the Cubs 15-4 to put the Cubs one game away from losing the series.
"We think tonight is a turning point," Brent Batiste said.
If the Cubs win Thursday night's game at Wrigley, the series moves back to Los Angeles. If the Cubs win two games at Dodger Stadium, Wrigley Field will be hosting World Series games again.
"If Boston can do it, we can," said Joni Kotche, 60, of Wayne, referring to the 2004 Red Sox team that was down three games to none to the New York Yankees before winning four straight games to win the pennant, and then go on to win the World Series. "We're cautiously optimistic. The Cubs are the reigning world champions, Kris Bryant is still the reigning MVP. There's a lot to be positive about."
The Dodgers did lose 11 straight games in September, including being swept at home in a three-game series against Arizona and a four-game slate against Colorado.
"It's doable," said Kotche's daughter, Tori Maas, 31, of Sycamore. Maas' son, Easton, sleeps in a bedroom decorated with a Cubs motif. He wasn't even alive the last time the Cubs weren't playing baseball in October.
"I remember bad seasons. My 2-year-old son does not," Maas says. "He walks around saying, 'Cubs win!' every day."
The Cubs must win every day to make it to this year's World Series.
"They've been able to produce results," Brent Batiste said. "Yes, there is the chance for heartbreak, but we love our Cubs."