CHICAGO — The Giants trail 2-0 in the NLDS after a 5-2 clunker against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field 0n Saturday. What new? This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen them in dire straits in the postseason.
But this movie has a different feel to it. A lot different.
Cubs pitchers have been the story of the NLDS so far. Heck, they’ve been the story of the season series — period. There’s not a bad one in the bunch. Together they’ve turned the Giants’ bats into sawdust and limited them to 25 runs in nine games.
If the Giants continue to bring a slingshot to an alley fight, their season will be o-vah very soon.
So sorry. Nice try. Thanks for playing.
“You’re hoping at least split here and that didn’t happen, so now we have our work cut out,” said understated manager Bruce Bochy, whose team knocked out starter Kyle Hendricks on a line drive but still managed only six hits. “But the fact that we have been in this position before . . . We’re going home, and hopefully, we can get things rolling here.”
In 2012, the Giants overcame a 2-0 deficit to stun the Cincinnati Reds en route to their second World Series title in three seasons. Difference is, these Giants aren’t as good as those Giants. And as good as that Reds team was, this Big Blue Machine is better.
For the sake of extreme optimism, let’s say Madison Bumgarner takes care of business in Game 3 at AT&T Park. Then Matt Moore and the bullpen follow suit in the fourth game, as iffy as that may seem. Then what? The Giants still have to win a road game in order to advance to the next round, and that’s something only Bumgarner has done in six tries at Wrigley Field this season.
Maybe the Giants can sign Barry Bonds before then. He’s available, you know. Or maybe Bochy calls on Bumgarner to play the field when he doesn’t pitch to get his bat in the line-up.
Hey, you got a better idea?
CHOKE’S ON SHARK: So where all those experts who said the Cubs would shake in their spikes at the sight of the savvy, win-every-other-year Giants in this series?
As far as Balls could tell, the only one who gagged was Jeff Samardzija, the $90-million pitcher without a dime worth of clutch. One month after he crapped on the mound at Wrigley Field, the ex-Cub did it again.
In the most important start of his career, Samardzija faced 13 batters. Six reached base and four scored before he left after 47 pitches.
“[Samardzija] made some mistakes, so that’s fair to say, and[he] just couldn’t limit the damage,” Bochy said. “Jeff was just off a little bit tonight.”
No, Skip, Jeff sucked tonight.
Don’t think the Cubs didn’t smell blood with the so-called Shark on the mound, either. Remember, if the guy hadn’t turned down a five-year, $80-million offer two years ago, he might still be with them.
“It was the easy thing to do,” Samardzija said at the time. “You can always sell the future, and people always buy it. It’s a great way to rebuild, and I understand that.
“But as a veteran guy, it was becoming a joke.”
So Cubs master builder Theo Epstein promptly shipped Samardzija to the Athletics in return for shortstop Addison Russell, soon to become an All-Star. Then he targeted free-agent pitchers Jason Hammel and Jon Lester, another All-Star.
Yeah, the Cubs are some joke, all right.
JEER, JEER FOR OL’ NOTRE DAME: Samardzija was smoked like a bad cigar on the same day that North Carolina State embarrassed his old Notre Dame team, and boy, that’s real shame.
DUMB LIKE FOX: Fox Sports 1 has been downgraded to FS 0.25 after one of the worst broadcasts in recent postseason history in the series opener.
Broadcasters John Smoltz and Matt Vasgersian were solid as usual, but from off-line camera angles to distant replays, the production was straight out of the 1970s.
After Javier Baez hit a home run for what proved to be the game-winner, fans were treated to shots of Cubs funnyman Bill Murray and the center-field scoreboard for what seemed like forever before they got a second look at the the biggest play of the game.
Then there was this bit of in-depth analysis courtesy of Alex Rodriguez after the game: “For me, it was a big, big win for the Cubs.”
THAT TIME AGAIN: The start times for Games 3, 4 and 5 were set at 9:38 p.m. (Monday), 5:40 p.m. (Tuesday) and 5:40 p.m. (Thursday) Pacific time.
And if lousy weather pushes the World Series back to mid-November, the games will be played whenever you’re available.
THE JUAN AND ONLY: Johnny Cueto has some Juan Marichal in him, but don’t confuse one for the other.
So says Billy Williams, the one-time Cubs and Athletics great.
“Cueto has a bit of deception in his delivery, but Juan was the master,” Williams told Balls. “We used to say that he had 12 pitches — four from over the top, four from three-quarters, and four side-arm. You couldn’t get a good read against him.”
Marichal also had a mean streak on the mound that went largely overlooked.
“Juan liked the feel of my bat, so I would send one of those 32-ouncers to him every so often,” recalled Sweet Swingin’ Billy, who had a respectable .770 OPS in the Hall of Fame matchup. “After he buzzed me under the chin one year, I told him, ‘That’s it. No more bats for you.’ That was the competitor in him.”
TWO FOR THE SHOW: Williams threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 1, while Chicago Bears legend Mike Ditka hurled the first insult at Colin Kaepernick.
THEY WUZ ROBBED: The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908, as their fatalistic fans won’t let anyone forget, but don’t believe it.
If the Cubs hadn’t been allowed to steal the pennant from the Giants that season, their streak would be an even more pathetic 109 years and counting.
On Sept. 23, the then New York Giants appeared to clinch the pennant against the Cubs on a two-out, walk-off single at the Polo Grounds. Except that a 19-year-old kid named Fred Merkle failed to touch second base while fans stormed the field.
Depending on which version one believes, future Hall of Famer Johnny Evers tagged second base ahead of Merkle to void the run. (Merkle said that he beat Evers to the bag.) Except that nobody was sure that the ball was the official one, not even the umpires. Inexplicably, Merkle was called out, anyway, the run was taken off the board and the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
The teams were instructed to replay the game at the end of the regular season. The Cubs won the do-ever, the pennant then a World Series they shouldn’t have played in the first place.
If the baseball gods are fair and just, they’ll even the score in the next few days.
WHERE HAVE YOU GONE . . . John McGraw?
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