Thursday, 2 November:
In the end it really wasn’t close.
Los Angeles, who was supposed to have an advantage over the Astros in pitching, basically ceded the championship to Houston with the dubious choice of Yu Darvish as starter.
Darvish, who was scalded by the ‘Stros his last start, was pounded again. His 1 2/3 inning stint yielded 1 walk, 3 hits including a two run homer, and 5 runs. By the time Dave Roberts got him out of the game it was basically over.
Houston manager A.J. Hinch just managed matchups from then on, maneuvering his bullpen deftly and getting a terrific 4 inning close from Charlie Morton, who only gave up a single run on 2 hits.
Darvish, who is a free agent that one suspects the Dodgers will now let walk, ended up with a 21.60 ERA.
Los Angeles, who had given such good at bats all series, was waving at the disappearing curve ball all night long. Their young players, particularly the star first baseman Cody Bellinger, looked more like some young Cub prospects as they were flummoxed by Astro breaking balls.
Gone were the hittable fastballs from earlier games. Every one of their pitchers threw curves and straight changes, and it basically took Bellinger, Seager and Justin Turner out of the game. Yasiel Puig became the easiest out in the lineup once again.
It was as if the baseball world just realized this team can’t hit the curve. Then again, you have to be able to throw them, and Houston has more than a few who can. Starter Lance McCullers started the show with 3 key strikeouts, all on breaking balls.
Charlie Morton, who sure doesn’t look like the so-so starter he was in Pittsburgh, showcased a nice 12-6 curve along with 98 mph 2 and 4 seam fastballs, the 2 seam with nice late cutting action.
It was a terrific series, even if it wasn’t a great finale. Dave Roberts, who managed the team like a chess player all postseason, instead pulled a ‘Dusty Baker’ and ‘went with his guy’, Yu Darvish. He had absolutely nothing once again, the 2 run homer he gave to Series MVP George Springer was off of a cement mixer slider that just rolled up there.
Major league players are paid millions to destroy such pitches, and Springer spanked it hard. He ended up hitting .292 with 6 homers in the post season, and became the star Sports Illustrated predicted he would be when they also called the Astros as the World Champions of 2017 back in 2015.
The whole baseball world watched as they drafted and traded wisely. Lost in Springer’s heroics was the contributions of Jose Altuve, who is probably the best player in the game right now. He only hit .194, but his dangerous presence allowed others to see some good pitches.
What should the Cubs take out of this series?
One, is that winning is more than the best players. It’s about tapping inner strengths, and Chicago proved they have what it takes by beating a more talented Washington club and also by not getting swept by a hot Dodger team.
They won one game on sheer grit. That meant a lot.
Two, is that if you want to be a continuous contender, you must embrace change. The Cub team has talent but is stale, their brand of baseball has been figured out by the rest of the league, and they have to break up the team.
Nibbling at the margins won’t do it. As much raw talent as it is, they just aren’t a first class team. They can administer serious whoop ass on second rate clubs; they showed that in September when they went 19-10.
But if you’re good, pound the strike zone and play solid defense you can beat them. They became woefully predictable. Far too much swing and miss.
Their pitching staff is old, and they will lose 2 starters. It is possible that Jake Arrieta might stay; if there is tepid interest in him Scott Boras will either sit him out or perhaps sign a big one year deal and stay in Chicago.
More likely is someone like Texas will give him $80-100 million for a 4 year deal.
Chicago has work to do. But you can count on one thing:
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer know exactly who they want and will move fast…
Who should be moved, and who might replace them