Well there wasn't much bang for the Cubs in their final game of 2017. The drama was removed quickly as the Dodgers flipped the script from games 1-4. Jose Quintana walked Chris Taylor after yet another lengthy, grinding at bat from the Dodger leadoff hitter to start the game. Justin Turner struck out which provided one brief moment of hope, but Cody Bellinger ripped a double into right field to score Chris Taylor. The throw to the plate was late and it allowed Bellinger to reach third. Quintana got Yasiel Puig to pop out to Anthony Rizzo, and then got an easy groundball from Logan Forsythe ended the first inning.
Clayton Kershaw walked Kyle Schwarber with one out, but got three easy outs to end the bottom half of the inning. Enrique Hernandez jumped all over a first pitch fastball from Quintana to hit a solo shot to start the second inning. It felt like an insurmontable lead with the way the offense has been stumbling, but it was really just the beginning. Quintana retired the next three batters, and so it seemed like the Cubs lefty might keep his team in the game.
It wasn't meant to be as Quintana could not retire a batter to start the third inning. Chris Taylor hit a ground rule double to start the inning. Justin Turner served a solid single into right center to extend the Dodger lead to 3-0. Bellinger and Puig singled to load the bases and end Q's night. Hector Rondon struck out Forsythe, and again it seemed like there might be some slim hopes of extending the 2017 season. Enrique Hernandez hit a grand slam to effectively end the Cubs season in the third inning. Rondon ended the inning with the Cubs down a touchdown after three.
John Lackey's swan song with the Cubs was a fitting tribute to his 2017 campaign. Chris Taylor singled to start the inning yet again. Lackey struck out Justin Turner, which was not quite as good of a feeling as Quintana's K in the first inning. Bellinger singled to place runners on the corner, and he advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. Puig hit into a fielder's choice with the drawn in infield. Taylor was thrown out at the plate, but a Forsythe double plated another two runs.
The Cubs got their first hit off Clayton Kershaw in the fourth inning. Fittingly it was a solo shot from Kris Bryant. There will be plenty of narratives to construct from that fact. The Cubs managed a few other base runners, but they could not score a run without the longball once this series. Enrique Hernandez completed his night with a two run home run off Mike Montgomery in the eighth inning. The Cubs are done in 2017. They lost to a better team, and it sucks that the Cubs couldn't show up in two of the three NLCS they made in a row.
The Blame Game
It is going to start with Jose Quintana. He came to the Cubs with high expectations due to the price tag attached. He was mostly good, but he had a few clunkers. Tonight was a clunker and it came at the worst time. The Cubs needed not just a good start from Quintana but a great one. Instead he was really bad, but the Cubs continued to only manage to score via the home run. And it was yet another solo home run from Kris Bryant. The bullpen was torched following Wade Davis throwing a starter's worth of pitches in his last two postseason outings. Hector Rondon and John Lackey took a game that was unlikely to be won and removed any drama from the season finale. There is a lot of blame to go around, and we will have a lot of time to dissect it.
The Window within the Window
Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo looked mortal throughout the postseason, but there is no doubt that they will lead a talented lineup for several more seasons. The Cubs have a wealth of position player talent on the big league roster right now, and there are the pieces to be a good team that contends for a division crown right now. However, it is the end of an era as several key pieces of the 2016 and 2017 Cubs are set to depart. The Cubs may surprise and bring back Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, but it is also very possible that Theo Epstein and company will be content to collect their draft picks if the prices become exorbitant. Either way the front office loaded up on talent for a couple year run, and that time has ended. The team will need to be retooled, and interesting discussions are to be had what this next window within the window looks like.
A Thank You
So I've gotten the honor to write the final recap of the season the 4 years I've been writing here. I may have missed a recap or two, but I believe this is the 226 one I've written here. I would like to thank all of you dedicated denizens. It has been a rough year in many ways. It was an exciting year, and it has been a privilege to share all of the ups and downs with all of you.