The Dodgers outplayed the Cubs for 3 games. They always responded instantly to any outburst from the limp Cubs bat, and then added some additional runs when needed. The bullpen has been invicible, and there was little that made you think the outcome would be much different tonight.
That is all except for Jake Arrieta. The Cubs most recent Cy Young award winner took the ball in an elimination game again, and he did exactly what he has done in each of those opportunities. Arrieta retired the first two Dodgers, but a Justin Turner walk and Yasiel Puig single started a two out rally. Arrieta struck out Andre Ethier to put out the fire and keep the score level after one. Alex Wood made quick work of the Cubs in the bottom half of the inning.
Arrieta's only blip in the second inning was a Chase Utley hit by pitch with two outs. Wood retired Rizzo to start the bottom of the second. Willson Contreras obliterated the ball to give the Cubs the lead yet again. Addison Russell struck out, but Javier Baez made his first hit of the series count by placing it in the bleachers. The Cubs 2-0 lead was a familiar feeling. It was a familiar feeling in the top of the third when Cody Bellinger launched a one out solo shot to make it a 2-1 game. But the script diverged from games 1-3 at this point as Arrieta retired Puig and Ethier to give the Cubs their first true lead of the series.
Wood and Arrieta traded zeroes for a couple innings. Each pitcher faced the minimum. The streak was broken up with Baez's second home run of the night. That gave the Cubs a 3-1 lead. Wood wouldn't finish the fifth inning, and the Cubs offense had done enough for Jake it seemed. The leadoff hitter reached to start the sixth and seventh inning, but they were kept off the board in each frame. Jake could not finish the seventh, but Brian Duensing retired Bellinger to keep the score 3-1.
Ross Stripling, Tony Watson, Kenta Maeda and Tony Cingrani retired the 7 Cubs they faced to reach the eighth inning. Wade Davis was give the ball with the heart of the Dodger order. Justin Turner homered because he is incapable of doing anything different. Puig drew a walk, but Ethier fouled out on a nifty grab by Kris Bryant for the first out. Curtis Granderson struck out, but it included some drama. Granderson swung over the top of the pitch, but argued that he made contact. Dave Roberts went out to argue and the umpires conferred together. The conference somehow decided that Granderson did make some mythical contact. Joe Maddon couldn't believe and ended up arguing until he was tossed. Davis threw exactly the same pitch and got a swing and miss to end the at bat. Yasmani Grandal drew a walk to extend the inning, but Chase Utley was struck out on the 37th pitch of the at bat to end the inning with the Cubs clinging to a 3-2 lead.
The Cubs offense went to work against Cingrani in the eighth inning. Cingrani hit Jon Jay with a pitch. Wade Davis was allowed to bat and made no attempt to bunt Jay over. He had a lengthy battle with Cingrani, but was called out on strikes. Albert Almora singled for his first hit of the night, but he was erased on a Jason Heyward fielder's choice. Roberts went to Josh Fields and Kris Bryant grounded out to end the inning.
Wade went back to work and looked brillant to start the inning. He struck out Austin Barnes, but after getting ahead of Chris Taylor ended up walking the Dodger leadoff hitter. Wade fell behind Bellinger, but he rolled over a pitch right to Javy. The Cubs middle infield did what it does and turned the double play smoothly to extend the series one more night.
One Last Jake Day?
I don't know what the future will bring for Jake Arrieta. Part of me thinks that the front office will be content to collect a draft pick. Part of me looks at the other options on the market and the two large holes in the rotation for 2018. Either way what isn't in doubt is Jake Arrieta's legacy here. He came through with the type of performance that the Cubs have needed all series. It isn't good enough for the Cubs to get okay or even good starting pitching. If they are going to win this thing they need great starting pitching. And Jake had another performance that has helped change the fortunes of this franchise. The Wild Card game in 2015 was so key for the ascendence of this club, and game 6 of the World Series was the exclamation point on that ascension. Hopefully Jake gets at least one more start in 2017 because I am not ready to see him leave yet.
The Price of a Win
Joe made the right call to go to Wade Davis to face the two Dodgers that are absolutely crushing everything they see. It didn't work as Justin Turner crushed a high pitch to get the Dodgers back into the game, and then Davis put the tying run on base via the walk in each inning. Wade has suddenly become a high wire act, but it worked out tonight as it did in game 5 of the NLDS. The price is that Davis is going to be hard pressed to go in game 5 tomorrow after throwing 47 pitches. He might only be available for an inning in games 6 or 7 at this point as well. It doesn't matter since you had to win tonight, but it might have been nice to see Tommy La Stella or Ian Happ get an at bat in the eighth inning to try to break the game open.
I want to believe. I want to think that this team can do the improbable just one more time. It is a tall task, but if you win tomorrow night the pressure suddenly shifts back to the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw wasn't great in his last elimination game at Wrigley after all. Jon Lester is pretty damn good in October. And anything can happen in a game 7.