Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is going with more of the same in Game 5. Can this lineup break through and save the season for the Cubs?
For the Chicago Cubs, it’s the lineup that has gotten them this far. With Jon Lester on the mound, the Cubs won 19 games for the lefty. David Ross will be behind the plate, looking to slow the Cleveland Indians running game. I said this when the Cubs struggled in the Los Angeles Dodgers series. These are the guys that got you here, and now is the time to trust in them.
Jason Heyward returns to the lineup and looks to have gained some confidence in his swing. The Cubs will need all they can get as they look to survive to make the trip back to Cleveland. The Cubs have missed Kyle Schwarber, but one of the biggest keys will be Javier Baez. After taking the NLCS co-MVP alongside Lester, Baez has reverted to the “old Javy”, unloading on almost every pitch that crosses the plate.
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This is NOT what helped Baez be NLCS MVP. He’s still young, and the pressure of being down in this series has caused the younger players to press a bit more. He, as well as Willson Contreras and Addison Russell have been disappointing at the plate in the World Series. But tonight, the lineup will feature more veterans.
Heyward, Ross, Ben Zobrist and, to an extent, Anthony Rizzo, will lead one of the more “veteran” teams the Cubs can showcase. And with Lester on the mound, there’s experience in this series of having to come back in a playoff series. But it’s not necessarily about the veterans tonight. It’s about Joe Maddon’s words to this team when the season started.
The “embraced the target”. They knew teams would be gunning for them. And they posted a 103 win season anyhow. They’ve been tested in the playoffs, and they have persevered. But the one “Maddonism” that this team has forgotten. The one they need to grab hold of tonight:
"“Don’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure. That’s on the top of my lineup card every night.” – Joe Maddon, From his introductory press conference in Nov, 2014."
The Cubs seems to have done EXACTLY that. The pressure of winning a World Series–heck, simply winning a GAME– in Wrigley Field has become too much. The Indians pitching has been solid, but outside of Corey Kluber in Game 1, it’s been beatable. The Cubs have beaten themselves.
Tonight, they need to play loose. Like it’s their last game they’re going to play. There’s nothing to save up for. Tonight, they need to give everything they have and leave it out there. If this series heads back to Cleveland, they’ll find a way to give more. Oh, and Respect 90–they need to adhere to that one too.