The early innings
The first thing that hit me as I turned on the game was the age of the Chicago Cubs’ starting lineup. It was veteran after veteran up and down the lineup card – from Kenny Lofton leading off to guys like Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek.
Maybe that’s just because of how young the 2016 club was; but it seemed like Prior was the only young gun they had on the diamond. And, boy, he didn’t disappoint.
We see pitchers getting pulled with 80 pitches today – but in his previous four starts heading into that game, Prior had racked up more than 110 once and in the three previous, at least 130 pitches.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, we understand why his arm fell off. But I digress.
Sammy Sosa, coming off a 40-homer, 103 RBI campaign, showed why he was considered one of the best in the game early, slapping an opposite-field base hit to score the Cubs’ first run in the bottom of the first.
Chicago had two on and one out in that first inning, but failed to score more than the lone tally – in short, they failed to deliver an early knockout punch.
Now, we all know Miguel Cabrera now as the Triple Crown-winning monster of the Detroit Tigers. Back then, however, he was a skinny rookie looking to make his mark in the postseason – and he did just that. With Cabrera at the dish, for whatever reason, something really bothered me: what was Paul Bako doing catching?
I know the 2016 Chicago Cubs didn’t have any stars behind the dish come October; it was a combination of Willson Contreras and a nearly-40-year-old David Ross getting the job done. But, man, Bako just struck me as being a weak link given this team’s pitching staff.
In the top of the third, with Pierre on first, a ball gets past Bako – allowing Pierre to advance to second. Luis Castillo tries to bunt him over, but pops it up. Aramis Ramirez comes sprinting in, lays out and makes the grab in foul territory. Another hopper to the Cubs’ third baseman was turned into the second out and Cabrera fought off a fastball in on the hands to close the frame.
At this point, we’re through three and I’m feeling pretty good. Prior is sharp. He’s got more life on his pitches than Jake Arrieta at his best. The offense is already getting to Carl Pavano with an early run and the energy in and around Wrigley is electric.