CHICAGO – There is no more synonymous hashtag with Cubs’ playoff runs in the Ricketts era than the one that deals with the flag which they hoist above the center field scoreboard with every win.
“Fly The W” is a phenomenon that’s grown over the past two years as they team has ascended towards the top of the National League. Fans have bought the white flags with the blue “W” on them in droves while waving them after every Cubs’ victory. The team has even handed out towels to the fans in each of the last two playoff runs for them to wave the “W” as well.
While individual players contribute to getting that “W” flag onto the scoreboard throughout the season, it’s been the leadership of Joe Maddon that allowed fans to wave them 103 times in the regular season and four times in the playoffs so far.
But thanks to Miguel Montero, the manager should have really stood outside the dugout of Wrigley Field with his own flag on Saturday night. So far in the National League Championship Series – it’s Maddon 1, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts 0.
“Honestly, a lot of that stuff I had thought preplanned before the game. So a lot of that stuff was preplanned,” said Maddon of his many moves in Saturday’s 8-3 victory. “You look for situations. You’re looking for the right matchups. But don’t know what he’s going to do. That’s the other thing. You know what you want to do, but you don’t know what he’s going to do, and then you have to be able to react.”
There was a lot to react in Game 1 at Wrigley Field. First it was hit top pitcher not exactly being on top of his game.
First it was hit top pitcher not exactly being on top of his game. A bit confused? Many others were too considering that Lester went six innings allowing just one run on a pinch-hit homer by Andre Ethier.
“I just thought that tonight Jon really wasn’t on top of his game. There was a chance to put add-on runs in that particular moment,” said Maddon. “You had (Adrian) Gonzalez, and then (Carlos) Ruiz had two good at-bats against him. (Enrique)Hernandez has already had good at-bats at him. So it was also an opportunity to get Ruiz out of the game, which eventually turned into (Yasmani) Grandal.”
But it made for some complications concerning his closer Aroldis Chapman. With Mike Montgomery and Pedro Strop failing to get an out, Maddon went to the pen to get the hard-throwing right-hander and inning earlier than usual. Against the Giants he struggled in the same situation but Maddon had the faith to stick with him again which worked yet didn’t.
After a pair of strikeouts Chapman surrendered a game-tying two-run hit to Adrian Gonzalez that made the move a questionable one again, especially considering that Aroldis was one of five pitchers used in just two innings. But Chapman did get out of the inning without giving up the lead which is the spin Maddon put on it quickly.
“Give Chappy credit for keeping it at 2. Now, there’s the argumentative part there where we did not lose the lead. If you don’t use lose the lead right there and you have this chance to come back, which we did,” said Maddon. “Give Chappy a lot of credit right there because in that moment, when you’ve given up two runs to tie the ball game, tendency is maybe the mental letdown. But he did not permit that to happen.”
Neither did Montero in the competition against Roberts. The catcher was ready to make his manager look like a genius and turn the doubt on the Dodgers leader.
Seeing a chance to force Maddon’s hand and bat for Chapman, Roberts ordered intentional walks of Jason Heyward to get to Javier Baez and then Chris Coghlan to get to the pitcher’s spot. Maddon countered with Miguel Montero in that spot with the bases loaded and two outs.
“I felt really good about it,” said Roberts of his 8th inning strategy. “And I would do the same thing over again. 10 times out of 10 I would take Joe Blanton against Montero.”
Still, it didn’t work. Montero cranked his first postseason homer into the right field seats to put the Cubs up 7-3. Dexter Fowler homered for more insurance and Hector Rondon finished it off the next inning for an 8-4.
Cubs 1, Dodgers in the NLCS. Despite it not looking good in the 8th, Maddon 1, Roberts 0.
“So, there’s all these little subplots going on constantly within that game, and obviously eventually Miggy grabs one, and that’s pretty special,” said Maddon, who could “Fly The W” himself on Wednesday.