CHICAGO – One way or the other, whether this season ends in two more games or continues all the way till the end of October, his scream will come to define a season.
After getting a bloop single off Oliver Perez in the 8th inning of Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Nationals, Anthony Rizzo let his emotions flow.
“Respect Me!” yelled the Cubs’ leader in the direction of the mound. It was in response to the Nationals deciding to pitch to Rizzo with first base open and two outs in a tie game. The moment has been replayed and “memed” on Social Media plenty over the past 24 hours as the shining moment of a 2-1 Cubs’ win that puts them a game from the NLCS for a third-straight year.
“Yeah, that’s the mentality I take always with the base open. I want to make guys pay. I hit where I hit in the order,” said Rizzo of the emotional moment. “I drive in runs, and that’s just the mentality that I always take in. Usually I keep that stuff behind the scenes and say that stuff, but just my emotions got me there.”
It’s OK. Nothing wrong with a little emotion. It’s certainly justified for a team that’s making a habit of turning bad things early into good things late.
A hashtag that is becoming a thing for this 2017 Cubs team. One that sheds the label of a franchise known for its late-game collapses in this golden era on the North Side.
“We made mistakes. We made some errors, but then we made some great plays. We made a couple base running gaffs. Part of it is possibly guys trying just a little bit too hard,” said manager Joe Maddon of Game 3. “But at the end of the day, you’ll always take that effort, always.”
It was a long frustrating day for the offense that was at the mercy of Max Scherzer until he was removed in the seventh inning after the Cubs finally got a hit in the seventh inning.
Yes, for a second time in three NLDS game against Washington, the Cubs haven’t gotten a hit in the first half of the game. Stephen Strasburg held them out of the hit category in Game 1 through the first five innings on Saturday with Scherzer doing one inning better on Monday.
But in the end? Who won the game?
Those same Cubs whose bats were quieted for 60 percent of those two contests. The offense rallied back to score three runs in Game 1 for the victory and has a more dramatic comeback for the home fans at Wrigley Field on Monday.
Even after a terrible fielding blunder by Kyle Schwarber in left field that allowed the Nationals to break through against an equally solid Jose Quintana, the Cubs just blew it off. After Ben Zobrist chased Scherzer, who was at 98 pitches and starting to lose a bit of control, with a double in the seven, Albert Almora Jr brought him in for the game-tying run. Rizzo then had his heroics with a bloop single into left center.
Before that, Carl Edwards Jr had his own resiliency in a critical moment in the 8th inning. Just two days after allowing a game-tying homer to Bryce Harper, the reliever struck him out as part of a 1-2-3 inning that set up Rizzo’s aforementioned heroics.I was excited.
“I told you last outing that I wanted really, really bad. Just me getting back out there really helped that a lot,” said Edwards. “And Harper, the guy can hit, man. He’s not, you know, Bryce Harper for nothing. The guy’s good. And you know, it’s just nice it get back up there against him.”
In many ways, three games of a NLDS encapsulates the resilience of this team. Two game under the .500 mark and five games out of the division lead, the team stormed back to a 49-25 second half record including a 19-9 mark in September.
Pulling away from the Brewers and Cardinals in the final two weeks of the season, the Cubs showed themselves to be a bounce back bunch as they made the playoffs for a third-straight time.
“What you did, you know, previously, means nothing anymore,” said Rizzo of the team’s resilience. “You’ve got to be ready every single pitch, and to stay in games like this, we know; we know we’re good. We know someone is going to come through, and it’s just a matter of time before someone does.”
Their timing, so far in 2017, couldn’t be any better.