MILWAUKEE – “Yeah, that really killed us, that sweep at Wrigley,” John Lackey said sarcastically late Friday night, dismissing a question about what’s happened to the Cubs since the Milwaukee Brewers made their statement against the defending World Series champs two weekends ago. “Come on, dude, it’s 162 games. Things happen.”
The Cubs are 9-1 since then, but Lackey was in no mood to talk about this finishing kick in the National League Central race, probably because manager Joe Maddon gave him the quick hook in a Big Boy Game, pulling him with a runner on and no outs in the fifth inning. But that’s what’s happening here, the Cubs sprinting away from the Brewers and peaking at the right time.
The Brewers are gasping for air after these pulsating back-to-back nights at Miller Park, the Cubs again coming from behind to win in 10 innings and close in on their second straight division title and third playoff appearance in a row, something this franchise hasn’t done since the run capped by the 1908 World Series title repeat.
After a hard-earned 5-4 win, the Cubs knocked the Brewers back to third place and chopped the magic number to eliminate the St. Louis Cardinals down to five, meaning the clinch party could be in Busch Stadium’s visiting clubhouse next week.
“We played fine that series, actually,” Lackey said, referencing three games where the Cubs lost 2-0, 15-2 and 3-1, allowing the Brewers and Cardinals within two games of first place. “S---, you can lose in this league and still play good. That’s why it’s the big leagues.”
Actually, it looks like the Cubs responded to the challenge from an upstart team, the crowd of 40,116 and a playoff environment.
“It’s been amazing,” Carl Edwards Jr. said. “It actually felt like last year’s World Series when I came in the 10th inning.”
Edwards notched the last five outs this time – with All-Star closer Wade Davis unavailable because he did the same thing the night before – part of a group effort that included a guy whose right elbow hadn’t allowed him to pitch since Sept. 8 (Hector Rondon) and a lefty swingman who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning three days ago against the Tampa Bay Rays (Mike Montgomery).
Lackey’s response when asked about the bullpen’s performance – three runs allowed in 11 innings – halfway through a four-game showdown: “They’ve been asked to do a lot…and they’ve really stepped up and done a great job.”
“In order to win, you’re going to need contributions from non-All-Star players at times,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “You’re going to have to get contributions from players stepping up because of someone else’s bad performance or someone else’s injury.
“You want your best players to play best in these situations. But ultimately that won’t always happen. And when that doesn’t happen, you’re going to need some contributions from other guys.”
That’s been crucial for the 2017 Cubs. The game-winning run scored when Tommy La Stella – the pinch-hitter who had been dealing with a groin injury recently and personal issues that led him to walk away from the organization last summer – drew a bases-loaded walk against All-Star closer Corey Knebel.
If you want to see a grinding approach for October, just look at Jon Jay’s 15-pitch at-bat against Milwaukee starter Brandon Woodruff in the fifth inning, which led to a leadoff single, Ben Zobrist’s two-run single up the middle and a 4-3 lead after Lackey’s slow start.
Yeah, the Cubs look locked in now.
“I’m so proud of the way our guys (respond),” Maddon said. “They get hit a little bit, maybe something to the solar plexus, but we still keep going.”
High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as CSN had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. No. 1 Lincoln-Way East hits the road to face Lincoln-Way Central while No. 2 Prairie Ridge hosts Bartlett during homecoming week. Staying in the Fox Valley, we also have highlights of a battle between top-25 teams as No. 17 Cary-Grove travels to No. 20 Huntley.
Be sure to follow us on Twitter @CSNPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights.
Also be sure to read a preview of Saturday's big Week 5 matchups as Edgy Tim breaks down Notre Dame battling St. Patrick and West Aurora traveling to South Elgin.
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Friday's Top 25 Scores
No. 3 Maine South 56, Evanston 14
No. 4 Marist 63, Marian Catholic 6
No. 6 Phillips 68, Vocational 0
No. 7 Homewood-Flossmoor 28, Lincoln-Way West 9
No. 8 Naperville Central 31, Wheaton-Warrenville South 17
No. 9 Lyons 31, Leyden 0
No. 11 Barrington 26, Fremd 14
No. 12 Stevenson 41, Zion-Benton 7
No. 13 Hinsdale Central 31, York 7
No. 14 Hoffman Estates 20, Conant 0
No. 16 Nazareth 24, Benet 14
No. 18 Palatine 28, Schaumburg 21
No. 19 Batavia 7, St. Charles East 0
No. 21 Glenbard West 35, Downers North 14
No. 23 Neuqua Valley 41, Thornwood 8
Glenbard North 20, No. 25 Naperville North 7