As a youth, I occasionally wasted away more than a few days (and nights) playing a dice baseball game called APBA. Sometimes, when things weren’t going my team’s way, I rolled the dice again to try and get the desired result, a homer instead of a ground out, perhaps.

Thursday evening in DC, the Cubs kept shaking the dice until things went their way.

The dice were really rolling for the Cubs in an unbelievable fashion in the top of the 5th inning that went something like this: Mad Max Scherzer, the hero hurler of the Nationals comes in in relief presumably to save the day as the Gnats had a 4-3 lead at this point.

Rizzo and Bryant were retired routinely. Two outs. Then after three straight hits by Contreras, Zobrist and Russell, the Cubs tied it up.

This was when it started to get weird. A walk, a dropped third strike with a throwing error, a catcher’s interference and a bases loaded hit batsman ensued. When the dust-y settled, the Cubs had taken a 7-4 lead that they would not relinquish, advancing to the NLCS with a 9-8 W in a 4 hour and 37 minute game.

According to an ESPN article, the odds of everything that happened in the top of the 5th inning happening was 1 in 2,183,406,113. (That’s Billion.) Here’s the article explaining if you’re into the baseball Sabermetrics sort of thing:

http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/21006931/max-scherzer-unbelievable-impossible-unprecedented-loss

The Nationals go home. They have now won their division, but have never advanced to the next round of the playoffs having lost in the first round in 2012, 2014, 2016 & now 2017. Stand back Mister Billy Goat, there’s a new curse in town.

And, Chicago goes to Los Angeles for the weekend to play the Dodgers in a rematch of last years’ NLCS. Back to Wrigley on Tuesday for a trio of midweek evening contests.

It’s the Cubs third straight appearance in the NL Championship Series. These aren’t your granddaddy’s Cubs. Backs to the wall, they are 4-0 in elimination games the last two years. Now that I’ve had a taste of it, this October playoff baseball thing never gets old.

This time the Dodgers are the favorites to win according to the odds makers. But, I wouldn’t roll the dice against the Cubs.

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The rainout.

“Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains.” Bull Durham.

Today’s installment turns out to be an unintentional salute to perhaps the best baseball movie ever made.

As if there’s not enough drama already for Cubs fans for what could be an NLDS deciding Game 4 versus a formidable opponent, today’s game is postponed by rain. I can’t imagine how the players feel.

So we wait. We wait for game four. It’s the first Cubs post-season game in history postponed by rain. I don’t know that for sure. Usually I do diligent research to come to such conclusions, but this time I didn’t. So, if I’m wrong, let me know.

As WGN TV used to do during rain delays back in the day, let’s flashback to Monday’s thrilling victory. Keeping with the theme, let’s invoke a “Bullish” analogy.

In the movie Bull Durham, a whiskey influenced Crash Davis describes how a fortuitous hit can change a season’s batting average: “You know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? …. if you get just one extra flare a week – just one – a gork… you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes… you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week… and you’re in Yankee Stadium.” — Crash Davis

In game 3 yesterday, in the bottom of the 8th inning, with the score tied 1-1, two outs and a runner on second base, in a crucial game 3 of the NLDS, a fortuitous pop fly changed the game and Anthony Rizzo got ALL of those in ONE HIT.

Rizz hit a dying quall flare into left center field that screamed, “Respect Me” as three Nationals converged on the ball. But, they all stopped at once as the fly ball with eyes dropped to the ground untouched amidst them as what proved to be the winning run crossed the plate from second base.

I watched the replay almost as much as Jim Garrison (Ironically also portrayed by Kevin Costner in the movie JFK) watched the Zapruder film. The blooper dropped perfectly between a triangle of Gnats. This is the best picture I could clip from the internet (The photographer IS credited).

The three Nationals stop or move “back and to the left.”

Perhaps this photo most defines this match-up and why I believe the Cubs will prevail and move on to the NLCS.

Were Cubs converging on the same pop fly, I imagine a picture of players splayed out on all over grass making diving attempts at the flare ending up with Javy Baez catching the ball in his right armpit inches above the grass. “El Mago” saves the day.

We shall see what happens. I’ll be along for the ride for another three dimensional witness of the 3:08 scheduled start game. (Dimension 1: Regular internet score checks on my phone at work. Dimension 2: Listening to the radio broadcast on the ride home. Dimension 3: Catching the final innings on TV.)

Baseball in October on the north side of Chicago. Does it get any better?

PROOGUE 10/5/17

Here we go again.

In former traditional Cubs lore, this would be an utterance of impending doom. A sighting of a black cat or a hex spewing goat.

But a flash rainstorm on the banks of Lake Erie on a November’s eve washed away all the curses, if indeed they did exist, from Cubs seasons past.

Now, in 2017, “here we go again” means October playoff baseball for the third consecutive year on the Northside of Chicago. The times they are a changin’ for the Addison Street Miracle.

Oh, it was a different ride to playoff-ville this year. Instead of the 2016 express train barreling into the station looking to win games and ask questions later, this year’s team was the local. The 2017 Cubs had a slow start and made several stops along the way before heating up down the stretch.

As seen in the cover photo, some old faces from the 2016 Rally Towel were gone (ten by my count), but the core remained and the result was the same. A National League Central Division title.

Round one opponent are the Washington Nationals. Fondly known to their fans as the “Nats.” I find them akin to the gnats, an annoying little bug. A bothersome roadblock on the path.

GAME ONE 10/6/17

No home field advantage here this year. The series begins in Washington DC.

A classic pitcher’s duel looms. Power versus finesse. Hendrix versus Strasburg.

My notes from the game.

7:55 Game half over. 0-0. Top of 6. Strasburg with a no hitter.
8:00 Feeling a Cubs breakout here. And, it happened.
Two runs. No hitter gone. Shutout gone. Cubs up.
8:40 Defensive changes in the outfield. Hendrix on the hill still. Bottom of 7.
9:00 An insurance run on a double by Rizzo in the 8th inning. The Bryzzo combo coming up big in the late innings with all three RBI.
9:30 Bottom of the 9th Up 3. Old habits die hard. Cautiously optimistic. Sort of loving a silent DC crowd. 1-2-3. Cubs Win 3-0. Home field advantage eliminated.

GAME TWO 10/7/17

A retrospective.

Poof.

If Frank Sinatra was singing a song about this game the lyrics would be, “That’s baseball. You can’t deny it. Riding high in the 7th, shot down in the 8th.”

Cruising comfortably with a two run lead and just five outs to get, Carl’s Jr. delivers a new menu item, the hanging curve burger to Bryce Harper and bang just like that the lead vanishes. Ryan Zimmerman goes yard on normally reliable Mike Montgomery and the gnats get a five spot in the 8th for a 6-3 win.

The bullpen exploded. Series tied. Back to the Windy City for game three on Monday Monday, hoping never to return to that city on the Potomac.

Cubs got two games at Wrigley now. Let’s win two!

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