I’m really kicking myself for not scheduling a vacation this coming week.
I make a living as a copy editor at my hometown newspaper. As some of you know, the newspaper business is more than just a 9-to-5, Monday-though-Friday sort of gig, at least on the news and sports side. Those advertising people, the dark side of the business, still do the regular hours thing. I’m not bitter at all.
Nope. Not. At. All.
Journalists and editors work all kinds of hours as we gather information for our loyal readers. Though copy editors’ hours are more steady, they are by no means regular.
A typical week sees me in the office four nights for more than 10 hours at a time reading copy, proofing and designing pages and getting stories ready for our online readership. No doubt this can put a real strain on relationships with family and friends, but it also can be excruciating when it comes to sports loyalties.
At no point has this been more painfully apparent than what I face this coming week, with the Cubs’ deciding World Series games coming up.
Sure, I get to watch the first fall classic game at Wrigley Field since 1945 from the comfort of my own home, but I’ll likely miss most of Games 5 through 7.
And, most importantly, I won’t get to enjoy what I hope will be the first world championship in 108 years. No, I’ll be designing the front page, noting it for posterity.
I couldn’t be more sick.
Not sick enough, however, to call in. I’m not like that. It’s not how I was raised.
Though, I have to say, I’m really tempted.
And if there ever was a time … no, no, I won’t do that. I can’t.
As much as it kills me, I’ll just focus on the fact I get to watch Games 3 and 4 unimpeded by work. Believe me, I will take full advantage of the opportunity.
A look at tonight’s game
Speaking of which, the Cubs head into Wrigley Field at 7 p.m. tonight, tied with the Cleveland Indians 1-1 with an opportunity to take all three in Chicago and put a wrap on the World Series by Sunday.
But the Northsiders received a bit of bad news Thursday when they found out their bionic man, Kyle Schwarber, who inexplicably came back 6 months after blowing up his knee in April, understandably won’t be able to play left field, and thus, his powerful bat will be available only in pinch-hit situations.
While Schwarber provided a giant lift in the first two games of the World Series as a DH, the Cubs did win the vast majority of their 103 regular season victories with him recovering. They’ll miss him, to be sure, but a series win is more than doable without him, especially with another Kyle, Hendricks, headed to the mound tonight.
Hendricks hasn’t seen much of Cleveland’s hitters in his short career, with the Indians a combined 0-5 and only Marlon Byrd, who was banned earlier this season for using performance-enhancing drugs, and Coco Crisp splitting at bats against the Cy Young contender.
However, going off what he’s done so far this October, Cleveland should look out.
The last time we saw this Greg Maddux look-a-like he was mowing down the Dodgers, pitching 7 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up only 2 hits, in the clinching Game 6 of the NLCS against future Hall-of-Famer Clayton Kershaw in the 5-0 win that propelled the Cubs to the World Series.
And me into tears.
But that effort came as no surprise. The 26-year-old righty has given up only 3 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings in three postseason starts, good enough for a 1.65 ERA.
His only October loss came at the hands of Kershaw in his masterful NLCS Game 2 start, which was the beginning of the Cubs offensive woes in Games 2 and 3. It was a loss he later avenged in that fateful Game 6.
Hendricks finished the 2016 regular season with a 16-8 record and a 2.13 ERA, tops in the National League. Not too shabby for any pitcher on any starting rotation, let alone your No. 5.
As for the Indians Game 3 starter, Josh Tomlin also hasn’t seen much of the Cubs, with only Miguel Montero, David Ross and Ben Zobrist hitting a combined .160 over 25 at bats. Zobrist, by far, has seen Tomlin the most, going 2 for 19 against the 32-year-old right-hander.
Tomlin hasn’t been too shabby himself this postseason, going 2-0 with wins over Boston and Toronto. He’s given up only 3 earned runs over 10 2/3 innings, good enough for a 2.53 ERA. His regular season stats aren’t nearly as impressive, going a rather pedestrian 13-9 with a 4.40 ERA.
The Indians, overall, haven’t really been tested so far this postseason, losing only once to the Toronto Blue Jays — before Wednesday’s Game 2 defeat — and that was after the American League Championship Series already was well in hand with Cleveland up, 3-0.
An otherwise dominant Corey Kluber, who gave up his only earned runs of the postseason in Game 4 of that series, was saddled with the loss in Toronto
Reviewing the fall classic, thus far
But Kluber, who will start Game 4 of the World Series Friday, since has recovered, shutting down the Cubs in Cleveland in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday, getting the Indians off to a great start.
He pitched a scoreless 6 innings, striking out 9 and giving up only 4 hits. He was chased by Ben Zobrist, who singled to left to start the seventh. Sensing trouble, and likely preserving Kluber for two more World Series starts, lefty Andrew Miller came in, ostensibly to shut down the Cubs and keep the 3-0 lead intact.
But Chicago hitters roughed up the all-world reliever, with Schwarber reaching on a walk and Javier Baez singling to left.
The Cubs had the Indians right where they wanted them. Kluber was gone, and they had gotten to Miller. Bases loaded, no outs.
But at just that moment, Miller realized who he was and got Willson Contreras to pop to center and mowed down both Addison Russell and David Ross on swinging third strikes.
Chicago would go on to lose 6-0 after Cubs reliever Hector Rondon gave up a three-run homer to catcher Roberto Perez in the bottom of the 8th, his second dinger of the night.
The game wasn’t nearly as lopsided as the score would suggest, and the Northsiders would go on to prove that with their Game 2 domination of the Tribe behind a workmanlike performance by defending Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth in a 5-1 victory for the Cubs.
Wearing out Kluber vs. a rested Cubs rotation
The rested Cubs rotation, which hasn’t yet missed a beat this postseason, stands in stark contrast to the Indians’ situation.
Kluber has been the Tribe’s October horse and their best bet for a win, but you start to wonder how reliable this thoroughbred can be when you’ve already ridden him so much. The 30-year-old righty already has started four games and pitched 24 1/3 innings in October.
To be fair, he’s been dominant, giving up just a pair of earned runs over that multitude of innings, giving him a microscopic 0.74 ERA.
But can he keep that up?
If Indians manager Terry Francona does what he plans and starts him again in Game 7, he will have pitched Kluber on short rest three different times in one postseason.
You have to figure by that start, which would be his sixth this postseason, matching a record held by three others, Kluber would be pretty tired. And ripe for the picking, especially by that murderers row of a Cubs lineup.
On the other hand, the Cubs will continue to rely on their depth, throwing playoff veteran John Lackey on regular rest in Game 4, much like they did in the NLCS, the last time he took the hill.
The 38-year-old has been around, both in the National and American leagues, so he has a fair amount of history against Cleveland. Center fielder Rajai Davis is the best bet for the Tribe against Lackey, hitting .343 over 35 at bats.
Expect Crisp to shine in Game 4. The others? Well, Cleveland is hitting .233 in a combined 176 plate appearances.
Game 4 has the makings of a good matchup, with the gritty Lackey not lacking in experience — how many times has he heard that? — and Kluber looking to continue his dominant playoff run.
As of this writing, neither team has named a starter for Game 5. Heck, why not throw Kluber in yet again and go for a record 7 starts in one postseason? As for the Cubs, expect to see left-handed playoff stud Jon Lester as Chicago makes its way through its rested rotation yet again.
Still nervous … and bummed out
Anyway, all of this is very exciting, but I can’t help but be at least a little bummed that I’ll miss most of Games 5 through 7.
Maybe I won’t be as nervous — and I still am, by the way — as I throw myself at my work and only glance at the newsroom TV periodically.
But I’ll still be kicking myself.