What an outing by Wade Davis in Game 4 to keep the Cubs’ season alive and offer some hopes to a fan base that was facing down a sweep at the hands of the Dodgers.
If you’ll remember, in Game 2 of the NLCS, with the Cubs already down 1-0 in the series and the game tied 1-1, Joe Maddon sent John Lackey in to face the Dodgers lineup in the bottom of the ninth inning instead of his closer Wade Davis, with two outs and a runner on second. Lackey let up a three-run home run by Justin Turner to win the game and put the Cubs in a 3-0 hole.
With a seven out, 40-plus pitch outing on Thursday night in the final game of the NLDS, Davis was on an three-out limit for that Sunday game. Maddon later said that he didn’t want to use him without a lead because he could only be used for one inning, and didn’t want to warm him up if he wasn’t going to go in the game, and therefore went with Lackey in the jam. He also threw in some dry humping metaphors and a fair helping of media criticism.
Whether you agree with that decision or not after the unfortunate outcome for Chicago, that lack of Davis in Game 2 combined with an easy Dodgers win in Game 3 meant that he didn’t pitch in the NLCS until Game 4, when the Cubs had their backs up against the wall down three games to zip.
So after all that waiting and debating about Davis’ lack of involvement in Game 2, everybody got to see him in Game 4. He came in for the top of the eighth inning with the Cubs leading 3-1 to face Justin Turner as his first batter...who then hit a solo home run to narrow the lead to one.
He let up two walks in the inning but got the three outs necessary. Even if it took him 34 pitches, making Dodgers’ fans salivate over what a possible ninth inning might look like after he racked up that pitch count.
That ninth inning didn’t look anything like they hoped it would though, as Davis took only 14 pitches to strike out Austin Barnes, walk Chris Taylor, and then force Cody Bellinger into grounding into a double play.
It’s exactly the performance that Cubs fans needed to save the season — especially since that double play meant that Justin Turner wouldn’t even get a chance to come to the plate — as well as being just a really good pitching performance.
Take away all the emotion, all the importance of the game. Strip away the pressure and the controversy over his manager’s choices earlier in the week, and it’s an amazing, clutch pitching performance.
Add all that emotion back in and remember how crucial a situation he was stepping into, and it will blow your mind just a little. The fact that he did that in the same week as he finished off the Nationals in similar style only makes it better.
Three strikeouts, three walks that didn’t make it around to home, and only one run allowed — that he bounced back from without allowing it to compromise his entire outing.
Davis being ready for a six out save makes Maddon’s Game 2 decision look even better, by the by, so it kind of worked out for everybody involved. Even though nobody needed that dry humping comment from the Cubs’ skipper and he should seriously never say that ever again. Please, Joe. For everyone.
Yet following Maddon’s previous logic about Davis’ limitations after a big save like this, that also means that you probably won’t see him again this season. Because after 48 pitches, unless Chicago pushes the series to a seventh game on Sunday Davis getting back on that mound is unlikely.
Considering that only one team ever has taken a series to a seventh game after being down three-to-zero (and that’s the Red Sox, who are the only team to have won a series after that) the chances of that are even more unlikely than Davis making a Game 5 or Game 6 appearance.
Maddon came right out and said that after nearly 50 pitches, Davis would not be available to close in Game 5. Which means that the Dodgers might get to see Carl Edwards Jr. again, who they’ve been solid against, or John Lackey who, well, they’ve already walked off against once and is on the verge of going to live with retired pitchers on a farm upstate.
Davis has now thrown 92 pitches in his last two saves, so unless his arm is bionic Maddon reasonably won’t go back to him unless it’s absolutely necessary or four days from now.
Much better options than facing Davis again with a trip to the World Series on the line, so while it doesn’t take away from Davis’ performance on Wednesday it proves how good the Dodgers are at not only winning games but making it harder on their opponents in the next game as well.
If that’s the last time everyone gets to see Wade Davis pitch this season, as looks to be the case, the Cubs couldn’t have asked for a better farewell outing from their closer this year.
And the rest of the baseball community should remember his performance despite the fact that it will eventually get buried in the Dodgers’ advancing to the World Series. Because it was a good ‘un.