Of the Cubs, Kershaw and curses

And now ‘The Curse’ faces the Chicago Cubs— ‘The Curse of Clayton Kershaw.’

That’s the obstacle the Cubs face Saturday when the National League Championship Series continues in Wrigley Field.

But the Cubs do have a cushion. Even if they lose to Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers, there will be a Game 7. If they beat Kershaw they are in the World Series for the first time since 1945.

That scenario is because the Cubs beat the Dodgers Thursday night in Dodger Stadium, 8-4, behind the pitching of Jon Lester, a two-run home run by Addison Russell to break a 1-1 tie in the sixth and a five-run put away eighth inning punctuated by Javier Baez’s third hit, a three-run double.

LESTER, THE MAN WHO can’t throw to first base, or any base, held the Dodgers to one run and five hits over seven innings.

Lester, a 19-game winner this season, has a mental block about throwing to bases and, basically, won’t do it. Why didn’t the Dodgers bunt to him? Why didn’t they steal bases when they got on? They took big leads, but seldom tried to steal.

The only run the Dodgers scored, until a three-run hopeless ninth, was in the fourth and it was because Howie Kendrick stole third base. Kendrick led the fourth with a double. He took a huge lead off second and broke for third. He was called out, but replay/review reversed the call and he scored on a grounder to second by Adrian Gonzalez.

Russell, Chicago’s 22-year-old shortstop, broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning with a two-run home run over the center field wall. It came on a first pitch dangling slider offered by LA relief pitcher Joe Blanton.

It stayed 3-1 until the top of the eighth when the Cubs scored two on an error by pitcher Pedro Baez on Addison Russell’s grounder, a solid single by pinch-hitter Willson Contreras and two run-scoring infield hits.

TWO SO-CALLED CURSES are famous in baseball lore — The Curse of the Bambino for the Boston Red Sox and The Billy Goat Curse for the Chicago Cubs.

How about some revisionist history?

The 1918 World Series was played between the Red Sox and the Cubs. Because of so-called curses, neither won a World Series until the Red Sox broke through in 2004.

The Cubs lost that ’18 World Series and still haven’t won since 1908.

The Curse of the Bambino? They say that came about because Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe ith to the New York Yankees. Well, guess what? The sale didn’t come until after the 1919 season, a season in which the Red Sox, with Ruth, finished sixth with a 66-71 record in a shortened season.

The Cubs Billy Goat Curse supposedly was applied because a supporter’s goat, Murphy, was evicted from the stands during the 1945 World Series, lost by the Cubs.

But the Cubs hadn’t won a World Series since 1908, 37 years before the so-called Billy Goat Curse.

MAYBE ‘THE CURSE,’ if there ever was one, goes back to the Red Sox and Cubs playing each other in 1918. Due to reduced receipts because of World War II, baseball’s ruling body, the National Commission, cut the players World Series shares and both team threatened a strike before Games Four and Five.

And when they didn’t get what they wanted, both teams played the final two games lethargically and there were rumors and some proof that the Series was fixed.

In the deciding Game 5, Cubs right fielder Max Flack was picked off base twice, still a World Series record, and he played shallow in right field. Pitcher Lefty Tyler motioned him to move back, but he didn’t. A ball was hit over his head and it led to the only two runs Boston scored in a 2-1 Red Sox Series-clinching victory.

CHICAGO BLACK SOX PITCHER Eddie Cicotte, one of the eight players banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, is on record as saying, “We threw the World Series because the Cubs got away with it in 1918.”

And that, some say, is why ‘The Curse’ was affixed to both the Red Sox and the Cubs.

You want to discuss a curse? How about ‘The Curse of Paul O’Neill?’ The Cincinnati Reds traded Paul O’Neill to the New York Yankees before the 1993 season for Roberto Kelly. O’Neill now wears four World Series championship rings and the Reds haven’t been to the World Series since 1990, when O’Neill helped them win that one.


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