Cubs look ready to take off again in Los Angeles for NLCS

Traffic on the I-10 Freeway delayed Cubs manager Joe Maddon enough that his news conference Friday at Dodger Stadium started 20 minutes late.

Maddon finally entered the interview room looking like he hopped off the back of a Harley, wearing a blue denim jacket with its collar flipped and a “Route 66” patch over a green striped T-shirt and black pants.

“We’re here,” Maddon said with a smile, appearing rushed as he removed his sunglasses.

A medical emergency the Cubs successfully addressed diverted the team plane Friday morning to Albuquerque, N.M. The team then sat five hours in New Mexico inside a 767 jet because Federal Aviation regulations on flight hours required a change in the cockpit. Yes, Maddon changed pilots on his way to the National League Championship Series. The detour extended the Cubs’ cross-country trek from Washington D.C. to 10 hours, quality time as far as their manager was concerned.

“I was looking at it from the camaraderie, the family kind of component to the entire evening,” Maddon said. “So in spite of the inconvenience, and it was, in today’s world with all the events that are thundering down upon us, I thought it was kind of a bunt. I thought we handled it well.”

Late arrivals suit the 2017 Cubs, a team that started slow but eventually got where it wanted to go, back in California dreaming of another World Series after a season in which they took a more circuitous route to the NLCS. A tiring 10-hour journey after a 4-hour, 37-minute victory over the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS, the longest postseason nine-inning game in history, barely fazed a team that entered the All-Star break two games under .500.

“The adrenaline will be supplied,” Maddon promised. “The guys are going to show up.”

The Cubs typically do, a fact returning to Chavez Ravine reinforces to anybody who dares to doubt the defending World Series champions. Sunshine and blue skies replaced the chilly mist that served as the backdrop for the final two games of the NLDS, fitting scenery for all the happy memories this place elicits for the Cubs.

This was where Addison Russell homered in Game 4 of the 2016 NLCS to stop the Cubs’ 21-inning scoreless streak. This was where Jon Lester shut down the Dodgers in Game 5. This was where Anthony Rizzo snapped his playoff slump by borrowing former teammate Matt Szczur’s bat and the Cubs scored 18 runs in Games 4 and 5. This was the site of too much fun for the Cubs to let a little fatigue interfere with their main objective.

“Right now, we’re playing with that same kind of mental acumen and edge that I’ve seen the last two years,” Maddon said. “Probably from the second half of ’15 to last year to right now, it’s very familiar.”

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