On the pivotal night, the Cubs were the Cubs | Bleader

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On the pivotal night, the Cubs were the Cubs

Posted By on 10.21.15 at 12:00 PM

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click to enlarge Rain fell at Wrigley Tuesday night, but that didn't ruffle the Mets, either. - (AP PHOTO/DAVID GOLDMAN)
  • (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • Rain fell at Wrigley Tuesday night, but that didn't ruffle the Mets, either.

Any Cubs fan who was a veteran of the 1969 campaign was asking only one thing Tuesday night: to crush the Mets. Was that too much to ask?

Apparently so, because in the end—or three-quarters of the way to the end, anyway—the Cubs were the Cubs.

How else to explain that the Cubs' starting pitchers couldn't get out of the first inning in any of the first three National League Championship Series games against the New York Mets without giving up a run? That they continued to pitch to the Mets' Daniel Murphy even after he proved he was scintillatingly hot?

When he lined one foul in the first inning of game two at New York's Citi Field against Jake Arrieta, with the Cubs already down having lost the first game, I said to all within earshot, "That's it. Don't throw him another strike. Nothing but fastballs out of the zone." Yet he lined the next pitch, an Arrieta breaking ball down and in, inside the foul poll for a homer in his fourth straight game.

Bad enough, yet he homered again in the third inning Tuesday night against Kyle Hendricks with two outs and nobody on, a perfect time to stick one in his ear and then walk him.

That put the Mets ahead, 2-1, after Kyle "Vavoom" Schwarber had tied the score at 1 in the bottom of the first following, yes, another Mets first-blood run. What did the Mets do the next time Schwarber—who, by the way, set a Cubs franchise record, yes, dating back to the 1800s, with his fifth homer in the post-season—came to the plate? They walked him.

That's what good teams do, and stupid teams do not.

Worse yet, however, was the way the Cubs tied it at 2 on a Jorge Soler homer in the fourth off Jacob deGrom, only to give the lead back in the sixth on—get this—a Trevor Cahill wild pitch on an otherwise inning-ending strikeout curve that catcher Miguel Montero couldn't corral until he corned it against the red-brick backstop behind home plate.

The Mets scored two more in the seventh off Travis Wood—with another Murphy hit in there with first base open—while the Cubs were going down 11 in a row against deGrom after Soler's homer. They mustered only a single hit off the Mets' bullpen the last two innings in losing 5-2.

That might put the Cubs down 3-0, right where head honcho Theo Epstein might want them, considering his 2004 curse-breaking Boston Red Sox went down 3-0 to the New York Yankees, only to pretty much run the table after that, but it does't give a Cubs fan much heart.

We tried, though. Manager Joe Maddon gave National Anthem singer Wayne Messmer a first bump to start the first home game at Wrigley Field in the NLCS, but an anemic attempt to muster a Blackhawks roar petered out after the first line.

Fans were up on their feet early with every two-strike count a Cubs pitcher managed, and they were up waving their freebie #FlytheW rally towels when Soler had a 3-1 count in the first, only to watch him ground out to end the inning.

Every seat was packed, to be sure, as attendance was 42,231, but there wasn't the same energy outside the park as there was in 2003, when thousands slapping thundersticks together lined Waveland and Sheffield avenues.

To tell the truth, I don't think they would have been heard had they been there, not with the Cubs' new stadium TV blasting highlights from their season at every opportunity between innings.

In the end, rain fell, but that didn't ruffle the Mets, either. And when the game was over and the Cubs' grounds crew executed a perfect rolling out of the tarp to cover the infield—they had to roll back a corner because they had forgotten to cover the home-plate area with an extra layer of covering.

The Cubs aren't dead yet, but this was likely the last game I was going to see at Wrigley Field this season, and I thought to preserve it with one last look as I had in seasons past—but it would have been like saying good-bye to a statue. After filing out with the rest of the fans, I went out and left Wrigley and walked back home in the rain, with nary a thought for the new Cubs cap I'd bought last weekend at Strange Cargo.

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