I've been at this a long time, 12 years if you count the two I wrote Cubs game recaps at a personal blog before the start of Bleed Cubbie Blue in 2005. Including playoff games in 2003, 2007, 2008 and this year, that's getting close to 2,000 recaps.
Many times, the game recaps write themselves, or at least provide a pretty good storyline that I can elaborate on.
This one, though? I've been sitting at the keyboard for a very long time trying to think of some way to write up the Cubs' 4-1 loss to the Mets in Game 2 of the National League Championship series that didn't sound utterly morose, or surrender-monkey, or some other method that would turn you right off from reading it. I mean, it's not as if I don't already know how bad you feel about this series, because I feel the same way.
I received a text from a friend of mine who was at the game, sent not long after it started, that said, "This team has let the cold get to them. No BP, only a few out for the anthem." The batting-practice thing, I'll dismiss, because Joe Maddon has canceled BP for many games this year and I think the team has responded well to that. The anthem? Well... I can't really comment since the national anthem wasn't televised Sunday night and that hardly seems relevant to the way the Cubs played baseball.
But it did seem as if the Mets didn't care about the cold and the Cubs did. Take, for example, this comment:
Told it should be 20 degrees warmer in Chicago, #Cubs Montero smiled. "Awesome."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) October 19, 2015
The weather conditions were the same for both teams, obviously. Some players from both clubs were bundled up with balaclavas, and it's not as if Chicago is a warm-weather city early in the baseball season; Cubs players ought to be used to chilly nights with the wind howling off Lake Michigan.
Nevertheless, the cold shouldn't be an excuse. Mets batters hit the ball when they needed to and Cubs hitters didn't. It really is as simple as that, along with the fact that Jake Arrieta had a bad first inning for the first time in what seems like forever. It was noted by some that his velocity was down a bit. Why was that?
#Cubs Arrieta knows his velocity has dropped. Does he know why? "Yeah, I don't know."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) October 19, 2015
Well, that's not helpful. The first three batters of the game all got hits off Arrieta. Curtis Granderson singled, then the fact that Dexter Fowler likes playing shallow came back to bite him when David Wright doubled over Fowler's head. As they did Saturday, the Mets had a 1-0 lead.
Then Daniel Murphy, the hottest hitter I've seen in the postseason against the Cubs since the Giants' Will Clark hit .650 in the 1989 NLCS, came to the plate. He hit a ball far out of the yard foul. Two pitches later, Arrieta threw what looked like a pretty good curveball, but Murphy somehow yanked it into the seats and the Mets had a 3-0 lead on Murphy's fifth home run of the postseason.
Murphy has 62 regular-season home runs in 906 career games. He has never hit five home runs in any calendar month in the regular season. But he now has five in October.
Still, it's only one inning and the Cubs did, at least, get a hit off Noah Syndergaard in the top of the first. Chris Coghlan came to bat with one out in the second. Coghlan had homered off Syndergaard in the latter's major-league debut at Wrigley Field last May. He took two curveballs for strikes, then got a fastball and launched it (the call is from the Mets radio announcers):
If you believe in things like setting tones, that set the tone for this game; if Coghlan's ball goes over the wall the Cubs would still have been down 3-1, but at least they would have proven to themselves they could go deep off Syndergaard.
Arrieta settled down, more or less; he allowed one more run when Granderson singled, stole two bases and came home on a single by Yoenis Cespedes in the fourth. Arrieta's outing, which lasted five innings, his shortest since May, wasn't bad -- it just wasn't the Jake! we've been accustomed to seeing. If he doesn't give up the homer to Murphy, he's probably staying in the game past the fifth inning, although the Cubs' bullpen again did a good job of shutting the Mets down. Travis Wood, Clayton Richard and Pedro Strop threw three combined innings, allowed just one hit (Murphy, again, a single in the eighth) and struck out four.
Among those outs was a catch by Coghlan on a fly ball by Cespedes leading off the bottom of the sixth that was nearly as good as the Granderson grab (with Pat Hughes' radio call):
There aren't many Cubs highlights from this game, so we'll take that one, I suppose. The Cubs scored their only run of the game in the top of that inning on a single by Fowler and a double by Kris Bryant. It was good, at least, to see Bryant get a couple of hits after being so... uh... cold at the plate for most of the postseason so far. Anthony Rizzo also singled and walked twice; his single in the ninth was a nice hustle play when he noticed Mets closer Jeurys Familia was slow to cover first base on what was otherwise a routine ground ball to first.
The Cubs, in essence, have looked like the Mets did against them in the seven regular-season games the two clubs played, particularly the three-game set in July, a series the Cubs swept and allowed just one Mets run in 29 total innings.
I don't have to tell you the tall order the Cubs now have to get back in this series. The two starting pitchers who are supposedly the club's best were not up to the task and so it will be on the right arms of Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel to bring the Cubs back as the series switches to Wrigley Field starting Tuesday night. Truth be told, supposedly "lesser" pitchers have often come up with big-time performances in postseason games, as have supposedly "lesser" hitters. You know, guys like Daniel Murphy. The Cubs are going to have to have something like that happen in order to come back and win this series.
The Mets will counter Hendricks Tuesday night with Jacob deGrom, one of the better pitchers in the National League. But the Cubs have already defeated deGrom twice this year, scoring eight runs (seven earned) off him in 10⅓ innings and hit three homers off him. That, I'd hope, will give them confidence.
Well, there. I feel better now. Hope you do too. Have faith. This is not over yet.