Cubs manager Joe Maddon coughed twice before beginning his postgame news conference inside Wrigley Field’s interview room/dungeon.
The fog machine in the clubhouse got to Maddon, who needed to clear his throat after celebrating Thursday’s 6-5 comeback victory over the New York Mets, finishing a four-game sweep of the National League East leaders.
“I’m just going to have to put my mask on before I walk through it,” Maddon said, sniffling after his 800th career win. “God, every night, I’ll take it. I’m not complaining.”
That would be a classic jump-the-shark moment: Maddon doing a “Breaking Bad” dress-up trip for a rebuilding job that should have required hazmat suits.
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
The Cubs (19-15) and Anthony Rizzo Productions now have Chauvet DJ lighting equipment hanging from the clubhouse ceiling and a completely different vibe from the teams that finished in fifth place for five years in a row.
“No one gives up,” Rizzo said. “Guys come to work every day and compete. We’re young. We have fun. And we have great veteran leadership.”
Who knows how long this dance party will last? On Thursday afternoon, Rizzo got hit for the 10th and 11th times this season, and the Cubs can’t afford one of those fastballs drilling their All-Star first baseman in the wrong spot. Catcher David Ross left the game with abdominal tightness. And Travis Wood (5.59 ERA) got knocked out in the fifth inning, leading to more questions about the back of the rotation.
But as Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson said: “The potential is definitely there.”
The Cubs erased 3-0 and 5-1 deficits, getting a jumpstart from Dexter Fowler’s leadoff home run in the fourth inning and using their deep lineup to wear out the Mets (20-15).
A team that went 0-79 when trailing heading into the ninth inning last season has already won six games in its last at-bat this season, going 10-6 so far in one-run games.
“Very businesslike,” Maddon said, describing the mood in the dugout. “We get down, nobody’s panicking. Nobody’s saying we can’t do this. I think there was a great believability within the group that we could do it.”
The Mets (20-15) left Wrigleyville barely holding onto first place, their lead over the Washington Nationals shrinking to just one game. This series had been framed as another measuring stick for the Cubs, New York’s young power pitchers against Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Starlin Castro, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell.
“It’s really cool,” said Bryant, who delivered a game-tying RBI single in the fifth inning and has driven in 10 runs in the last 10 games. “The Mets have a really good system. I’ve been following along with them, playing against them, and we got some pretty good young guys here. We just hope that we can continue that trend and do something in this game.”
The Cubs didn’t back down from Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Jon Niese. They didn’t commit an error during this four-game series. A beat-up bullpen immediately looked sharper with Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel pitching deep into games, not giving up a run in 9.2 innings combined.
It’s only a snapshot, but for all the hype about the arms race between the Cubs and Mets, this looked more like two teams heading in opposite directions than two teams on the rise.
“We respect everybody, but we should not revere anyone,” Maddon said. “I really dig our staff. I like our personnel a lot. I think the Mets have a wonderful thing going on, absolutely. But there’s got to be respect and not reverence.”