Joe Maddon points to late last season as the time when his young Cubs found a way to get over the hump and start to truly believe they could beat the powerhouse Cardinals.
But in reality, the Cubs had been beating the Cardinals for some time before that.
With Tuesday's 4-3 loss in front of 41,616 fans at Wrigley Field, the Cubs lost their first series to the Cardinals in almost a calendar year (St. Louis' last series victory over the Cubs came June 26-28, 2015 in the form of a sweep).
That stretch included five series victories for the Cubs (including the NLDS last October) plus a four-game series split between the two teams at Wrigley last July.
The Cubs led for all of about 10 minutes in the first two games of this series, when Anthony Rizzo drove home Chris Coghlan with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first Tuesday night.
But the Cardinals responded immediately with Brandon Moss' two-out single the next half inning.
"It was kind of like 'Groundhog Day,' wasn't it?" Maddon joked. "I mean, like the same game as [Monday] night. Well played on both sides. We just couldn't get a hit when we needed to.
"I'll say it again: If we keep playing that game, I'll be very, very pleased. It's a good game of baseball. That's how you become a consistent winner."
Cubs starter Jason Hammel hit a rough patch in the third inning, surrendering three straight hits — including homers to Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday — to stake the Cardinals to a 4-1 lead.
Hammel said he wasn't pitching like himself to start off, going with the gameplan and throwing more curveballs than normal. But once he got back to his bread and butter of sinker/slider combo, he felt like he got back on track.
"Things turned around and I was able to keep it close," Hammel said. "And the guys chipped away. I just gotta do a better job of keeping the ball in the yard. Mistakes up in the zone ended up costing us."
The Cubs mounted rallies by scoring solo runs in the third and fourth innings, but again couldn't complete their comeback. They didn't do themselves any favors by hitting into three double plays on the night.
"You obviously never want to lose more than you win in a series," Hammel said, "but it was two hard-fought, one-run ballgames. But, speaking for everybody in there, we gotta win those games.
"When it comes to crunch time at the end of the year, that's what you're gonna be looking at. Disappointed. Let's just go out there [Wednesday] and move on."
The Cardinals moved to 10.5 games behind the Cubs in the NL Central after Tuesday.
Tuesday's loss also marked the first time all season the Cubs have lost at home on consecutive days, with the caveat being their doubleheader loss to the San Diego Padres on May 11 at Wrigley.
"It's wonderful that people are shocked [we lost two games in a row]," Maddon said. "That's how the season's gonna roll. It's gonna happen again. I have no complaints about the last two nights. Zero."
Maddon insisted back-to-back one-run losses (and the Cubs' 9-11 record in one-run games this season) aren't getting to him.
"Honestly, no," Maddon said. "It played out well. There was nothing that didn't play well. We didn't get a hit when we needed to.
"I have nothing to lament over that game. It was a well-played game. Our guys were ready to play; we played well. They beat us. I go home."
Simple enough, right?