ST. LOUIS – Joe Maddon compared the wild-card rush to winning Game 7 of the World Series to start your playoff run. The Cubs are working backwards then to find the rhythm that made them a 97-win team – and not live or die with the randomness of one game.
The Cubs have another tomorrow after Friday’s 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, a point they made over and over again in the visiting clubhouse. You came to the wrong place if you were looking for any sense of panic.
From the star manager to the battle-tested veterans to all the young players who don’t know any better, the Cubs have more than enough egos and a strong belief they belonged here in Game 1 of the National League division series.
After playing 2,344 regular-season games in a rivalry that stretches all the way back to the year Ellis Island opened, the Cubs and Cardinals finally met in the playoffs, Busch Stadium’s sea of red dotted with blue specks in the sellout crowd.
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“It’s like this all the time here, except there’s white towels waving around,” said Anthony Rizzo, who’s 0-for-7 with three strikeouts in two playoff games. “I really don’t think it’s any louder than it’s been when we were here in September, because that’s the way this place is. They’re always loud.
“It’s just one game. We’ll bounce back tomorrow.”
It was 64 degrees for John Lackey’s first pitch at 5:46 p.m. on a gray evening that looked and felt like October. After jumping Gerrit Cole and knocking out the Pittsburgh Pirates ace after five innings in the wild-card game, the young Cubs couldn’t solve a two-time World Series champion.
“That’s why it’s first one to three,” Schwarber said. “It’s a race, not a sprint. The Pittsburgh game was a sprint. This is a nice little jog. We need to pace ourselves to go out there and win this next game. We can put ourselves in a pretty good situation going back home to our crowd.
“We’re not too worried. We are obviously frustrated that we lost, but it happens.”
Lackey retired the first 10 batters he faced before Schwarber worked a five-pitch walk in the fourth, which got wiped away with an inning-ending double play.
Addison Russell finally notched the first hit off Lackey with a single up the middle to lead off the sixth inning, which ended when Dexter Fowler hit a flyball out to the warning track in right field that landed safely in Randal Grichuk’s glove.
“I’ve hit balls worse than that that have gone out here,” Fowler said. “Things just didn’t go our way.”
The Cubs got creative with Schwarber bunting to beat the shift to lead off the seventh inning, but Kris Bryant struck out and Rizzo hit into another double play, what can be an all-or-nothing team putting up zeroes.
The Cubs led the majors with 1,518 strikeouts – or 126 more than the next team – and featured three rookies within the first seven spots on Friday’s lineup card. The Cubs can write off those swing-and-miss issues as a way to see more pitches and generate extra power.
But the Cardinals certainly benefited from the return of Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina and the Cubs clearly had issues with home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.
“I’ll leave that up to you guys (in the media) to debate the strike zone,” said Chris Coghlan, who struck out looking twice and can be so demonstrative at home plate. “I’m just going to get in trouble if I say anything.”
The Cubs didn’t sound like a team in trouble, trying to quickly bury this loss and not worry about the possibility of leaving St. Louis in an 0-2 hole and being one game away from elimination.
“Tip your hat to John Lackey,” Rizzo said. “There was no hard contact off him. He was living on the corners and he didn’t put much over the plate. So there’s not much we can do right there.
“Win tomorrow. Come take care of business tomorrow, put the pressure on them to come to Wrigley.”