NEW YORK – The “Rocky” theme song could be heard all the way on the other side of Citi Field’s visiting clubhouse, probably blasting out of the manager’s office, not far from where backup catcher David Ross would hold court with a group of reporters.
If the Cubs are going to turn this National League Championship Series into a classic underdog/comeback story, they will have to start hitting bombs again and get great pitching from the trouble spots in their rotation.
But if you were looking for someone to punch a wall or flip over a garbage can, you came to the wrong place. Players lounged around watching the New England Patriots finish off the Indianapolis Colts on “Sunday Night Football.” Anthony Rizzo stood in front of his locker after a 4-1 loss to the New York Mets and shrugged his shoulders.
“What else can we do?” Rizzo said. “It’s not like we’re dogging it or anything. We’re giving it our all.”
Smothered by young guns Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard and lights-out closer Jeurys Familia, the Cubs are down 0-2 in this best-of-seven matchup between power pitchers and power hitters.
So far, the Cubs have gone 10-for-63 (.159) with 20 strikeouts and only three extra-base hits, scoring three runs through 18 innings and losing even with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta on the mound.
“It’s just baseball,” said Kyle Schwarber, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts the night after homering off Harvey. “That’s how it goes. Those guys were on. You tip your cap. You move on.”
As the face-of-the-franchise first baseman, Rizzo sets the tone inside the clubhouse while celebrity manager Joe Maddon shapes the public message while meeting with the media before and after every game.
“Listen, it’s never going to be easy this time of the year,” Maddon said. “They are good. We know that. We’re also very good. We just have to string together some more at-bats. The home run is a big part of our offense. They kind of negated that a bit here. But you’ve just got to turn the page. Move it along.
“We’re all about one-game winning streaks, very seriously. I really preach daily the one-day-at-a-time approach. I know it’s Psycho Babble 101. But it actually works, so all I’m concerned about is the next game.”
As much as these Cubs love hitting at Wrigley Field and feeding off the energy from the home crowd, the matchups don’t look any better, even if it’s about 15 degrees warmer on the North Side.
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Kyle Hendricks will start Game 3 on Tuesday opposite Jacob deGrom, last season’s Rookie of the Year who already beat Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, eliminating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the divisional round.
The Cubs haven’t officially announced their Game 4 starter — which says something — but Maddon had been leaning toward Jason Hammel and/or possibly making Wednesday a bullpen night.
“We’ve had success throughout this whole year because we stayed ourselves,” Schwarber said. “We stayed the course. Why go away from what we’ve been doing just because we lost two games?
“They still got to win two more. Why not keep (doing) what we’ve been doing the (whole) time, have the same approach and just keep battling?”
Citi Field’s sound system played the “Game of Thrones” theme song while Syndergaard warmed up, and the 6-foot-6 rookie with long blond hair and a “Thor” nickname limited the Cubs to one run and three hits across 5.2 innings.
After seeing Harvey on Saturday night, catcher Miguel Montero had joked about the next opponent: “Syndergaard? I know he’s a soft-throwing right-hander, right? He only throws 99 (mph).
“They’re young, but they got a lot of talent.”
Now here comes deGrom, a big-game pitcher who still shouldn’t intimidate this group. The Cubs got into the playoffs as the second wild-card team, but those 97 wins showed they wouldn’t be a fluke team or an easy out.
“There is a long way to go,” Rizzo said. “Our ultimate goal is to win eight more games. Theirs is to win six more games. You can’t let two games beat us up, especially with the way we’re capable of playing.”