NEW YORK — The Cubs have built nearly half of successful season on a remarkable run at home.
But if they’re going to build anything close to a championship club, it will have to be built on the road — a reality that smacked them in the face again Monday when a guy who gets knocked out in the fifth inning on average shut them out on one hit in six innings for a 5-2 Mets victory at Citi Field.
David Peterson, who didn’t get out of the fourth inning in a loss to the Cubs in April and didn’t get out of the third in either of his two June starts until Monday, gave up on only an Eric Sogard single in the third to beat the Cubs in a battle first-place teams.
“This is another growing moment,” manager David Ross said before Monday’s opener of a four-game series. “As we work through 2021, [these are] the growing moments of playing on the road.
“You can’t get caught up in the crowd,” he said. “I know they’re not at full capacity, but this could one of the loudest [road crowds so far]. I was just thinking the other day that 2015 was probably one of the louder games ever played in here, in the postseason. It was freezing cold and loud. this fan base can really bring it.”
Monday night the 16,383 on hand couldn't provide that level of stadium-rocking noise, but there was enough activity and energy for a few security actions in the stands.
Cubs starter Jake Arrieta — the Cy Young winner during that 2015 season who finally looked mortal in that National League Championship Series — matched Peterson zero for zero until a three-run fourth and a two-out solo homer by Dom Smith in the fifth.
“I didn’t do a good job of limiting damage with two outs,” said Arrieta, who is 2-5 with a 7.20 ERA in his last eight starts after going 3-2 with a 2.57 ERA in his first five.
But Arrieta did not stand out as much as a lineup that couldn’t touch a left-hander who looked more like a candidate to be sent to the minors than to earn a victory before Monday.
“I think that’s just another growth moment to continue to push us, that we grow from, to handle adversity when it comes up,” Ross said of approaching what amounted to the latest litmus test of a month full of them for the Cubs.
He was talking about dealing with hostile crowds and heated moments on the road — where the Cubs dropped to 14-18 this season.
“All those things continue to help you grow throughout a season so you’re ready for the postseason,” he said. “If you can survive those moments, right? That’s how you get to the postseason and have success.”
The Cubs still have a substantial part left of a core that knows a lot about what it takes to win in October.
But for this club this year, Ross’ growth moments aren’t about to get much easier.
David Peterson? Wait till they get a load of Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman the final two nights of this series — two All-Stars they missed in April when they swept Peterson and the Mets in a three-game series at Wrigley.
“Obviously, Jacob deGrom’s one of the best in the game. That’s a nice test for us,” Ross said. “We just faced another really good one in San Diego in Yu Darvish, who’s really good. And Marcus Stroman is obviously having a great season.
“I think we’re tested nightly. You can’t ever let your guard down. You have to bring it every single night.”
The Cubs kept their share of first place when the Brewers lost to the Mets. And they’re still 27-13 since a rough April. That even includes an 11-10 mark on the road in that span.
And if the road looks more daunting in the next few days in New York, the long run has a chance to get better if only because a half-dozen key players sidelined by injuries might start to filter back onto the roster in the coming days and weeks — including shortstop Javy Báez (thumb) as soon as Tuesday, young starter Adbert Alzolay (blister) perhaps over the weekend against the Marlins and dynamic second baseman Nico Hoerner (hamstring) not too far behind that.
“We’ve done a nice job of winning ballgames with a lot of guys on the injured list,” Ross said. “We are not at full strength for sure.”