Rally from down 3-0 vs. NY? Epstein has seen it
Cubs boss hopes team can overcome deficit like his Red Sox did in 2004 ALCS vs. Yankees
CHICAGO -- Well, at least the Cubs put Quintin Berry on their roster.
They're going to need him to morph into Dave Roberts, circa 2004, for them to dig themselves out of this 3-0 hole in the National League Championship Series.
That would be the Theo Epstein daily double. But even if Epstein's Red Sox did escape from that hole against the Yankees 11 years ago, it's got to be hard for the Cubs to see the World Series as anything except a tiny dot slipping beyond the horizon after Tuesday night's 5-2 loss in Game 3.
Then again, how did Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez and the immortal Mark Bellhorn feel back in '04? They couldn't have been too perky, especially not after a 19-8 loss in Game 3.
The Yankees were due to pitch Orlando Hernandez in Game 4, with Mike Mussina waiting behind him for Game 5, if necessary.
Turns out, that game was quite necessary. Ditto Games 6 and 7, and then a trip to the cleaners to get the traveling clothes ready for a trip to St. Louis.
The momentum can swing in a couple of days, and the comeback by the '04 Red Sox to eliminate the Yankees is the perfect example.
"One New York team has blown a 3-0 lead, let's make it the other New York team," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said after the loss. "That's the way we're going to look at it."
Joe Maddon, naturally, wants his players focused only on Game 4 (7:30 p.m. ET airtime, 8 p.m. first pitch, TBS), not the entire landscape.
"Win on Wednesday," Maddon said. "It's just about tomorrow. ... Of course, we have to win four in a row, absolutely, but I want us just to concentrate on tomorrow's game, that's it."
Here's one thing you have to like about the Cubs in this situation. They are run by experienced men who will not fall for the classic panic move, rushing Jon Lester to the mound for Game 4, on short rest, in place of scheduled starter Jason Hammel, who when last seen worked three innings in a Game 4 start against the Cardinals.
Maddon said Lester on three days' rest is not a consideration "because you've got to win four games; it's not just about tomorrow's game."
Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations, isn't a proponent of using starters on short rest in the postseason, either. While Lester and ace Jake Arrieta could start three of the theoretically remaining four games in the best-of-seven series, that would require two starts on short rest by Lester, in Games 4 and 7.
"If it was one and done, you may do something like that," Maddon said. "But it's got to be four and done."
For the Cubs, the immediate challenge is to score enough runs off rookie lefty Steven Matz to at least give them a chance to pull out Game 4, even if that requires a ninth-inning stolen base by Berry. He's on the roster for that exact reason, after all.
Mets manager Terry Collins expects his players to come out Wednesday intent on putting down the hammer, not acting like a team that can afford to lose. David Wright vows he and his teammates won't take anything for granted.
"Because we understand just like we've won the first three games, these guys can win the next three games very easily," Wright said. "This is an excellent team, and you give them room to win a game or streak along a couple good innings, and they're going to get all the confidence in the world and expect to beat us three in a row. So it's as simple as that. You can't look past [Game 4]."
Rizzo won't be the only Chicagoan to bring up the Red Sox's out-of-nowhere sucker punch to the Yankees' superiority complex in 2004. There are any number of parallels between these Cubs and those two teams at that point in time, and the Twitter world was percolating with them after Game 3.
Beyond him twice being handed the keys to major franchises that didn't know how to handle a World Series parade:
• The Cubs, like the '04 Red Sox, won 97-plus games but were a Wild Card team.
• The Cubs have a new manager (Maddon), like the Red Sox (Terry Francona). And you can take that point further to include Epstein making a controversial manager change at the end of both previous seasons.
• The Mets are led by a scaldingly hot hitter (Daniel Murphy) and have a lockdown closer (Jeurys Familia); the Yankees had the same in Hideki Matsui and Mariano Rivera.
• The winner of this series will, most likely, meet the Royals (who are up 3-1 in the American League Championship Series) in the World Series, as the Red Sox had Missouri's other team (Cardinals) waiting on them in 2004.
So there's all that.
But there's also a second helping of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, if Hammel and the patchwork Cubs bullpen can cobble together a victory over Matz on Wednesday night.
Mixing in an unusual amount of offspeed pitches, deGrom escaped a potentially ugly first inning to sail through the seventh, spoiling the party mood of the 42,231 at Wrigley Field on a spectacular October night.
No, really, even though there was some light rain at the end of the game, spectacular doesn't cover it. The game-time temperature was 72 degrees, the bleachers that had been a construction zone when the Mets visited in May were pretty darn awesome and the line at the Hot Doug's stand behind center field was manageable.
This was, for North Siders, as close to baseball heaven as they've been since their hearts were broken in 2003.
While Collins didn't see it that way at the time, it was cool that Wilmer Flores' liner lodged in the lush, surprisingly still green ivy at one point, costing the visitors a run. That was a real Wrigley Field moment.
Now the Cubs need their bats, not their decor, to create some that result in victories, not talking points and consolation prizes. There was nothing in their play in the sloppy Game 3 to suggest that they're a threat to anything except television ratings. Just like the Red Sox in that 19-8 loss 11 years ago.