Defying odds all year, Cubs not about to quit now
Epstein, who saw his '04 Red Sox surmount an 0-3 deficit, points to Chicago's ability to get hot at right time
CHICAGO -- If the Cubs need inspiration to rally from a three-games-to-none deficit in the National League Championship Series against the Mets, they can look to Theo Epstein, who knows it can be done.
In 2004, when Epstein was the Red Sox general manager, his team trailed the Yankees by that margin in the American League Championship Series. Boston was outscored, 32-16, in the first three games, yet won Game 4 in 12 innings and ended up winning the series, then sweeping St. Louis in the World Series.
"It's been done before, and we can do it," said Epstein, now president of baseball operations for the Cubs -- who dropped Game 3, 5-2, on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. "Nine different times this year we've won four or more games in a row. We'll just do it a 10th time, one at a time."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon has emphasized one-game winning streaks all season. Wednesday's Game 4 (airing on TBS at 7:30 p.m. ET, with game time set for 8) is no exception.
"Show up and win a ballgame tomorrow," Epstein said. "If we show up and win tomorrow, we're dangerous. Trust me. It's been done before, rumor has it. We can do it. We've had nine winning streaks of four or more games this year, so we get hot, we get really hot, we can do it. We just have to show up and win tomorrow."
After Game 3, Maddon said he would approach Wednesday's Game 4 as he has every other Wednesday game. His message is: Win.
Since Spring Training, Maddon has preached that he wants the same effort on March 21 in a Cactus League game as the players would give July 21 or Oct. 21.
"It's just about tomorrow," Maddon said. "We just can't -- 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."
There will be no pregame pep talk. Maddon doesn't believe in team meetings. He holds three over the course of a season: one prior to the start of spring drills, another at the All-Star break, and one more before the postseason begins.
"From my perspective, it's business as usual tomorrow," Maddon said. "Come out, get ready to play, and just take it from there."
The Mets' young pitching has quieted the Cubs' young hitters, but New York also has been aggressive on the basepaths and taken advantage of every opening possible. The Mets scored the tiebreaking run Tuesday on a wild pitch, for example.
"Things bounce your way when you play good, and we've definitely gotten outplayed these first three games," Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. "That doesn't mean we can't outplay them the next four."
The Cubs did sweep the Mets in seven games during the regular season. They did beat the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game. They did topple the powerful Cardinals in the NL Division Series. They've overcome the odds before. And they know about the Red Sox's history.
"Keep battling," rookie Kyle Schwarber said of the Cubs' mantra now. "We're going to keep battling until the end. It's happened before, so it can -- we're really looking forward to getting back out to the ballpark [Wednesday]. ... It's a little frustrating, but we need to move past it and keep going. It's been done before, and this team has done some special things throughout this whole season. We don't count ourselves out by any means."
Epstein said nothing has surprised him about the NLCS so far.
"We just haven't played our best baseball, and they've pitched really well, lot of good command of their secondary stuff," he said of the Mets' young pitchers. "But we show up tomorrow and get a lead -- we haven't led, we haven't had a leadoff hit. That's not going to last."
All the Cubs need to do is remember the '04 Red Sox.
"There's confidence in this clubhouse in everybody," Chicago's Anthony Rizzo said. "We just gotta keep playing baseball. One New York team has blown a 3-0 lead, let's make it the other New York team. That's the way we're going to look at it. That's the only thing we can do is be optimistic, and come out and play baseball."