CHICAGO - Not that you would expect a team in this position to admit to fear or nervousness, but the Cubs took that notion to such an extreme Monday that it was difficult not to believe them.
Start with part-time catcher and full-time voice of experience David Ross, who, when asked about pitching around the Mets' historically hot Daniel Murphy, said, "We're not scared of anybody."
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And also, this: "That is for him to figure out and us to know. We're not a group that's pitched around guys much all year . . . He's obviously feeling sexy right now. We're going to try to change that."StoryRamirez making an impact as Cubs' 'cultural coach'StoryEpstein says blueprint for success has yet to be established
The fact that Ross mixed brash confidence with a dose of humor was right out of manager Joe Maddon's manual, and the players all seem to have bought in.
It helped their mood that after escaping the bitter chill of their weekend in Queens, they arrived at Wrigley Field for a workout Monday to find sunshine and a temperature of 70 degrees.
Chris Coghlan said several players hit the field wearing the same bundled-up look they sported in Queens, only to return to the clubhouse to shed layers. It is expected to be comfortable at game time Tuesday night, too.
"It's the playoffs; there's always going to be some pressure," Game 4 starter Kyle Hendricks said. "But you've got to let the pleasure exceed that. We've heard Joe say it a lot. I'm just going to go out and try to have fun."
Said Coghlan: "Business as usual. Zero anxiety or fear or worry."
When someone pointed out to Coghlan that the Cubs must win four out of five to advance, he said: "Yeah, it's however you word it. I've never worded it four out of five. That makes it worse. I look at it as the first one to four."
Maddon chose to look at it as needing "several one-game winning streaks."
He also fielded several questions about why he blasted the theme song from "Rocky" in the visiting clubhouse at Citi Field after the Game 2 loss Sunday night.
When someone pointed out that Rocky Balboa lost the climactic bout in the original movie, Maddon said: "It was just about the effort. The effort he made, that's all. He came back."
The Cubs cannot afford the kind of moral victory Rocky earned. They do not want to fall behind three games to none and to have to repeat what a certain other perennial non-champion did to a certain other New York team en route to winning it all in 2004.
That will be a tall task given the Mets' apparent edge at starting pitcher, with Jacob deGrom facing Hendricks.
But the Cubs insisted they have been hitting the ball well but in the direction of Mets defenders and need but a few breaks to break through.
"We have no pressure on us," shortstop Javier Baez said. "The team is hitting the ball pretty good; we're just hitting it right to somebody. That's just how baseball is."
Said third baseman Kris Bryant: "I don't think we need to change anything. We've hit a lot of balls hard. Just keeping the same approach."
And, finally, Coghlan again: "I think we've hit balls hard. Grandy [Curtis Granderson] robbed a home run and we've hit some balls on the screws and they've made some good plays."
All of that may well be true. But so is this: Time is running out.