Ninety-seven victories in the regular season did not alter anything in the Cubs' routine, so a loss or two in the postseason will not change the team, either.
The Cubs have thrived on the relaxed approach of manager Joe Maddon, who has brought focus and belief to their clubhouse -- and a cheetah, sloth, armadillo and flamingo to batting practice.
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The question is, though, now what? The Cubs gave the Mets what figured to be their best shot, starting Jake Arrieta, the most dominant pitcher in baseball in the second half of the season, and that didn't work at all. He allowed three runs before recording his first out. "And that was really it," Arrieta said.
So how do the Cubs handle being down two games to none without their ace in the hole? The answer from Maddon was that they will keep thinking the way they have all year. They'll try to be as loose as they were the day last month when he summoned exotic zoo animals in one of what the manager calls "sojourns from the normal."
"We're all about one-game winning streaks, very seriously. I really preach daily the one-day-at-a-time approach," Maddon said after his team's 4-1 loss Sunday night at Citi Field. "I know it's Psychobabble 101, but it actually works. So all I'm concerned about is the next game."
Logic says he should be very concerned, what with Mets ace Jacob deGrom going against Kyle Hendricks, a solid pitcher but not an Arrieta type. "DeGrom's very good, but we're very good also at the plate,'' Maddon said. "We have a lot of confidence in our players and our hitters."
None of the Cubs' hitters is a match for Daniel Murphy, whose two-run home run put the Mets ahead 3-0 in the bottom of the first. Arrieta said it was a curveball that was not all that bad a pitch. But his fastball wasn't as fast as usual and his overall game was not as sharp. And the result is a huge test for Maddon's laid-back philosophy.
"I definitely wasn't what I would have liked,'' Arrieta said after being outpitched by Noah Syndergaard. "You run into a guy like [Murphy] who's swinging the bat really well, hit a pitch off the plate that was not a bad pitch. But in the postseason, sometimes those things happen, even during the regular season. He stepped up in a big moment for his team and put them on the board with a two-run homer and Noah was able to give up only one."
Still, the Cubs under Maddon have been defined by a lack of panic. The manager set the tone in spring training when he said he appreciates all the angst in Chicago and talk of a curse on a team that hasn't won a World Series since 1908 but then added, "I just don't vibrate at that frequency."
He believes that playing major-league baseball is difficult and that players need an environment conducive to succeeding. Thus, he hired a magician to perform during a regular-season trip to Citi Field.
The Cubs will need to produce some magic of their own to get back in this series.
"They are good, we know that," Maddon said of the Mets. "We're also very good. We just have to string together some more at-bats. You've just got to turn the page, move it along."