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Joe Maddon can feel Cubs' season slipping away

Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs looks on

Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs looks on prior to game three of the 2015 MLB National League Championship Series against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on Oct. 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Getty Images / Jonathan Daniel

CHICAGO - Joe Maddon sat down in the interview room in the lower reaches of Wrigley Field on Tuesday night, ready to answer unanswerable questions after the Cubs' 5-2 loss to the Mets left them down three games to none in the NLCS.

But first, the losing manager was distracted by disturbing images to his right, where someone had forgotten to turn off a TV showing highlights -- or lowlights, in his case -- of the top of the sixth, one of the Cubsiest innings imaginable.

The only Chicago-based baseball entity that emerged with its dignity fully intact was Wrigley Field itself, whose famed ivy swallowed up a ball, limiting the Mets to a ground-rule double by Wilmer Flores. That saved a run for the Cubs.

But the rest of it was a mess, and so was the seventh, come to think of it.

It all was a bit of a blur, including but not limited to allowing Yoenis Cespedes to steal third base, then score on a wild pitch, the same pitch on which Trevor Cahill happened to strike out Michael Conforto. Oops.

Then Jorge Soler dove for what should have been a single by Flores, but he turned it into a double by reaching for the ball when he was nowhere near it. Still, the Mets scored only one run in that inning to take a 3-2 lead, thanks to Flores' ivy shot.

They scored two in the seventh, an inning in which Kyle Schwarber allowed a hard line drive by Cespedes to bounce off the bottom of his glove.

There's more, but really, did it matter given the Mets' strong pitching performance du jour, with Jacob deGrom going seven innings, allowing four hits and striking out seven while walking one?

That, more than his own team's misplays, is what Maddon focused on as he analyzed the wreckage.

"The Mets have just pitched exceptionally well, and you've got to give them credit," he said.

Maddon said he had no message to the team afterward. Instead he held out hope that Game 4 starter Jason Hammel and his bullpen friends can make it 3-1 Wednesday night.

If that happens, Maddon noted, the rotation will turn back to Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta and then, well, who knows?

Do the Cubs take any solace from the fact that the only previous time a major-league team overcame a 3-0 deficit, it was a team that plays in a very old stadium, had a front office led by Theo Epstein and was facing a New York team?

"One New York team has blown a 3-0 lead," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "Let's make it the other New York team."

Said Madden: "We can think about the parallels [to the Red Sox and Yankees in 2004]. We can think about the fact it happened to another New York team. But it's up to us to go out there and execute."

As Maddon made his remarks, off in the distance exuberant Mets fans could be heard chanting, "Let's go, Mets! Let's go, Mets!"

It was the sound of another Cubs season circling down the drain.


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