With a 4-2 loss in New York, the Chicago Cubs are now down 0-1 in the NLCS to the Mets, who will today go with Noah Syndergaard against Jake Arrieta. Hopefully Arrieta is at his best, and the Cubs can scratch out some runs against the flame-throwing youngster. Heading home with the series tied 1-1 was always a perfectly fine outcome for this two-game trip to New York, so things are still theoretically in line for a good start to this series.
That said, and I’ll have some specifics on the game, itself, a little later, but I wanted to speak more generally on the nature of the Cubs losing the game last night. With baseball being metaphorical and literal bouncing ball that it is, fans – even thoughtful ones – can twist themselves in knots trying to memorialize how they’re feeling about a particular loss.
I’m seeing a pretty common refrain out there about the Cubs’ performance in the game, and the implications thereof: the Cubs hit the ball very well all game, and, since it’s just one game, they’ll be fine.
Were we trying to use this game last night to project the Cubs over a full season or to evaluate their talent, I’d totally agree. Offensively, despite scoring just two runs, they looked like a very good team last night. But I already knew they were a very good team. That’s not in question.
The thing is, in the playoffs, you just need wins. The series are so short that true talent level and cosmic-fairness-equilibrium will not have time to balance things out in the end. A loss, then, is a very bad thing, no matter what information you can glean from it.
That doesn’t mean the Cubs played a bad game or that they screwed themselves or that I’m cruelly bitter this morning. And it certainly doesn’t mean the Cubs cannot win this series. It just means the scales are now tipped a bit in favor of the Mets.
In other words, there are no binaries here. Lots of things are true at once: The Cubs played a decent overall game, but didn’t score as many runs as they might have normally with as well as they hit the ball. The Cubs made some mistakes, too. The Cubs probably didn’t pitch as well as you’d like to see. The Cubs lost a game that is really damaging to lose. The Mets are now statistically more likely to win the NLCS than the Cubs. The Cubs still have something like a 40% chance of winning it, though.
I know there’s a lot to process in a single, hugely important baseball game. But we should resist to urge to ditch everything that we’ve learned about baseball – and its peculiar flukiness in a single game – just because we want to feel a certain way about that one game (good or bad).
Admittedly, typing these words is what I needed to process the loss, and I think I’ve got it boiled down: It’s just one game, and the outcome doesn’t always reflect the talent. But it sucks to lose that game.