It’s hard to change the mindset with which you watch these games.
As I see the Cubs’ offense collectively stepping outside the contours of what made them successful this year, as I see the defense fail to make an unusual number of plays, and as I see individual pitching performances that I know might not be reflective of the player’s ability given enough innings, I have to keep reminding myself that this is it. There is no opportunity for things to naturally course-correct in a seven-game series. You cannot wait for positive regression tomorrow, because there might not be a tomorrow.
Were last night’s loss – heck, all of these first four games – a random one in July, I could shrug so much of it off as just another game that was not necessarily reflective of the Cubs’ overall ability, and I would tell you that things would get better. But. Well.
So much of that is an indictment of the playoffs as a method for determining “champions,” but it’s not like that’s some secret or new structure. This is what we all signed up for, and were the Cubs up 3-1 in this series against the Indians instead of the other way around, we would be overwhelmed by feelings of joy. This sucks. This is hard. But this is the system that brought the Cubs to the World Series through the NLDS and NLCS.
This Cubs team is probably, over a long enough horizon, better than this Indians team. I don’t think that’s a controversial statement. But what has become clear is that this Cubs team can lose a string of games to this Indians team when the former does not put its best ability on the field for those games, and the latter does. In that sense, there can be no argument that the Indians deserve every bit of their 3-1 series lead.
What happens tonight? You’d sure like to believe the Cubs’ bats can get to Trevor Bauer again, and Jon Lester can do what he’s done so many times before.
If the Cubs can pull out the win, then at least they buy themselves a trip back to Cleveland and a chance to win the World Series. It would certainly be a dramatic finish by a team with a flair for that kind of thing.
I won’t tell you that’s likely, however, because banking on three straight wins against a very good team is not the sort of thing baseball allows you to do. We’ll just have to hope for the Cubs to win tonight, and then go from there.