By Kevin Powell
WRIGLEY FIELD—The loose, fun Cubs clubhouse carried by the energy of the youth turned to frustration and confusion after their Game 4 loss.
“When we’re playing the best it’s when we’re smiling, having fun, goofing around,” third baseman Kris Bryant said after falling behind, 3-1, in the World Series. “Hopefully you’re gonna see more smiles out there (in Game 5).”
There better be more smiles, or the Cubs dream season will come to end Sunday night. The inexperience has clearly been exposed by the Indians pitching staff. According to the MLB Network, the Cubs swung at 13 pitches out of the zone in Game 3 and 10 in Game 4. Cleveland has recognized this, and their starters are throwing more breaking balls than they have all year.
Here’s Cubs manager Joe Maddon on the off-and-on tendencies of his offense: “No, I think a lot of it has to do with youth. That’s what I keep bringing up. I talked about it (Friday). As we continue to move forward together, the one area of club that I anticipates going to get better is offense.”
The Cubs are running out of at-bats to figure things out at the plate. 23-year-old Javy Baez has gone cold, with just two hits this series. And he’s looked over-matched against Cleveland pitchers. Catcher Willson Contreras has just one hit, and struck out three times in Game 4. And where has Kris Bryant’s bat gone? He’s 1-for-14 (.071) this series.
“It’s a little hard to relax in the early part of the game. It’s the World Series,” the 24-year-old Bryant said. “We’re all young. Everybody feels the nerves. But I think as these games go on we’re feeling a little more comfortable with it. And, you know, hopefully we can just continue to do that.”
Since the youth cannot be relied on, the veterans need to step up. And after another lackluster John Lackey performance in Game 4, the Cubs turn to Cy Young Award candidate Jon Lester.
“I mean, to have a guy that’s been-there-done-that kind of a guy, and he’s been very successful, been a World Series champion, he knows what the feeling is like, he knows what it takes,” Maddon said. “So it’s definitely comforting to the rest of the group (in Game 5).”
They need Lester to come through on the biggest stage, or once again, its ‘wait ‘til next year.’
Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720