Cubs on brink of seeing special year end down 3-1 in Series
CHICAGO (AP) There could be a championship celebration at Wrigley Field on Sunday, just not the kind the Chicago Cubs and generations of their long-suffering fans dreamed of seeing.
Tops in the majors with 103 wins, the Cubs simply can't afford to lose another game. Otherwise, a championship drought dating to 1908 will continue.
The Cubs once again got shut down by Corey Kluber on Saturday night and didn't get the dominant start they needed from John Lackey.
Throw in two errors by third baseman Kris Bryant and it added up to a 7-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Game 4 of the World Series.
They trail 3-1, and if they don't get more from their lineup or a big effort by ace Jon Lester on Sunday, it will once again be wait `til next year for the Cubs.
''We got to win tomorrow,'' Anthony Rizzo said. ''That's the bottom line. We've got to do whatever we can to win the ballgame tomorrow and that's it. There's no looking past that.''
Only six teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series, most recently the 1985 Kansas City Royals. The Cubs sure did not envision falling into such a hole. Nor did their fans, who packed Wrigley Field and the neighboring bars.
The surrounding streets were a sea of blue hours before the ballpark opened just as they were prior to Game 3. But the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the Cubs' first trip to the World Series since 1945 has given way to disappointment after two tough losses.
By the time Javier Baez grounded to pitcher Dan Otero to end the game, there was almost an eerie quiet inside Wrigley after the 102-year-old ballpark had been rocking.
''It's just a matter of us gaining offensive confidence,'' said manager Joe Maddon, whose team is hitting .204 in the Series. ''That's what we need right now. More than anything, when you're not hitting like that, the whole vibe's very difficult to push in that real positive direction. So you'll continually try to be positive in the dugout during the course of the game. But, you know, it's difficult. It's difficult especially this time of the year. We just need that offensive epiphany somehow to get us pushing in the right direction.''
The Cubs have not won a World Series game at Wrigley since they beat Detroit in Game 6 in 1945. They lost the next one at home to the Tigers and have been haunted by curses and disappointment in the decades since then.
But for fans who have suffered through it all, this team has provided hope for them like no other. Even if the Cubs don't find a way to dig themselves out of this hole, their lineup is loaded with young sluggers such as Bryant and Rizzo and budding stars like Addison Russell and NLCS co-MVP Javier Baez.
They boast one of the top rotations in baseball, with Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta leading the way.
There is reason to believe that a team that got to the NLCS a year ago and advanced to the World Series this year will be in the title picture for years to come. That's some consolation for their fans even if they want it all now.
Dexter Fowler got the Cubs off to a good start in this game, hitting a leadoff double and scoring in the first against Kluber. He added a solo homer off Andrew Miller in the eighth.
Rizzo and the struggling Jason Heyward had two hits apiece. But a team that finished third in the majors in runs, once again failed to produce.
''As long as there's an out, as long as there's a pitch, we still have a good shot,'' Russell said. ''We've won three games in a row before.''
They at least scored in this game after getting shut out in four of the previous eight. But they didn't do much against Kluber.
The 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner went six innings, allowing one run and five hits pitching on three days' rest. It was about as good as his previous start, when he went six scoreless innings and struck out nine in Game 1.
Lackey simply couldn't match that. The veteran right-hander allowed three runs - two earned - and four hits over five innings.
He gave up a leadoff homer to Carlos Santana in the second, and another run came home in the inning thanks to a pair of throwing errors by Bryant.
''We knew coming into this series, stuff is going to hit the fan,'' Russell said. ''We score a run and they score a run. We have to score back. That's just the name of the game. We didn't do that. Our team is better than just one run, two runs, but the team played their heart out tonight.''