McKnight: Cubs need to slug their way back into the series
Down two games to none and returning to Wrigley Field, there are plenty of straws to grasp at before the Cubs face any kind of free fall in the NLCS against the Mets.
First, they head back home. Just by matching the Mets in holding home field advantage, they'd take a one-game lead in the series. It'll be warm at Wrigley, or at least it's supposed to be for Game 3, and that's always good news for offense. The Cubs have already won games -- playoff games -- in which Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel have started. Jacob deGrom very nearly could have lost Game 5 against the Dodgers in the NLDS. The Dodgers put at least two men on base in each of the first three innings and could only muster 2 runs. deGrom wriggled off the hook.
There. Those are the straws.
The sobering fact of this series is that the Cubs have struck out 20 times in two games. Twenty.
It's been pointed out that the Cubs held the lowest batting average in the National League against fastballs over 94 miles per hour. It's been noted that they lead the league in strikeouts; they struck out nearly 200 more times than the second-place Astros. It's been observed that the Mets starters, specifically, are strike throwers. Tough to wear down a guy who's doing nothing but pounding the zone. At some point, Cubs hitters will need to make their swing.
Even after all of that information is gathered, the Cubs still have a fighting chance. It goes without saying that Hendricks and Hammel will have to keep them in each of the next two ballgames. But just in. Close. Striking distance.
Despite a dazzling Game 1 start from Matt Harvey, the Cubs pounded a handful of liners right at Mets defenders. Bad luck aside, that game could have turned completely if Starlin Castro were able to get to third base before Jaiver Baez singled -- instead Castro was at second and got roasted at home by a throw from Yoenis Cespedes.
Although Noah Syndergaard, Thor, struck out nine in 5.2 innings, the Cubs managed to face the Mets' soft underbelly -- Jonathan Niese, Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard -- and failed to do anything in 2.1 innings against them.
Chances were there and they were missed.
Some Cubs were salty after Game 2's loss. Most, however, sang the familiar refrains.
"We're not out of it." "That's baseball." "We believe in the guys in this clubhouse."
Still, few teams without home field have come back from down 0-2 in a seven-game series. Per Elias, a team facing that deficit has won only 10 times in 47 tries.
Joe Maddon had "Gonna Fly Now," the theme from Rocky blaring from his office after the game. The Cubs are now, officially, underdogs from here on out and they'll need their power to slug their way back into the series.
• Connor McKnight can be heard regularly on WGN 720-AM. He hosts a weekly sports show, The Beat, Saturdays from 3-7 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @McKnight_WGN