What a difference a night makes.
Game 4 on Saturday was the second World Series game played at Wrigley Field in 71 years, and the mood of the crowd — if one can gauge such a thing from wandering the sidewalks around the old park, talking with fans, gazing at horses and looking for that black cat I so often see near the alley on Clifton — was, let’s say, 90 degrees different from Game 3 on Friday.
Eager, yes. But now worry had seeped in.
A fervid ‘‘They’ve gotta win tonight!’’ had replaced a happy ‘‘This is so cool, isn’t it?’’
Everybody in and around Wrigley knew the Cubs needed to win Game 4 so as to not go down 3-1 to the Indians, a near-death-like condition.
Actor and lifetime Cubs fan Vince Vaughn spoke for many.
‘‘This has got to be a win, right?’’ he asked.
Actually, it wasn’t a question; it was a plea echoed everywhere Cubdom reigns.
If only the request had gotten through to Cubs starter John Lackey.
For instance, if you’re going to walk the eighth batter in the order to get to Indians ace Corey Kluber, as Lackey did in the second inning, don’t give up a scratch single that leads to a run to a fellow who barely has held a bat in his hands this season.
Just minutes before the first pitch, actor and Cubs nut Jeff Garlin had taken the microphone and, veins bulging, bellowed: ‘‘Tonight, it’s all noise!’’
Oh, the crowd loved it. But if crowd exuberance and desire could drive player success, the Cubs would have won 20-0 on Friday. They would have prevailed Saturday, too. But want-to is not will-do. The stadium got quiet many times in the Indians’ 7-2 victory.
Kluber was pitching on three days of rest after holding the Cubs scoreless for six innings in Game 1 on Tuesday. It’s likely that Lackey was pitching the way he is going to. He’s 38, you know. He’s no longer the rookie who won Game 7 of the Series for the Angels in 2002.
What if the Cubs had gone with left-hander Jon Lester on three days of rest, just like Kluber? Aw, why speculate? The Cubs have scored a combined two runs in their three losses in the Series, so what difference does pitching even make?
Before Game 3 on Friday, Cubs president Theo Epstein had been in high spirits, just like the fans.
‘‘This whole thing puts everybody in the greatest mood ever,’’ he said. ‘‘Just a wonderful thing. You’ve got families connecting with one another, generations. Such a wonderful thing on so many levels.’’
Then he admitted, ‘‘Yeah, we’ve gotta win now.’’
Winning out, which the Cubs now must do to be champs, isn’t impossible. But it’s right in the neighborhood.
‘‘I think if you’re down 3-1 and you’re going in there saying you have to do this, you have to do that to stay alive, I think you’ve already kind of been beaten, you know?’’ said Lester, who will start Game 5 on Sunday.
He’s probably right. Though what the Cubs need to do to play better is anybody’s guess. More timeliness, scrappiness and cleverness are some random suggestions. The Cubs sure don’t look like the best, most talented team in baseball right now. This is a funk they might get out of sometime, but in the next three games?
Maybe it was a premonition when Lackey took the mound to the Garth Brooks drinkers’ anthem ‘‘Friends in Low Places.’’
The chorus boomed through the park as he warmed up:
I’ve got friends in low places
Where the whiskey drowns
And the beer chases my blues away
And I’ll be OK.
Bottoms up, boys!
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