Cubs live, learn through humbling sweep

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Mets could not have made quicker work of the Cubs, eliminating them in four games in the National League Championship Series.

And they didn’t give the Cubs much of a chance to extend it, hammering home four jarring runs in the first inning against right-hander Jason Hammel on back-to-back two-out homers by Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud.

When Duda doubled in two more runs in the second against left-hander Travis Wood to make it 6-0, it was all over but for the shouting for hundreds of Mets fans who went on and on around the visitors dugout long after the Mets had clinched their first World Series berth since 2000 with an 8-3 Game 4 victory Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs got beat in the first inning of each game, batted an NLCS-low .164 against a dominating young pitching staff and were almost helpless bystanders to one of the greatest postseason performances of all time. Series MVP Daniel Murphy homered in each game to tie the NLCS record, has homered in six straight playoff games going back to the NLDS and he’ll take seven playoff homers, one shy of the major league record, into the World Series.

This series loss was thorough and complete.

“It sucks,’’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s gonna suck for a while.’’

“It’s tough, trust me,’’ rookie Kyle Schwarber said.

“There’s a big pit in my stomach right now saying ‘what if.’ What if we had won four games and we go to the World Series? What if we won the World Series?

“But this is reality. We lost and now we know what it takes to get here. To get one step away from the World Series.’’

Cubs fans dreamed along with him. Everyone knows it’s been since 1945 they were there, and since 1908 that they won one. It’s never easy, even when you’re good.

“This offseason there’s going to be a lot of thinking, a lot of getting into shape and when we are working out, we’ve got to remember this feeling of what it’s like an d how we don’t’ want to have this feeling,’’ Schwarber said.

Rookie Kris Bryant felt little consolation from hitting a two-run homer in the eighth inning. The Cubs were losing 8-1 at the time.

Bryant sat facing his locker for a while and was reluctant to talk but gathered himself to face the media.

“That home run doesn’t mean anything to me,’’ he said.

Exceeding expectations with 97 regular season wins, the Cubs magic ended abruptly, manager Joe Maddon’s attempt to bring some back by inviting a magician for a return visit to the clubhouse before Wednesday’s game notwithstanding. Hey, it was worth a shot.

In the end, Maddon and staff ace Jake Arrieta said, the best team won. So it was time to deal with it.

“There’s nothing to hang your head about,’’ Arrieta said. “Right now it stings a little bit with getting swept in this championship series, but we ran into an extremely hot team that jus outplayed us.’’

Veteran left-hander Jon Lester, he of the World Series pedigree and the veteran brought in to lead a pitching staff, had been in close-but-no-cigar clubhouses before.

“I would hope that everybody in here looks at this as a positive, all the good things that we did this year, all the strides that we made to get to this point,’’ Lester said.

“It’s hard to do this.

“You can fool people during the season to win games. This is where you get exposed and where you figure out how to truly win.

We did it twice, came up a little short here, but it’s only going to make these guys better, make us better.’’

Losing can be beneficial. Even thorough beatdowns like the one taken from the Mets.

“Guys that come into spring training, they know how to win now,’’ Lester said. “Guys will come in now and expect to be in this position. That to me is the greatest positive that we can take from this year.’’

Contributing: Gordon Wittenmyer

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