Kris Bryant admits Cubs are ‘tired.’ Sadly, the whole world can tell
Rarely is the glass half-full with Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Two-thirds full? Sure. Three-fourths? Even better. Overflowing? What the heck, let’s party. It’s hard to see emptiness when everything’s-gonna-be-all-right is staring back at you.
But everything isn’t going to be all right. Not this time. The Cubs are on the verge of being swept in the National League Championship Series for the second time in three years. It has been done before, but — let’s be real here — there’ll be no coming back from down 3-0.
Before a hideous 6-1 defeat in Game 3, Maddon painted some feel-good pictures with the Cubs back at Wrigley Field and fighting for their playoff lives against the Dodgers. The Cubs hadn’t been hitting — at all — but how quickly that could change. At least, that was the essential concept.
“My perspective or perception is that we need to hit a couple balls hard in a row, successful hits, and then move on from there and see what happens,” he said.
Successful hits? Are there any other kind?
Maddon even went the extra mile to put a smiley face on Kris Bryant’s skeletal postseason batting average by making a big deal out of a fly ball in Game 2 that came up short.
“He thought he got that,” Maddon said. “I thought he got it, too, and it just [didn’t] carry out. There’s an example — that ball goes over the wall, and it could change his whole outlook. It’s a confidence issue. A hitting-the-ball-hard-on-a-consistent-basis issue.”
This is 2017 in the home-run-drunk major leagues: A fly ball that doesn’t carry over the fence is a you-didn’t-really-hit-it issue.
Early in Game 3, with the wind gusting out at Wrigley Field, it felt like the sort of night that could bust any player — or even an entire team — out of a slump. But one thing Bryant said after Game 2 kept creeping back to me, another “issue” that seems even more dangerous to the Cubs’ repeat hopes.
It’s a tiredness issue.
The Cubs got an early solo blast from Kyle Schwarber, but then their bats went back into lockdown. It’s almost like this team is out of gas, wheezing to the finish line, already half in bed and going to sleep.
You know — tired.
“I wouldn’t say emotionally or mentally,” Bryant said, “but I think physically, yeah. Obviously, some guys are tired. It has been a really long year. We’ve had some long days and stuff like that.
“But you only notice that before and after the game. During the game, there’s so much adrenaline and cheering that you don’t really notice it. But then you sit down after the game, and you’re like: ‘I feel pretty tired and beat.’ And then you’ve got to get ready to do it all over again the next day.”
Well, not for long. Wednesday’s Game 4 might be it. A return to Los Angeles would take back-to-back Cubs victories, and is anybody betting on that now?
It’s understandable if Bryant or any other Cubs regular who has gone deep in the postseason three years in a row is struggling a bit to light that daily fire. Is it really only a physical tiredness? I have my doubts about that. Where the body goes, the mind tends to follow.
“I’m 28 years old. I could run laps around this place right now,” Anthony Rizzo said. “Got a great job for a living, to play baseball. So to sit here and say anyone’s drained, I’ve got to disagree with that.”
Yet the Cubs’ mind games, so to speak, in this series have been ridiculous. Where must the heads be of a team that commits nine errors and allows a parade of runs in three games? When did these pitchers — 23 walks! — become so afraid to throw strikes?
Squeeze a fly ball, Ian Happ. Don’t let a pitched ball miss your glove by half a foot and turn your upper arm into ground beef, Willson Contreras. A bases-loaded walk of the pitcher, Carl Edwards Jr.? Really?
A tired team? It seems so, physically and otherwise. That’s not glass-half-empty. It’s just reality.
Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.