CHICAGO (AP) — The tiebreaking run scored on a wild pitch on a strikeout. The rookie left fielder had an RBI single go off his glove.
So many things went right for the Chicago Cubs during a breakout season. So much has gone wrong for them so far in the NL Championship Series.
Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler homered, but the Cubs managed just five hits in a 5-2 loss to Jacob deGrom and the New York Mets in Game 3 on Tuesday night. The heart of Chicago's lineup — Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro — went 2 for 12, and starter Kyle Hendricks lasted just four innings.
The loss moved the Cubs to the brink of elimination heading into Game 4 on Wednesday night. The 2004 Boston Red Sox are the only team to win a best-of-seven series after dropping the first three games.
"The fact we still have an opportunity to come back and do this, of course you think about those things, you think about the parallels, think about the fact that that happened against a New York team," manager Joe Maddon said. "We think about all that stuff, but it's up to us to go out and play and execute."
Theo Epstein, the president of baseball operations for the Cubs, was the general manager of the Red Sox when they rallied against the Yankees in that ALCS, and then ended a long championship drought with a World Series sweep against St. Louis.
But that was a veteran roster for Boston, and this group of young Cubs seems to have no answers for the pitching-rich Mets.
"What can you do? This is not the spot where we want to be, but we're here and we've got to face it," Schwarber said. "This is just a little taste of adversity so we've got to find a way to climb up and get back to where we want to be."
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy homered for the fifth consecutive postseason game, matching the major league record. DeGrom struck out seven in seven innings while improving to 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his first three playoff starts.
Steven Matz gets the ball for New York in Game 4 with a chance to pitch the Mets to their first World Series since 2000. Jason Hammel goes for the Cubs.
"I think we'll feel better after another win, that's for sure," Mets third baseman David Wright said.
Schwarber connected in the first for his fifth homer of the playoffs, breaking the franchise record for a single postseason. Soler added his third in the fourth, tying it at 2 and energizing a towel-waving crowd of 42,231 for Wrigley Field's first NLCS game in 12 years.
But deGrom, Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia shut down the Cubs from there, and the Mets pushed across three runs against Chicago's bullpen.
Yoenis Cespedes, who had three hits and two RBIs, was on third with two out in the sixth when Michael Conforto struck out on a curveball in the dirt from Trevor Cahill. But the ball got away from catcher Miguel Montero and Cespedes raced home to give New York a 3-2 lead.
"Miggy's able to block that ball a lot, and he was very upset with himself," Maddon said. "It's not an easy play, but it's a play that a catcher can make, and he knows that. So, actually, it played well, we just didn't block the ball."
It was only the second go-ahead strikeout in postseason history, according to STATS. It also happened in the fourth inning of Game 2 of the 2011 AL Division Series when the Texas Rangers scored against the Tampa Bay Rays — Maddon's former club.
"I've been with Miggy for three years. Ninety-nine out of 100 times he makes that block," Cahill said.
New York almost had another run in the sixth, but Wilmer Flores' liner to right got lost in the Ivy on the wall, making it a ground-rule double and sending Conforto back to third even though he would have scored easily on the play. DeGrom then flied out to end the inning.
It was just a temporary glimmer of hope for the Cubs.
Cespedes' single off Schwarber's glove in left drove in Wright for a 4-2 lead in the seventh, and Lucas Duda added a run-scoring grounder.
"I think that we can't solely rely on hitting home runs to score runs," Wright said. "Once you get ahead of a team, I think you have to continue to put your foot on the gas and do those small things, try to steal some bases."
The Cubs had only one baserunner after Soler's homer in the fourth, a one-out double for Dexter Fowler in the eighth. Familia pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save of the postseason.
"You've still got to believe," reliever Justin Grimm said. "Anything can happen at this point. I believe in this team. We've taken four in a row from them before and think we're very capable of doing that again."
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap