Summer reruns are the worst, especially when they weren’t really watchable the first time around.
The Cubs proved to be lousy programmers, inadvertently scheduling a repeat of last year’s playoff flop to kick off the holiday celebration.
Once again the Cubs went down in four to the Mets, only this time the season didn’t end. But that omnipotent feeling you had only a few weeks ago?
When the Cubs last left Citi Field in October, they were down 2-0 in the National League Championship Series, prompting manager Joe Maddon to crank up the theme song from “Rocky” in his small office. Unlike the wacky theme trips, that ploy didn’t work, and the Mets wound up with a four-game sweep.
With an improved team, Cubs fans had grown accustomed to the idea of payback, especially facing a Daniel Murphy-free lineup, two starting pitchers who had a bone chip in their elbow and a manager who freely admitted before the opener his team didn’t need any more depression.
But it turned out to be more piling on by the Mets than payback by the Cubs, with a 14-3 thrashing in Sunday’s final episode.
This was the kind of flashback no one warned you about in high school and probably should’ve come with a warning label: This is your brain on Cubs.
For one remarkably ugly four-day stretch, all your worst nightmares were revisited.
Starters getting knocked around, one by one. Hitters repeatedly failing in the clutch, veterans and rookies alike. A plate umpire making a series of uneducated guesses as to what constitutes a ball and a strike, prompting Maddon to dub it an “amorphic” strike zone.
If that wasn’t enough, there was James Loney, the guy who ruined your 2008 while with the Dodgers.
The Cubs hit .234 with 14 walks and 44 strikeouts, going 2-for-28 with runners in scoring position. Jason Hammel, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester threw successive clunkers, and for comic relief, catcher Miguel Montero was brought in to pitch in the series finale, which didn’t come close to last week’s ending of “Game of Thrones.”
The uber-consistent Lester finally broke bad Sunday, serving up three home runs to the first eight batters and making a second-inning exit, trailing 8-1 with one out. Every time that giant apple popped up in center field after a Mets home run, you no doubt found yourself rooting for the worm.
Lester allowed seven runs on eight hits and a walk to the 10 batters he faced in the second, turning it into the shortest outing of his career. When Maddon mercifully gave him the hook, Lester received a mock standing ovation from Mets fans.
Mocking Mets fans … it doesn’t get much more annoying, as co-owner Todd Ricketts warned everyone at the Cubs Convention.
Even before the Mets knocked out 22 hits Sunday and Noah Syndergaard shut down the offense, Maddon agreed the series was a carbon copy of the NLCS. Some different characters, some different scenarios, but virtually the same results.
“And that’s the thing we’ve got to get better at, just moving the baseball when we need to,” he said. “I guess we’re like 0-for-whatever with runners in scoring position. That speaks loudly because we had chances in two of the three games to actually win them late. Just an inability to move it.”
The offensive woes won’t last. The Reds are in town for the next three days, and the Cubs have scored 87 runs in 10 games off their young pitching staff.
Still, the battle of Queens was another reminder the Cubs lineup can get shut down, particularly by strong right-handed pitching.
They’re 33-22 against right-handed starters, but right-handers Adam Wainwright,Michael Wacha, Bud Norris, Max Scherzer, Jose Fernandez, Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon and Syndergaard have beaten the Cubs the last few weeks.
In the course of a 162-game season, stuff like this happens. Maddon called for a flushing in Flushing, saying it would be easy to get over the sweep.
The Cubs got off to such a dominant start that a four-game drubbing by the Mets could turn out to be a mere blip in the long run. After all, the Mets went 0-7 against the Cubs in the regular season last year, and it didn’t matter come October.
But in case you DVR’d the series and planned to binge-watch it later, now would be a good time to press delete.