Cubs offense stuck in neutral, season ends with loss to Marlins
For the Cubs, this was a familiar ending. A sputtering offense stalled out completely when it mattered most.
They wasted a strong performance by starting pitcher Yu Darvish and lost to Miami 2-0 on Friday at Wrigley Field, dropping the wild-card series 2-0.
Going back to 2017, and including the NL Central playoff against Milwaukee, this was the fifth straight postseason game where the Cubs scored 1 or 0 runs -- all at Wrigley.
The Cubs finished with 5 hits, two each by Jason Heyward and Ian Happ, while the Marlins came through with a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning for the second straight game.
So even though the script was similar, third baseman Kris Bryant talked about how strange it felt, finishing this shortened season with no fans in the stadium.
"There wasn't much talking (after the game)," Bryant said. "It just feels different from every other year where we get eliminated. I don't know why. I don't have the answers for that. It's just a weird feeling. That's all I can really describe it as. We battled, the Marlins were just better than us. It stinks, but here we are."
The Cubs seemed more prepared than most teams for the shortened season, getting off to a 13-3 start. They won the NL Central, but there was never much reason to feel confident the Cubs could score enough runs to glide through October.
"The feeling of losing, it just stinks," Anthony Rizzo said. "We make this sacrifice. We're fully committed to winning and going deep in the playoffs, all of the above. But when you come up short-handed, it's a bad feeling. You've got guys in this clubhouse you'll never be teammates with again."
There were varying theories on why Bryant, Rizzo, Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber never got rolling at the plate this year. All four had the lowest offensive production of their careers.
"It was a weird year, but if you give those guys 82 more games, it's going to be a whole different story," catcher Willson Contreras said. "We probably tried to do way too much for 60 games, it got into everybody in this group."
Baez was frustrated by the lack of energy inside the stadium and new rules that prevented players from studying video of their at bats during games.
"I feel like I was back in rookie league trying to figure out who I was," Baez said. "It was just so different and so confusing this year. I don't know what to think about. I'm going to work this offseason to get better and we'll see how next year goes."
Darvish was on cruise control well into the seventh inning, but with two outs and two strikes, Garrett Cooper belted a high fly ball to left field that the wind couldn't keep out of the seats. The Marlins quickly added a second run.
"I'm very sad right now because my focus today was to have (Jon) Lester to pitch one more start at Wrigley (in Game 3)," Darvish said. "That was my goal today and I couldn't make that happen and I'm disappointed."
The Cubs should have been ahead at that point in the game. In the fourth inning, Marlins starter Sixto Sanchez walked Contreras and Schwarber to start the inning. With one out, Jason Heyward lined a broken-bat single to right field, but Contreras was thrown out at the plate by Joyce.
Sanchez worked out of trouble again in the fifth as the Cubs loaded the bases with two outs on a pair of singles and a hit batsman. But Schwarber popped to left to end the inning.
"It's just heartbreaking thinking we were going to win today and not coming through," Rizzo said. "The end of the year is never easy."