CHICAGO – One young Cubs pitcher sat in the interview room and calmly answered questions about his postseason performance.
Another young Cubs pitcher stood at his locker and calmly answered questions about his postseason performance.
One was reliving a satisfying victory, the other a heartbreaking home run.
There was little difference in their demeanors.
Kyle Hendricks was the winner in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals.
Carl Edwards Jr. blew a save by giving up a booming home run to Bryce Harper in Game 2. That tied the score, and a few minutes later, Mike Montgomery gave up a three-run shot to Ryan Zimmerman to put the Nationals ahead for good.
The Cubs are in their third straight postseason, and during each one, they’ve fielded a large number of young players.
The one common trait these young players share – whether drafted or signed by the Cubs or acquired from other organizations – is an unflappable nature.
They don’t seem to get rattled when things go poorly or get overly amped when victory is secured.
“Certainly, we look for guys who can handle adversity,” team president Theo Epstein said. “That’s a big part of that, the scouting process, because baseball is a game of failure, inherent in it. But there’s no substitute for experience. You look at ’15, we had some great moments – the wild-card game, the division series – but the championship series [a sweep at the hands of the Mets] was a humbling experience. We learned some of the adjustments you have to make against dominant postseason pitching in order to wait them out and then survive.”
For contrast, Epstein cited Game 1 of this year’s NLDS, when his team was being stymied by Stephen Strasburg before capitalizing on an error and winning the game.
“If those five innings had taken place in ’15 or in, say, Game 1 of the ’16 division series, the [narrative] would have been different. It would have been, ‘Oh, here we go again, can’t hit good pitching, need more contact. Instead, our guys were buoyed up by Kyle [Hendricks] matching him goose egg for goose egg and knew that Strasburg would have to get us out 27 times. It isn’t easy to do. They waited for the slightest opening and took advantage of it.”