ST. LOUIS -- There is a gap between the Cubs and Cardinals, but manager Joe Maddon doesn't think it's that wide and it's definitely not insurmountable.
"I'm not discouraged by this series," Maddon said after the Cardinals won, 5-1, on Thursday to take three of the four games at Busch Stadium. "It's a long season, folks. We played really well for four games here.
"I like what I'm seeing out of our guys a lot, not a little bit," he said. "The pitching will come together. The young hitters will start figuring this stuff out. I could not be happier with the group."
Three of the Cubs' four starters couldn't finish the sixth inning, including Jake Arrieta on Thursday, and the bullpen was tested. Chicago had a lead in every game except Thursday, and relinquished a 5-0 first inning lead Monday in the series opener.
What's the difference between the two teams?
"The gap is repetition or reps, experience," Maddon said. "I'm very satisfied with the athletic ability. I'm very satisfied that we compete very well. They out-compete us, in a sense, experience-wise and that's it. We will make that up."
Catcher Miguel Montero said he doesn't see any gap between the two teams.
"They're a good enough team to capitalize on the little mistakes we made," Montero said. "They manufacture runs some way or another. That's why they keep coming back and they keep grinding it out. We have a lot of respect for the Cardinals. They play the game the right way. We have to come back stronger next time."
"It's their first year and obviously, they want to prove they're good," Montero said. "Sometimes they try a little too hard. When they settle in and feel more comfortable and they know they belong to the big leagues, I think they'll be better players overall. We all know they're good -- just go out and have fun."
Maddon said Tuesday was a good mark as to how his young team is doing.
"When we passed Cinco de Mayo, I was pretty happy," Maddon said. "That's not because I was drinking, either, I was pretty happy. It had nothing to do with Coronas with lime."
How happy? Maddon was playing polka music in his office after Thursday's game. Next stop, Milwaukee.