CHICAGO -- When Kris Bryant came to bat in the eighth with a runner at first in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, the Cubs trailed by seven runs to the Mets. And Bryant launched a 3-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers at Wrigley Field for his second postseason home run.
"It felt good but it kind of felt like my most irrelevant home run of my life," the Cubs rookie said after an 8-3 loss that ended their season. "I went up there thinking, 'What if I hit a home run here?' We're down seven runs. It's hard to get excited. I think the fans did a great job helping us there."
The Cubs fans at Wrigley were pumped, but their energy and Bryant's homer weren't nearly enough. The Mets completed a sweep of the NLCS and now head to the World Series. The Cubs were cleaning out their lockers Wednesday night while the Mets players were dousing each other with champagne.
But there was no sadness in the Cubs clubhouse, other than players and coaches saying goodbye.
"Obviously, we didn't end up like we wanted to; obviously, we wanted to win a World Series, but at the end of the day, we fought, we played well and a lot of people grew," Chicago's Dexter Fowler said. "We grew as a team. ... Nobody thought we'd get this far, so it's awesome."
"You can't be too upset about the situation because of where we came as a team," Jake Arrieta said. "I'm not big on outside expectations, but we accomplished a lot as a team. Ninety-seven games in a really competitive division with experienced teams -- we played well from start to finish and got better as our young players got acclimated to this level and consistently had success.
"It stings right now to get swept, but to be one of four standing at the end of the year and still playing meaningful games in the middle of October is pretty special. We have to be happy with that and use it as motivation moving forward and understand the things we did well and try to get better at that and come back stronger for next year."
Manager Joe Maddon has encouraged celebrating wins and learning from losses, and although Wednesday's loss will sting, the Cubs players were ready to move on. They did go onto the field after the game to tip their caps and salute the fans still at Wrigley for the final out.
"The thing I love about Joe is we sit here, we talk about [the game], we analyze it, we go out, thank the fans, and come back in and play music," Jon Lester said. "That doesn't take anything away from how we feel about this and the hurt and the disappointment. It makes it easier to think about the next one. Joe's done a great job of that all year. Focus on today and when the game's over, we'll analyze it and sit around for 30 minutes and think about what we did right and wrong, and move on to the next one."
How much have the Cubs grown over the season?
"Huge," Anthony Rizzo said. "I know it's cliched. But this is a group, with the talent we have, it's going to be more fun day by day. This team is on a roll.
"This [loss] stinks, but everyone in this organization should be proud of what we did this year. That's hard to say because as a competitor, you don't want to settle for this.
"The fans, going out there and tipping our caps to them at the end, they were behind us from day one. In my four years here, them being behind us, seeing it all come together this year had been unbelievable."
Pitcher C.J. Edwards, who wasn't on the playoff roster but stayed with the team, now heads home to South Carolina to spend more time with his newborn child. Arrieta will pack up his belongings and drive home to Austin, Texas. Bryant will head home to Las Vegas. His home run wasn't irrelevant to Cubs fans.
"We learned something from today -- whether it's the seventh game of the World Series, or a regular-season game, just go out there and treat it like any other game and have some fun," Bryant said. "We had some fun this postseason. There's a lot of good memories and a lot of positives to be taken from it and we'll learn from it and be better next year."
It's good to be a Cub.
"There's no more talk about how we don't have the experience," Schwarber said. "We've got experience now."