Things unravel for Cubs in fateful seventh

After solid beginning to evening, Lackey pulled for Peralta

Things unravel for Cubs in fateful seventh

NEW YORK -- The Cubs had a chance on Thursday to eliminate some of the bad feelings from last year's National League Championship Series, but couldn't after a 4-3 loss.

Start with the Mets' seventh. Chicago led, 3-1, and New York had a runner at first with one out against John Lackey, who expected to finish the inning. But he didn't, and that's when things began to unravel.

Manager Joe Maddon pulled Lackey and called on newcomer Joel Peralta. Maddon had told Peralta before the game to expect to pitch in this situation. Lackey didn't anticipate the early hook.

"Yes, I was pretty surprised on that one," Lackey said. "In the fifth inning, I lost the feel for a little while. I kind of lost command of my fastball for a couple hitters. The sixth inning, I got it back going. I had a runner on first with an out. I was pretty surprised."

Peralta walked pinch-hitter Alejandro De Aza, then gave up an RBI single to Brandon Nimmo. With runners at second and third, Maddon called on Pedro Strop, who got Neil Walker to hit a chopper to second baseman Javier Baez. Baez threw to third baseman Kris Bryant in an attempt to make the out at third, but Bryant couldn't handle the throw, the ball skipped away for an error and two runs scored. That's all the Mets needed.

"A little surprised," Bryant said of the throw from Baez. "We would have had him. I didn't check the replay, but [I was] a little surprised. Javy makes some really good plays out there. I certainly think I could have got to it."

Said Baez: "It short-hopped and went really high, and I knew I had no chance at the plate. [Bryant] was back-pedaling to the base. It was tough for him to catch it. I went to third because I didn't think I had a chance at first either."

Maddon didn't blame Baez.

"His mind works so quickly, he threw to third base," Maddon said. "It's really not awful."

The young Cubs also got a lesson in the ninth inning on the power slider Jeurys Familia throws. Chicago had runners at second and third and nobody out, but Familia struck out Bryant and intentionally walked Anthony Rizzo before striking out Willson Contreras and getting Baez to pop up to end the game.

"With Familia, Contreras and Baez have not seen that kind of stuff on any kind of regular basis," Maddon said.

Not many batters have.

"It's like a 98-mile-an-hour lefty cutter -- good luck," Bryant said. "I just think our last three at-bats, they were a little too anxious."

And next time?

"A guy throwing that hard, we sped up and we just tried to hit the ball," Baez said. "We were trying to tie the game in one pitch. We learned from it."

The Cubs have downplayed this series, the first between the two teams since the NLCS. Lackey, who wasn't with the Cubs at the time, didn't put much significance into this four-game set.

"It's June," Lackey said. "Who cares?"

Bryant doesn't have any memories of the two games at Citi Field last October, except that it was really cold.

"We don't really remember much that happened here last year," he said. "We know the feeling of getting eliminated and getting swept. I think we're on to bigger and better things. Different year, different players, different attitude here."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.