The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day; The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play. And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same, A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
It's not looking good for the home team, gang.
The poem's first four lines also set the scene for us. They give us the game situation in a pretty clear, entertaining way. For the home team, the "Mudville nine," things are not looking too good: "The outlook wasn't brilliant."
Mudville is behind by two runs with just three outs (chances) left.
The first batter, "Cooney," is out; he "dies" at first base. The second batter, "Barrows" is also out at first.
Oh, snap—that means that Mudville is down to their last out. They only have one chance left to score some runs and catch up.
The hometown crowd realizes their chances for victory are fading fast. This puts them in a bit of a somber mood: "A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game." Now, it's not like a big ol' cloud of quiet landed on the crowd. This is a figurative way of saying that everybody hushes up because they're bummed out and anxious about their team's chances of winning.
Get it? Good. Now, let's talk a little bit about word choice.
The name of the town that the home team represents is "Mudville." The name doesn't really make us think big city, like "Metropolis." The name says small town, not big city.
When you imagine life in Mudville, what springs to mind? Do you imagine tree-lined streets and a prosperous, happy, populace? Probably not.
That "mud" in Mudville makes us think of a town that's kind of down on its luck. This is a town that needs a win in a bad way. (For you sports fans out there, think Chicago Cubs, not New York Yankees.)