Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Dodgers Shut Out Cubs Again and Take 2-1 N.L.C.S. Lead
It is almost as if the Chicago Cubs arrived back in the National League Championship Series by acclamation.
They won the hot stove league, stealing away free agents from their most serious rivals. They had not been out of first place since the vines at Wrigley Field sprouted leaves, and once the playoffs began, the Cubs won their first two division series games before putting pesky San Francisco away.
But after getting shut out by the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second consecutive game, 6-0, before a raucous Dodger Stadium crowd on Tuesday night, the Cubs face their first genuine crisis of the season.
They trail the Dodgers by two games to one in the N.L.C.S. and if their offense does not kick into gear soon, they could be headed for another disheartening exit. Game 4 is Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
“Obviously, I have no solid explanation,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve just got to keep working at it. We’re just not hitting the ball well. We’re doing the same kind of routines, the work is the same, the batting practice is the same — or the lack of it is the same — and we’re just not getting the results right now.”
He added: “It’s more of a mental exercise than it is a physical one right now for me.”
The Cubs historically do not do panic well. They have a long list of playoff collapses dating back 1929, when they were on the verge of evening the World Series at two games apiece but blew an 8-0 lead to the Philadelphia Athletics.
A little fresher on these minds is last season, when the Mets’ powerhouse pitching staff, led by Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, dominated the Cubs, sweeping them out of the playoffs. This series is beginning to look that way.
The 1-0 loss to Sunday might have been easily explained, since it came at the hands of Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ left-handed ace. But the Cubs were just as bamboozled on Tuesday night by the journeyman Rich Hill, who was pitching in an independent league a little more than a year ago.
“It’s a momentum thing,” outfielder Chris Coghlan said. “It is contagious. We can try to pretend that it’s not, but it is. So each person, it’s not a lack of trying. Sometimes in this game, and it’s tough for me, too — you almost have to try less.”
Coughlan added, “This game, you can’t will. It’s not like football.”
Maddon tinkered with his lineup Tuesday, dropping Anthony Rizzo from his customary third spot to cleanup and moving Addison Russell, who has often batted fifth, down to seventh. The moves helped neither hitter.
Rizzo, who did walk, has two hits in the playoffs in 26 at-bats. The second one came in the ninth when Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers’ closer, shattered Rizzo’s bat into pieces and chose self-preservation rather giving chase to Rizzo’s dribbler.
Russell, who struck out and lined out before being lifted for a pinch-hitter, is 1 for 24 in the postseason.
Others are not doing appreciably better. Jason Heyward, who is 2 for 19, was benched for Jorge Soler, who is 0 for 7. Ben Zobrist is 4 for 26. Dexter Fowler, the leadoff hitter whom Maddon continually admonishes with as “you go, we go,” is 5 for 28 after a two-out double in the eighth.
Fowler’s hit came off reliever Grant Dayton, which led Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts to summon Jansen. He struck out Bryant, who is one of the Cubs’ few dangerous hitters at the moment, to preserve a 4-0 lead. The Dodgers tacked on two more in the bottom of the eighth.
“We have to have a better approach at the plate as a team,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “I think we’re trying to do too much. We’re all trying to be heroes here.”
While Bryant and many other Cubs patiently answered wave after wave of postgame questions, Rizzo — the team leader — left the clubhouse before it was opened to the news media. He is one of a number of young Cubs, but Montero was pointed in saying that the team’s youth was not an excuse.
“We’re young, so we don’t have a plan?” Montero said. “We just need to calm down and take one pitch at a time. Don’t try to hit a three-run homer with nobody on. Take your base hit, take your walk.”
The Cubs had an opportunity to dent Hill early when he struggled to command his looping curveball, his best pitch. In the second inning, with runners at second and third and one out, Hill struck out Russell and retired Montero on a groundout. The Cubs’ impatience also showed in the field when the slick-fielding Javier Baez bobbled a couple of slow rollers that cost the Cubs two runs.
The Dodgers had no such problems with their composure. Corey Seager delivered a two-out single to score Andrew Toles, giving Hill a 1-0 lead in the third. In the fourth, Yasmani Grandal, after falling behind by 0-2, worked the count full before reaching down to slam a low fastball —- the eighth pitch he had seen from Jake Arrieta — over the center-field wall.
There was no grinding it out for Justin Turner. He hit the first pitch he saw from Arrieta over the center-field wall to start the sixth. It put the Dodgers ahead, 4-0, and prompted Maddon to turn to his bullpen.
The night was not all bad for the Cubs. Nobody was hurt when Fowler, the center fielder, clattered into Soler while catching a fly ball. Early in the season, a similar collision with Fowler left Kyle Schwarber with torn knee ligaments and ended his season. This time nobody was hurt, and Fowler and Soler tapped afterward.
LAX Car Service - MGCLS