NLCS Game Two Recap: Dodgers 4, Cubs 1

As they prepared to meet the Spartans in a naval battle outside the city of Naupactus during the second year of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenian soldiers trembled at the overwhelming numbers and strength of their opponent. Sensing this fear, their general, Phormio, spoke to them, declaring that their inferiority in numbers was compensated for by their courage and skill. Through experience, the Athenians had perfected the art, which, when coupled with courage, produced much luck. Regardless of the number of small, early victories won by Sparta, the Athenians, through skill, courage, and luck, would ultimately prevail in this battle. Phormio’s words came true in the ensuing weeks, but that was not the case for the Cubs tonight.

Through his four and two-thirds innings of work, Jon Lester relied on his skill in limiting the damage, surrendering only one run despite walking five. Of his pitches that were strikes, many remained flat, catching much of the middle of the zone, and his fastball hung around the low 90s, topping out at 93, a slight dip from where it was over the month of September. Nonetheless, with a few timely strikeouts and well-placed defenders, the Dodgers managed to cash in with only one run.

As they had done with Clayton Kershaw, the Cubs drove Rich Hill out of the game after five innings, but they managed to score only one run. Hill baffled Cubs hitters early on with his curveball, inducing six groundball outs to go along with eight strikeouts, but, despite having thrown only 79 pitches, he only made it through five innings, with Dave Roberts electing to pinch hit for him down 1-0 at that point.

Also like yesterday’s game, the early removal of the starter provided no relief for Cubs batters, who were again befuddled by the Dodgers’ bullpen, which pitched three scoreless innings. However, the Cubs’ bullpen was vastly improved today, also miraculously putting up zeroes through four innings. As much as the starting pitching improved in the second half of the season, the bullpen declined, but tonight (aside from John Lackey), the relievers displayed how good they can be. Brian Duensing continued his late-season success by keeping the ball down in the zone, something he, and the entire bullpen must continue to do in the ensuing games, as the Dodgers are a team that capitalizes on mistakes.

Another factor in this game, as with game one, is a total lack of offense on the part of the Cubs. Again, the top of the order came up empty, and all the patience Bryant displayed during the season has disappeared, which may be attributed to the high number of strikes the Dodgers pitchers throw, but his problems are compounded by a failure to capitalize on pitches in the middle of the zone.

Much like game one, this game was decided by a total lack of offense and poor bullpen management by a distinctly un-Phormio-ian Joe Maddon.  Though the bullpen’s improvement is a bright spot in this game, if the offense can’t figure out the Dodgers’ bullpen, it could be a very short series.

Lead photo courtesy Robert Hanashiro—USA Today Sports

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