The thought going into tonight’s game was if the Cubs could win, they’d be right where they were a year ago: down two games to one after getting their offense shut down by elite Dodger pitching. There was reason to be confident in the Cubs’ chances of taking game three. They had home-field advantage, and Kyle Hendricks was taking the mound with full rest.
In last year’s NLCS, Kyle Hendricks kept the Dodgers to just one run in 12.2 innings. Tonight, Hendricks came out firing, getting the first two outs of the game on three pitches. It looked like it was going to be a quick inning before Justin Turner drew a walk after fouling away two payoff pitches. Then on an 0-2 count, Yasiel Puig took a swing that made everyone in Chicago throw up in their mouth. Somehow, Puig’s moonshot went foul, giving Hendricks an opportunity to strike him out looking.
While some Dodgers were patient against Hendricks the first time through, some planned to go after Hendricks early. Cody Bellinger, Andre Ethier, and Chase Utley all swung at the first pitch in their first at-bat. Bellinger popped out, and Utley didn’t quite get enough of it, but Ethier launched a mistake over the wall to tie the game at one.
In the next inning, Hendricks made another mistake to Chris Taylor who took him deep to straightaway center. Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth to extend the Dodgers’ lead to 3-1. Really, we all saw this coming back in March. When the Cubs faced the Dodgers in the NLCS, of course, it was going to be Chris Taylor and Andre Ethier who were going to beat them.
Despite the mistakes Hendricks made to Ethier and Taylor, he pitched fine. The third run he gave up came off a double and triple that were both barely fair. When he came out of the game in the sixth, it came after an E5 and a broken-bat single, so he was a tad unlucky. But with the way the Cubs have been swinging the bats, Hendricks had to be perfect. He wasn’t, and the Cubs lost.
Yu Darvish came into the game with a hot hand. His last three starts of the regular season, he gave up just one earned run. But early tonight, he wasn’t fooling the Cubs’ bats. In his game preview, Sam Fels called for the Cubs to move away from their Three True Outcomes approach and work on putting the ball in play and going the other way. In the first inning, Kyle Schwarber did one better and clubbed a Yu Darvish cutter for an opposite-field homer to draw first blood. But that’s all they would get.
In the first three innings, the Cubs had five batted balls at 100 MPH or more. They even had a weak fly ball drop in front of the not-so-fleet-footed Joc Pederson. But they couldn’t get the sequencing right or the defense to be somewhere else to get anything going.
In the fourth, Contreras led off the inning trying to bunt for a hit, apparently thinking that if smoking the ball wasn’t working, then he’d try a sneak attack bunt. That didn’t work either. It was disappointing to see Contreras take the bat out of his hands, since he had beat a pretty good pitch from Darvish in the first. Ultimately, Darvish was able to settle in and be his dominant self.
Once the Dodgers added their third run, it was clear this wasn’t Chicago’s night. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, then Yu Darvish’s at-bat against Carl Edwards Jr. in sixth did. Not only can Darvish not hit at all, but he was showing bunt. It wasn’t even clear if he had any real intention of bunting or if he was just doing anything so he wouldn’t stand there a la Santiago Casilla. Carl’s Jr wound up walking him on four pitches, forcing in a run. Of course, Edwards struck out perennial MVP candidate Chris Taylor on three pitches immediately after that. Edwards’ inability to throw a strike to Darvish was pretty inexcusable, but you know what else is inexcusable? Booing him. The dude helped the Cubs win a World Series last year, and he was mostly great all year. He’s got about three years of being terrible before you get to boo.
Despite some signs of life in the early going, things unraveled in the later innings. Ian Happ dropped a fly ball, Willson Contreras threw a backpick attempt into the outfield and allowed a run to score on a dropped third strike, Mike Montgomery had an uninspiring outing, Almora nearly passed Alex Avila on the base paths etc. It’s hard to win when you don’t field, hit, run, or pitch.
The Cubs now find themselves on the brink of elimination. Before tonight, the goal was to take a step toward evening up the series. Now, the immediate goal is to save some face. The Cubs have been outscored 15-4 in the series, so it hasn’t been especially close. If they avoid getting swept, then they could think about staging a comeback. They could still win this thing, but for that to happen, the Cubs and Dodgers are essentially going to have to Freaky Friday into each other’s bodies, because nothing is going right for the Cubs.
Lead photo courtesy Jim Young—USA Today Sports