Hollywood scuffle: Cubs shut out again by Dodgers, trail in NLCS
LOS ANGELES – The Cubs saw some of this coming in August.
To be clear, nobody in the Cubs’ clubhouse saw Tuesday night’s 6-0 loss to reinvented ex-Cub Rich Hill and the Dodgers in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
But the Cubs saw a tough playoff rematch looming when they left Dodger Stadium in August after struggling for three games against the Dodgers’ pitching — without having faced Clayton Kershaw all year.
“We would have our hands full because of all the lefties they have,” Ben Zobrist said at the conclusion of that series.
By the time one of those lefties, Hill, was through six scoreless innings Tuesday, Zobrist had never looked like a swami. And by the time Kenley Jansen retired Chris Coghlan on a liner to third for the final out, the Cubs’ lineup looked lost.
They haven’t scored since Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler’s back-to-back homers in the eighth inning of Saturday’s Game 1, and they face hard-throwing rookie left-hander Julio Urias on Wednesday, trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
“There’s no panic in here,” Kris Bryant said.
Easy for him to say. He had both hits against Hill, and he’s been the best-hitting Cub in the postseason (10-for-28).
Montero called the lack of production “very surprising,” said he thinks some of the hitters are, pressing, “trying to be heroes,” and it’s putting more pressure on the pitchers and catchers to try to be perfect.
And no wonder. This is uncharted 2016 territory for the Cubs: The first time this year they’ve been shut out in back-to-back games – first time since August they’ve been shut out at all.
The part that’s not uncharted is this: That last team to shut them out was the Dodgers. In fact, the Dodgers have four of the eight shutouts pitched against the Cubs this year.
And while the Game 4 Dodger starter didn’t shut them out, Urias beat them with a dominant performance the last time he faced them, Aug. 27 in the same ballpark.
“We may be a little unhappy about how the game transpired,” said Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, who gave up a pair of costly home runs but otherwise pitched well into the sixth inning. “But guys will get back to their families at the hotel and decompress and prepare for tomorrow.”
Either way, they’re going to have to try to find a way to beat a Dodgers lefty at least once in the next two days to assure a return to Wrigley Field for a Game 6. Kershaw’s in the wings for Game 5 if the Dodgers decide they need him on short rest.
Zobrist and teammates have known for nearly two months how tough that was going to be.
At first glance, Zobrist’s August concerns seem counter-intuitive, given the Cubs’ better hitting, on-base and power numbers against left-handers overall this season.
But the Dodgers’ lefties, he said, present especially tough matchups for the Cubs – and not just best-pitcher-on-the-planet Kershaw.
“They pitch up with their heater in the zone, and they’ve been pretty solid staying in the strike zone with those, and just above the strike zone,” he said during Monday’s workout day. “And they have big slow curves or, like Urias, the changeup. His changeup vs. his heater, what we saw the last game [was tough].”
Said Bryant: “They just keep running out pitcher after pitcher, and they’re pretty good. But I think we’re going into this game  very confident.”
Hill with his slow curve kept the Cubs at bay with little in the way of a scoring chance – helping beat the Cubs in the playoffs for the second time in his career. He lasted just three innings in a 2007 Division Series loss to the Diamondbacks.
Hill, who was pitching for the independent Long Island Ducks barely a year ago, had a runner in scoring position against him only once, in the second after a pair of walks. Beyond that he gave up a two-out single to Kris Bryant in the third and a one-out single to Bryant in the sixth.
“I think there’s some things that they do well and they try to do well that maybe they do better than some other teams,” Zobrist said of the Dodger lefties. “They try to keep it up here [high in zone], and we like to hit homers, so that pitch looks really good.
“But if they just have enough revolutions on that thing, enough spin rate, it’s a foul ball instead of a home run. That’s what’s tough about some of these guys.”