LOS ANGELES – The Cubs’ bats have been cryonically frozen for that day, far in the future, when a cure is discovered for whatever caused their death, at which time they can be revived.
That’s all I can come up with.
There is no good explanation for why the Cubs have forgotten how to hit, only that they have. One division series and two games of the National League Championship Series is certainly a small sample size. Players go into mini-slumps. It happens. You hope it doesn’t happen in bulk.
It’s happening in bulk.
The Cubs are down 2-0 in their best-of-seven series with the Dodgers partly because of Justin Turner’s ninth-inning home run Sunday night but mostly because of their aversion to hits and getting on base.
They have scored a combined 11 runs in six of their postseason games and nine in another. They managed only one run in their 4-1 loss Sunday night. They had three hits, and one of them was by pitcher Jon “Babe” Lester.
Cubs hitters have had to face Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw this postseason, and if you want to say that’s the reason they haven’t hit, have it. But two things about that explanation: One, the Cubs are the defending World Series champions, and they should be able to hit the best of the best. Two, they’ve also been awful against relief pitchers in the postseason. The Dodgers’ bullpen hasn’t given up a hit in eight innings.
“I think we’re doing a great job,’’ said Addison Russell, whose fifth-inning homer gave the Cubs a brief 1-0 lead Sunday. “We just need to stick with our approach and not chase out of the zone.’’
Either Russell has trouble processing the truth or feel-good manager Joe Maddon has gotten to him. The Cubs are not doing a great job at the plate. They are doing a great deal of swinging and missing. Dodgers pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts in Game 2, eight by starter Rich Hill. Hill is good. He’s not that good.
Anthony Rizzo got hit by a Kenley Jansen pitch in the ninth, which isn’t a hit, but beggars can’t be choosers. It didn’t lead to anything for the Cubs, unless you count the bruise. In the clubhouse after the game, it was clear that players were trying to make sense of what happened and how to proceed heading into Game 3 Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
“Get on base more,’’ Rizzo said. “Just keep it going. It’s contagious. Just keep grinding.’’
Can they win a series hitting like this? Not this one. Not against the Dodgers’ bullpen. They beat the Nationals in the NLDS with a .172 team average. You only get to go to that shallow well once.
Before Sunday’s game, Maddon said the lack of runs made for “kind of an awkward postseason.’’ Afterward, he said, “We just have to become more offensive.’’ I’ll leave that one alone.
“Those guys are good, man,’’ Russell said of the Dodgers. “We’re going about our business the same way, but you’ve got to give credit to those guys. They’re making pitches in the right situation. As far as being selective, I think as a team we can do a little better.’’
The Cubs want to give credit to the other team, and they should. But they have a say in whether they hit the ball. They’re not victims here. They’ve been active participants in their 2-0 series deficit. What to do about it?
“Just make adjustments,’’ right fielder Jason Heyward said. “When I say that, I don’t mean doing anything drastic. Just pay attention to some detail and see how they’re approaching us and attacking us and go from there.’’
A TV reporter asked Heyward if any details stood out.
“I wouldn’t give them to you,’’ Heyward said.
Fine, but make sure you share them with Rizzo (hitting .154 in seven postseason games), Kris Bryant (.179) and yourself (.133). And, whatever you do, please share with Javy Baez, who is 0-for-19. His bat is cold to the touch.