Manager Joe Maddon remembers it was a bunt that got the Cubs’ offense going when the team faced a 2-1 deficit to the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series last season.
‘‘I keep reminding myself of Zo’s bunt,’’ Maddon said of Ben Zobrist’s dribbler in Game 4 last season that started the Cubs’ offensive turnaround. ‘‘We just need to hit some balls consecutively.’’
The offense not only has struggled in the NLCS against the Dodgers, but it also did so in the NL Division Series against the Nationals. In that series, the breakout didn’t come until Game 5, when the Cubs scored nine runs.
Most glaring against the Dodgers have been the struggles of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez. They are a combined 1-for-19 with nine strikeouts among them.
The taxing finish to the series against the Nationals and the Cubs’ elongated trip to Los Angeles have contributed to what has unfolded so far in the NLCS, Maddon said.
‘‘I’m not going to make excuses, but the guys went through a lot in Washington,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘Then we sat on the tarmac [in New Mexico when the flight to Los Angeles was diverted because of an emergency medical situation]. It was a tough couple of days. I was looking forward to the days off so the boys could get back here and regroup.
‘‘But I inherited something from my dad, and that was patience. You’ve got to be patient right now. You’ve got to keep putting the boys back out there. You keep believing in them, and eventually it comes back to you.
‘‘If you’re talking about KB and Riz, we’re not sitting here with four teams left playing without those two guys. But we haven’t scored enough runs.’’
Maddon, a former minor-league hitting coach in the Angels’ organization, said he thinks the mental side of hitting is more important than blaming mechanics.
‘‘When guys truly are slumping, it’s because they’re swinging at the pitcher’s pitch consistently,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s more of a mental flaw, meaning that you are not organized in your strike zone.’’
That’s part of the reason Maddon said he was encouraged when Baez drew a walk Sunday.
‘‘When you’re walking, you’re hitting — meaning that you normally have your strike zone in order,’’ he said. ‘‘I really thought the walk [by Baez] was a good indicator of better things. I thought his at-bats after that were better, so hopefully that’s the at-bat that may set it in motion in a positive direction.’’
Facing the Dodgers’ pitching staff — particularly their dominant bullpen — is a challenge, but it’s not an insurmountable one, Maddon said.
‘‘They’re good, and they got us at the right time, obviously,’’ he said. ‘‘We have to regroup. There are certain things we have to do better, but I have total faith we can get to their bullpen.’’
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