LOS ANGELES – They talk about their playoff experience and coming from behind in October series to win it all.
“We’ve done it before,” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said. “This is nothing new to us.”
No, they haven’t done it before – not if doing it means coming back from a two-games-to-none deficit to win in the postseason.
When Justin Turner’s three-run homer off John Lackey cleared the center-field wall with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday at Dodger Stadium, it gave the Dodgers a 4-1 victory and commanding lead in the best-of-seven series.
And it sent the Cubs home wondering if they’ll find even two hits to rub together by Game 3 on Tuesday against the top pitching staff in the majors.
“Hopefully, we can learn from this and [use it for] more motivation for the next game,” Bryant said. “We still have a long way to go.”
Not like this. Not the way they’re hitting.
A meager performance in the first round against Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and the rest of the Nationals has only gotten worse against Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and the nastiest bullpen they’ve seen all year.
The have only seven hits over two games – none against a bullpen that has pitched eight nearly flawless innings (allowing only a hit batter in Sunday’s ninth). Their only runs have scored on Albert Almora Jr.’s two-run homer against Kershaw on Saturday and Addison Russell’s solo homer against Hill on Sunday.
“I feel like all of us are still confident,” said Russell, whose homer leading off the fifth gave the Cubs a brief lead. “Of course, it stings. But we’re looking forward to winning in Chicago.”
Big-game starter Jon Lester, who labored through 4 2/3 innings to keep the game close, said the Cubs were “upbeat and ready to go for Tuesday” by the time they reached the clubhouse after Turner’s dramatic game-ender.
They even had their music playing before the media arrived, he said.
“Heartbreaker for who?” he said when the word was used in a question to him. “It’s a loss. We’re not over. We’re not done.
“We’ve got a long ways to go. That wasn’t the clinching game.”
No, but history has a sobering story for the Cubs: Since the LCS expanded to seven games in 1985, only three of the 28 teams that lost the first two games came back to win the series. And two of those happened in that first year of the expanded format.
The Cubs, in fact, were one of those 25 who didn’t get it done, just two years ago, when they were swept by the Mets.
But they also came back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series to beat the Indians last year, and from a 2-1 deficit against these Dodgers in the NLCS.
“We’ve got a lot of experience in this room,” said Lackey, who pitched in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. “It’s not ideal being down 2-0, but we’ve got a chance. We’re going home.”
Lackey only became a late-inning option for manager Joe Maddon when his bullpen faltered in the first round and then was needed for a heavy load in a Game 5 clincher in Washington on Thursday night.
Lackey, who leads all active pitchers in postseason starts, was effective for five outs Saturday night. On Sunday, Maddon went to him with two outs, the go-ahead run on second base and the top of the order up.
After a walk to leadoff man Chris Taylor, Lackey threw a first-pitch ball to Turner and a second-pitch game-changer.
“Just bad location,” he said. “But bad selection as well.”
Maddon said before the game he would consider using Lackey again in a hot spot late in the game.
“I’m just betting on his experience right there as much as anything,” Maddon said. “I know the crowd would not affect him, and it didn’t.”
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