Stranger than fiction: Cubs pound Kershaw, get swept in L.A. anyway

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The Cubs hit three home runs off Clayton Kershaw, including this second-inning shot by Willson Contreras.

LOS ANGELES — After an ugly 9-4 loss completed a sweep by the Dodgers on Sunday, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was asked similar questions and provided almost the same answers after the Cubs fell behind in the National League Championship Series last fall at Dodger Stadium.

“We’re not panicking,” Bryant said after the Cubs scored four runs against the best pitcher in baseball — Clayton Kershaw — and none against anyone else in the series.

“I don’t see any reason to worry, especially given what we did last year,” he said. “You can’t really take anything for granted, I guess. . . . We’ve spoiled ourselves with last year and that start. But I guess it’s a good thing to have those expectations, because we all do, too.”

After completing a 7-2 home-stand, the Cubs were outscored 18-4 over the weekend.

This despite jumping on Kershaw for 11 hits, including three home runs — both career highs — and knocking him out of the game with one out in the fifth.

But that’s where it began and ended for the Cubs. With runners at second and third in a two-run game, Josh Fields struck out Javy Baez and Bryant to end the Cubs’ last threat.

In 22‰ innings against Dodgers pitchers not named Kershaw, the Cubs were held scoreless.

<em>Anthony Rizzo homers off Kershaw (John Antonoff photo)</em>

Anthony Rizzo homers off Kershaw (John Antonoff photo)

Pound Kershaw on one of the worst days of his career and get swept in the series?

“It sounds like fiction to me,” manager Joe Maddon said. “But it happened.”

Compounding the disbelief was the Cubs’ inability to handle the Dodgers’ lineup with Opening Day starter Jon Lester on the mound.

Five days after a 99-pitch complete-game victory over Johnny Cueto and the Giants, Lester gave up three-run homers to Cody Bellinger in the second and Enrique Hernandez in the third, and didn’t get out of the fourth.

“When you’re able to get runs off Cueto and Kershaw, you can’t waste them,” said Lester, who gave up one three-run homer in 74 previous starts as a Cub. “Not only did I waste them, but I just wasted a whole day.”

Any reason to panic?

Maybe.

But don’t try to convince Twitter that this team is worthy of optimism — never mind whether they’re a playoff team.

“Sweet,” Bryant said with a smile when told of the handwringing, head-shaking and Cub blasting filling Twitter timelines.

“Everybody has their thoughts. I guess it’s just natural just as humans — even just as baseball players, when something bad happens sometimes we speed it up and that ends up piling onto things and it just gets even worse,” he said. “There’s none of that here.”

Yet the Cubs already have been swept three times (also to Pittsburgh and the Yankees at home) compared to being swept only twice all of last season — and not until the second half of June.

And when Maddon talks about “hitting young” during two months of inconsistency from his lineup, this is part of what he means: The Cubs haven’t scored a run on a hit that wasn’t a home run in the last seven games.

No wonder fans on social media seem to be “freaking out,” as one media guy put it to Maddon after the game.

Oh, please, go ahead and freak out,” Maddon said, smiling. “If you want to freak out, freak out.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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