Cubs

NLCS Game 3: Cubs Lose 6-1, Face Deep Hole to Climb Out Of

After having to wait 48 agonizing hours after the Dodgers walked-off Game 2, playoff baseball returned to Chicago Tuesday night as the Cubs hosted the Dodgers in the crucial Game 3. With a late start, an auspiciously warm evening, and the wind blowing out something fierce, the atmosphere was palpably tense. It felt impossible to give up on this team; it also felt difficult to generate any sense of unbridled optimism.

Game In Review

Kyle Hendricks began the evening with an efficient first inning, surrendering nothing but a walk to Justin Turner on a 3-2 count. Though Yasiel Puig created drama by crushing a ball into the offensive-friendly wind, it only resulted in a long (and loud) foul ball. Still, it felt as if it just might be an offensive game.

Kyle Schwarber put the Cubs on the board first, hitting a solo homerun to left-center field after a Ben Zobrist ground out. While it looked like the ball had the distance on its own, the wind blowing out made it a relative no doubter. It also proved Joe Maddon‘s decision to bat him in front of Kris Bryant prescient, as he aggressively hacked at the first pitch he saw, knowing he might see something to hit with protection behind him. While the Cubs went down rather quickly after a Bryant single, they took an early 1-0 lead.

Andre Ethier answered in the second inning, leading off with a hard liner to right field for a no-doubter that ricocheted off the mini scoreboard above the basket. Chase Utley followed with a fly out to right center, a ball that appeared routine before the wind carried it to the warning track. Hendricks continued with a ground out and a strike out, and the top of the second ended tied at one. The Cubs responded by quickly going down in order, keeping the score tied at one after two innings.

Chris Taylor started the third by skying a ball to straightaway center for a solo shot, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. The Dodgers went down quietly after, but they were able to respond to an early deficit to take the lead, keeping the pressure on the Cubs. The Cubs only mustered a Bryant single in the bottom of the 3rd, leaving the score 2-1.

The top of the fourth featured a lead-off single by Yasiel Puig. Hendricks followed by striking out both Ethier and Utley before Addison Russell deftly snagged a blooper to left center, ending the inning. Willson Contreras led off the bottom of the fourth attempting a bunt single on the first pitch – only to be dispatched by Darvish. Jon Jay quickly grounded out before Russell hit a weak grounder to third that somehow stayed fair, giving the Cubs a bit of life with two outs. Jason Heyward followed with a four-pitch walk before Hendricks struck out to end the inning. After 4 innings the Dodgers maintained a slim 2-1 lead.

Joc Pederson led off the 5th with a double down the right field line. Darvish attempted to sacrifice, but Rizzo made a nice play that kept Pederson at second with one out. Chris Taylor then drilled the first pitch down the left field line, scoring Pederson, and notably, hustled to third to make it a triple. Bellinger then hit a hard grounder directly to Rizzo, who gunned down Taylor at the plate. Turner flew out to right to end the inning, but the Dodgers scored to make it 3-1. The Cubs again went down quickly, and after five innings the Dodgers maintained a 3-1 lead.

Puig led off the top of the sixth with a chopper to third that Bryant booted. Ethier followed with a broken-bat single to center, and suddenly the Dodgers had runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out. Rightfully so, Maddon opted for the bullpen, bringing in Carl Edwards in relief. (It’s fair to point out that, regardless of the outcome, Maddon finally made the right move with his bullpen. He gave Hendricks an adequate leash, and Edwards is the appropriate response after his dominant performance Sunday night.) 

Source: Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

Edwards induced a high chopper by Utley, getting the out at first, but also advancing the runners to 2nd and 3rd with only one out. Barnes then walked to load the bases. Pederson flew out to right – Puig tagged, only to freeze on Heyward’s throw to the plate. Dave Roberts elected to let Darvish hit for himself, and Edwards impossibly walked him on four pitches. Suddenly it’s 4-1 Dodgers, with the top of the order due up. Almost laughably, Edwards then struck out Taylor on three pitches. The (minimal) damage had already been done, however, and the Cubs now faced a three run deficit entering the latter innings.

Rizzo led off the 6th with a laser to right-center field for a single, only to see Contreras watch a called strike three before Jay grounded into a double play. In an inning where the Cubs desperately needed to create momentum, they instead shot themselves in the foot. Heading to the 7th, the Cubs remained down 4-1.

Pedro Strop started the 7th by inducing a fly ball to center that Ian Happ dropped for an error. A walk, a double play, and a ground out later, and the Cubs escaped to keep the score 4-1. Russell led off the bottom of the inning with a strikeout before Roberts pulled Darvish for Tony Watson, and Maddon countered by pinch-hitting Javy Baez for Heyward. Javy popped out to first, Happ struck out, and the Dodgers maintained a three run lead.

Montgomery started the top of the eighth by giving up a walk, a bloop single, and then a wild pitch. Suddenly the Dodgers had runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. Then an apparent strike out turned horribly, as Contreras appeared to be crossed-up. The ball skirted into the Dodgers dugout, allowing a run to score. As if momentum couldn’t get worse for the Cubs, the Dodgers ultimately plated two more runs, and when the dust settled the score was 6-1.

The Cubs made a few nifty defensive plays – centering around a couple of nice tags by Baez at second – and entered the ninth still down five runs. Ross Stripling entered for the Dodgers, who gave up a lead-off single to Alex Avila. An Albert Almora Jr double later, and the Cubs suddenly have life with runners on 2nd and 3rd, nobody out. Enrique Hernandez, after missing the ball on a dive, signaled that the ball got stuck in the Ivy – making it a dead ball. While Almora hustled to third assuming Avila would score, Avila stayed at third, and Albert was tagged out by Turner – but because it was a dead ball, the Cubs were awarded runners on 2nd and 3rd. With that, Roberts elected to bring in Kenley Jensen.

Russell popped up to first, failing to move the runners. Tommy La Stella, pinch hitting, struck out on three pitches. Happ then struck out, and just like that, the Dodgers won 6-1, taking a commanding 3-0 series lead.

Conclusion

The Cubs have hit a wall at an impossibly bad time, and now trail 3-0 entering Wednesday night’s Game 4. Jake Arrieta will be facing Alex Wood tomorrow night, and for the Cubs to have any remote chance at an already improbable comeback, Arrieta will need to revive the ace-like status he displayed during the second half of the season before his injury. Regardless of the outcome tomorrow, let’s all take a breath and think about the reality that the Cubs are somehow in their third straight NLCS. This is, in and of itself, a wonderful feat, as is the likelihood that the window for more championships remains wide open.

While tonight hurts, and while the probable exit from the playoffs feels imminent, let’s all appreciate this Cubs team for what they are, and for the hope that the next several years represent.

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