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updated: 10/18/2017 1:14 AM

Rozner: Cubs go quietly into the NLCS night

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  • Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish (21) reacts after striking Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) out in the third inning during Game 3 of the National League championship series, Oct, 17 2017, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

      Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish (21) reacts after striking Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) out in the third inning during Game 3 of the National League championship series, Oct, 17 2017, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Darvish shutting down Cubs

 
 

Heading into the 2016 postseason, Cleveland was thought to have no chance against Boston and the Red Sox' vaunted No. 1-ranked offense.

All the Indians did was sweep Boston, which managed 7 runs in 3 games.

The Houston Astros entered the ALCS with a .974 OPS in the first round against Boston, after a season in which they were on a historical offensive pace for more than four months.

Still, the Astros led baseball in runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and their team OPS (.823) was miles ahead of second-place Cleveland (.788).

Houston finished second in home runs and had the fewest strikeouts, a mind-boggling combination.

And the Astros have scored 9 runs in their first 4 games against the Yanks in the ALCS, 7 of them earned.

Pitching.

It always has been, and always will be, about pitching.

Great pitching will handle a great offense if a pitcher executes. Been that way for 100 years. Will be that way for another 100.

Execute a pitch and even the best hitter has no chance. Hard in, soft away. Start it as a strike, end it as a ball and get the hitter expanding the zone and guessing wrong.

So Cubs manager Joe Maddon can complain all he wants about the Cubs' offense -- which is a fine way to distract from his pitching decisions -- but the reality is the Dodgers through the first three NLCS games have executed on the mound better than the Cubs.

It's not a mystery.

Make a great pitch and the hitter has no chance. Make a mistake and it doesn't matter how many times Kris Bryant has struck out to that point. He will deposit it on Waveland Avenue.

That's baseball in the postseason. The best teams get to the playoffs and the best teams usually have dominant starters and lights-out closers who make great hitters look foolish.

But that hasn't stopped Maddon from complaining about his offense.

"We've had one really good offensive game, and even in that game a lot of the runs were scored in awkward ways," Maddon said of Game 5 in Washington. "We've got to start hitting more consistently.

"If you remember last year, we didn't score any runs early on against the Dodgers, and then we did and we finally got them.

"We've got to get our offense going."

Maddon doesn't want to hear about his decision to pitch John Lackey in the bottom of the ninth in Game 2, when Justin Turner walked it off with a bomb.

He just turns it back to the offense.

"You could always come back to the ninth inning and point out the guy hit a home run, but we have got to do better than one run," Maddon said. "Offensively, we've kind of been stifled. We're pretty fortunate to be in this position right now based on the number of runs we've scored over the last week.

"So we have to do a better job at the plate."

Dodgers starter Yu Darvish made a mistake in the bottom of the first Tuesday night and Kyle Schwarber punched it the other way and into the left field bleachers for a 1-0 Cubs lead early in Game 3.

There's your early score, but Andre Ethier tied it with a solo shot to right off Kyle Hendricks in the second and Chris Taylor hit one to Lake Shore Drive in the third to put the Dodgers ahead 2-1.

Taylor's RBI triple gave the Dodgers their third run and in the top of the sixth after a Bryant error and a broken-bat single by Ethier, Maddon once again yanked Hendricks, this time at only 82 pitches in favor of Carl Edwards, pitching for the seventh time in eight games this postseason.

With two outs and the bases loaded, Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts elected to keep Darvish in the game at 68 pitches. Edwards walked him on 4 pitches and the Dodgers had a commanding 4-1 lead.

That was pretty much the ballgame.

So the Cubs are down to it now, needing four in a row against a team that swept Arizona in the NLDS and is threatening to do the same to the Cubs in the NLCS.

You could never count out the 2016 Cubs.

The 2017 version needs a miracle and those are never easy to find.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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