Cubs bats stay quiet, Dodgers lead NLCS 3-0
There is a reason games like Tuesday night's at Wrigley Field are called "pivotal."
The ballpark was full of life and anticipation as Game 3 of the National League championship series between the Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers got under way on a beautiful October night.
Kyle Schwarber got the crowd of 41,871 jacked up as he homered on a first-pitch offering from Dodgers starter Yu Darvish to put the Cubs up 1-0 in the first inning.
But this game began to pivot the other way in the second inning, when Andre Ethier led off with a home run against Kyle Hendricks.
That was the first of several more things to go the Dodgers' way, as they moved closer to total series dominance. They won 6-1 to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Cubs were down last year in both the NLCS and the World Series, and that might be the only thing giving this team hope.
"A hole is a hole," said Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who took the loss. He went 5 innings giving up 6 hits and 4 runs. "It's a must-win now. We know where we stand, but it's one ballgame at time. This team has been through a lot. This is nothing new for us. Another challenge. We're up for it. We've got to come in ready to play tomorrow."
The Cubs have not hit all postseason. They've been outscored 15-4 in the NLCS, but like Hendricks, third baseman Kris Bryant is keeping the faith.
"Hey, if there's any team out there that can do it, I think the group of guys in here is the team that can do it," he said. "That makes me happy. We've done it plenty of times, not to this extent, but we've come from behind when we weren't expected to win series, all that."
The Dodgers began turning things the other way when they picked up another solo homer in the third, by Chris Taylor.
"I just made a few bad pitches, and I didn't get away with it," Hendricks said. "Ethier's was a terrible pitch. Couple bad pitches and didn't get away with it, but battled."
Joc Pederson, making his first start of the series because the Cubs were throwing a right-handed pitcher doubled leading off the fifth. A bunt by Darvish failed to advance Pederson, but Taylor took care of that with a triple to the left-field corner.
The Dodgers chased Hendricks in the sixth after Yasiel Puig reached on Kris Bryant's error and Ethier singled.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned once again to reliever Carl Edwards Jr., whom he used five times with varying results in the National League division series against the Nationals.
Edwards got one out before walking Austin Barnes to lead the bases. Joc Pederson flied to right field but not deep enough to score Puig.
So it was up to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: pinch hit for Darvish with Curtis Granderson, or let Darvish bat with the bases loaded and two outs. Granderson was ready to hit but Roberts allowed Darvish to bat.
Edwards obliged by walking the pitcher to force in a run. After striking out Taylor, Edwards left the field to a chorus of boos. The Cubs have had trouble hitting for almost the entire postseason, but a warm wind blowing out provided some hope they could get the bats going.
Manager Joe Maddon made one change to his starting lineup. He benched second baseman Javier Baez at the start of the game in favor of switch-hitting Ben Zobrist. Baez entered the night 0-for-19 in the postseason.
"I love him," Maddon said of Baez. "It's been frustrating. This kid is so good, and he's been such a big part of us. We've just got to keep moving forward. I know the offense is going to come back to him.
"We've just got to keep playing so we can get him right. When you look out and see him at second and Jay-Hey in right field and the rest of the crew, it's really nice. You saw the defense out in L.A. It was spectacular."
Zobrist batted leadoff and went 0-for-4, with Schwarber moving up to the second spot. The Cubs got little going all night against Darvish. They did put two on with two outs in the fourth, but Hendricks ended the inning with a strikeout.
After the game, Maddon would not go as far as to say he is disappointed in his team.
"Of course we expected more," he said. "The Dodgers have pitched well. Surprised, it's somewhat surprising. I don't want to use the word disappointing. Our guys are working really hard. They've pitched well. Hit a couple balls well. But, overall, the three games, I guess their relief pitchers have pretty much thrown a no-hitter against us, so they've been pretty good.
He also drew on the Cubs' motto of "we never quit." There's not much else he can do at this point.
"You know, listen, just the fact that our guys -- I've got the little wristband on, 'We never quit.' Something we've talked about the last three years. Not easy. Obviously. It's been done before. Theo (team president Epstein) saw it. So we have to figure out a way."
• Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports on Twitter at @BruceMiles2112.