By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Cubs didn’t hit much during their victory against the Giants in the National League Divisional Series.
Collectively, the team hit .200 across four NLDS games. One of the main cogs of the lineup was stuck in first gear against the Giants: shortstop Addison Russell hit .067 (1-of-15). Russell — along with Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward — managed just one hit.
It won’t get any easier for the Cubs hitters as they face Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, which starts Saturday with a 7:08 p.m. first pitch at Wrigley Field.
“They are obviously pretty good,” Russell said. “They have a few good arms and overall they are a pretty solid team. It is going to be a very good series, I believe.”
The contributions by Russell have been many. His 95 RBIs were a shock to anyone who hadn’t watched his development from the lower minors until now.
“No question, he was going to hit,” a scout who’s advancing the Cubs for his team said “I saw him in high school and the ball just jumped off of his bat. Projecting power was not tough, either. You look at his shoulders, and you see how he would fill into his body. He played at 22 this season. Look out for the damage he will wreck on the league the next couple of seasons.”
Russell played his first full season in the major leagues this year. The last month of the season was the worst for him at bat. He had just 18 hits and nine RBIs in September. This protected slump has now moved with him into postseason.
“Look, this is a team thing for us right now,” Russell said. “The last three wins we had were all team wins. Good decision-making by Joe (Maddon) as well. That is a good thing moving forward. With the Dodgers, it’s a different series and different dynamic. We must be ready to play.”
Russell was pinch-hit for in the fourth and clinching game of the NLDS. He was upset with the decision, but as you can see by the previous quote, he realized Maddon was right in getting a hotter hitter in Willson Contreras in the lineup instead of him.
This will be Russell’s first NLCS. He strained a hamstring in the 2015 NLDS and missed the entire next round against the Mets.
“I am excited about it,” Russell said. “The atmosphere and what it brings to the table is exciting. I will just go out there and play with my teammates — have some fun.”
The Cubs know that little things may determine who wins the NLCS.
“We try very hard to cut down on mental mistakes,” Russell said. “Base-running mistakes, infield and outfield mistakes have to be at a minimum. We need to stay in the moment. This season, for this team, we have managed for the most part to do that. Stay focused every pitch and every play.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.