By Bruce Levine–
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Right-hander Jake Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs had to wear it Tuesday evening after a 6-0 loss in Game 3 that left the Dodgers in the driver’s seat with a 2-1 lead in the National League Championship Series.
Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill, a former Cub, pitched the game of his career and was supported by home runs by Yasmani Grandal and Justin Turner. The Grandal long ball was a two-run shot that gave Hill all the breathing room he needed, putting Los Angeles up 3-0 in the fourth inning. That in itself looked like a much larger lead considering the struggles of the Chicago offense, which has now been shut out in consecutive postseason games for the first time in franchise history.
“We are just not hitting the ball well,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
“There is really no excuse. We just have to pick it up quickly.”
Hill fired six scoreless innings, holding the Cubs to two hits and two walks in a 93-pitch outing. The hapless Chicago hitters haven’t any momentum or shown consistency in the past two games, as they only had two hits and a sole walk off Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw in a Game 2 loss.
After adding inserting Jorge Soler in place of Jason Heyward in the starting lineup and moving some of his hitters, Maddon didn’t get different results from his slumping unit.
“We are not hitting the ball hard,” Maddon said.
“They have pitched well obviously. After that, I have no explanation. We just must keep working at it.”
Grandal becomes the latest version of Steve Garvey, Will Clark and James Loney. All had home runs that helped the bell toll for the Cubs’ championship dreams in seasons past.
On Tuesday, it was a two-seam fastball down in the zone that Grandal belted out of the park to center field.
“Obviously, he was looking for a fastball there,” said Arrieta, who took the loss, allowing four earned runs in five innings. “In a 3-2 count, I wanted to challenge him. I really thought like I executed well. Sometimes the hitters capitalize and beat you in a situation like that. It wasn’t ideal from my perspective. I probably make that pitch nine of 10 times and be OK with it.”
The plot thickens for the Cubs now, as they’re 0-5 in their postseason history when trailing a series 2-1. Chicago has also never won an NLCS game in California, as it fell in three straight to San Diego in 1984 and in three straight to San Francisco in 1989 before Tuesday’s loss.
The Cubs have also lost four straight NLCS games on the road, dating back to Game 5 of the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins.
Now, the season has reached a critical juncture, with veteran right-hander John Lackey taking the ball for the Cubs in Game 4 on Tuesday. He’ll be opposed by 20-year-old Dodgers rookie left-hander Julio Urias.
Asked if a “moment of truth” awaits for the Cubs, Maddon didn’t think in those terms.
“I am so bad at drawing lines in the sand,” Maddon said. “Again, for me it’s about putting this one in the wastebasket. It’s always one game at a time that I’ve preached that all season. We have another very good pitcher going tomorrow.
“The narrative will change entirely if we are able to win Game 4.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.