Levine: Cubs’ Offensive Drought Puts Them In Precarious Spot In NLCS

By Bruce Levine–

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The Cubs hit the second-most home runs in their franchise history and scored the second-most runs in the National League this season.

As good as those numbers were, their postseason has been another story altogether.

The Cubs lost 4-1 to the Dodgers in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday night, falling in a 2-0 hole in the series. While Justin Turner’s walk-off three-run homer off John Lackey was the decisive blow, an anemic Cubs offense also deserved heavy blame for the defeat.

In seven postseason games, the Cubs are hitting just .162, which ranks last among the 10 teams to advance to the playoffs. That included an anemic three-hit showing in the Game 2 loss. The Cubs’ lone run came on Addison Russell’s solo homer in the fifth inning for a brief 1-0 lead.

“Everybody in the lineup feels if you don’t produce, you have let the team down,” said third baseman Kris Bryant, who is 5-of-28 with no homers and two RBI in the playoffs. “That just really isn’t the case. Not one person makes or breaks the team. It is not what you do in the playoffs. It is what the team does. Obviously, we haven’t been getting it done so far in this series.”

On Sunday evening, it was Rich Hill who initially stifled the Cubs in throwing five innings of one-run ball while striking out eight. But it’s the Dodgers bullpen that has really dominated, as it threw four scoreless innings for the second time in as many days. The only baserunner that Chicago has produced in eight innings against the Los Angeles bullpen came via a hit by pitch.

“Those guys are really good,” Russell said. “As far a being selective, as a team we could do better. But those guys are making their pitches.”

The Cubs have scored 20 runs in seven playoff games, and nine of those came in the Game 5 clincher in the NL Division Series. Take that out, and Chicago is averaging 1.8 runs in the other six games.

Where has all the firepower gone? Well, the struggles have been widespread. In addition to Bryant’s limited production, Javier Baez is 0-of-19, Anthony Rizzo is 4-of-26, Russell is 5-of-24, Willson Contreras is 4-of-22 and Jason Heyward is 2-of-15. The Cubs are striking out 10.4 times per game.

That means almost 40 percent of the time the offense failed to put the ball in play.As an example, Hill had a career postseason-high eight strikeouts after his five innings Sunday.

The Cubs have faced some of the game’s finest pitchers in the playoffs, including Stephen Strasburg (twice), Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw. That remains no excuse, though, in manager Joe Maddon’s mind.

“We have to do better than one run,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to do better than that. Offensively, we kind of have been stifled. We are fortunate to be in the position we are in right now based on the number of runs we’ve scored over the last week.”

All the Cubs can do is turn their attention to Game 3, which takes place at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

“This is a totally unselfish team,” Bryant said. “Nobody is pouting or down on themselves. We just have to go out there Tuesday and come together as a team. Don’t take too much worry upon yourself.”

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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