Levine: External Defiance, Internal Anger Detectable As Cubs Eye Rally In NLCS

By Bruce Levine–

CHICAGO (CBS) — Losing a second straight game to the Dodgers in Los Angeles to open the National League Championship Series certainly had an impact in the Cubs clubhouse Sunday night, when you could sense a more-than-subtle change in the demeanor of the players who were left to explain the 2-0 deficit.

There was a sense of urgency and defiance.

“This does nothing,” left-hander Jon Lester said of how the 2-0 deficit affects the Cubs. “We have a long way to go. That wasn’t the clinching game. We will show up and be ready to go. We will be at home, where we have played really good baseball all year. We will go from there. It is one game at a time now.”

The always-confident Cubs were displeased walking out of Dodger Stadium. It’s a group that rarely shows anger or gets too emotional after losses. These Cubs expect to win and can handle a tough loss.

What I saw in the clubhouse Sunday was a departure from that attitude. It’s by no means a defeated team but one that’s thoroughly upset by their lack of offensive production. The Cubs have scored just three runs combined in the first two games of the NLCS and have 20 in seven playoff games.

No Cub refused an interview. No player blamed anyone else or was upset with the “What happened?” line of questioning from the media. They didn’t outwardly vent their frustration. It was just palpable.

The Cubs know they’re better than what they’ve shown so far.

It was a year ago that the Cubs were down 2-1 to the Dodgers in the NLCS and entering Game 4 after being shut out in back-to-back games. Chicago responded by breaking out for a 10-2 win in Game 4 and by scoring a combined 23 runs in the final three games of the series, all wins.

The Cubs offense is looking for to rediscover the form it had in a 9-8 win against the Nationals in Game 5 of the NL Division Series. They didn’t hit a home run, but they worked quality at-bats, had nine hits and drew six walks. Seven different players scored a run as most of the lineup contributed.

“We are kind of where we were at last year at this time,” third baseman Kris Bryant said of getting outplayed by the Dodgers early in the NLCS.

“We still have a long way to go. Hopefully, we can all turn it around.”

Bryant’s teammates echoed his sentiments.

“We don’t have to do anything drastic,” outfielder Jason Heyward said. “We must see how they are attacking us, pay attention to some detail and go from there.”

Heyward was asked by a reporter what those details may involve.

“I won’t be giving them to you,” Heyward said. “I think it kind of works in your favor when you see (pitchers) more than once. When you get to play teams for possibly seven games in a row, you can really focus on them. You see their approach and see how they are attacking you. Hopefully, you can make your adjustment then.”

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

More from Bruce Levine

Watch & Listen LIVE