By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cubs’ game plan was a good one in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. They wanted to attack Dodgers right-hander Yu Darvish early, with the scouting report suggesting to go after his fastball and splitter within the first two pitches of an at-bat.
It worked for an inning, nothing more. Now, the Cubs find themselves in a massive hole.
The Cubs lost 6-1 to the Dodgers at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night to fall behind 3-0 in the NLCS. Their only offense came on Kyle Schwarber’s solo homer in the first inning, when he belted a fastball the other way into the left-field bleachers. They followed with two more hits in the inning before stranding two.
Chicago would then manage just five more hits the rest of the game, flummoxed by Darvish and the vaunted Los Angeles bullpen.
All the the Cubs could do was shake their heads, hope to stave off elimination in Game 4 on Wednesday and offer some curious comments.
“It may be crazy to say, this but the pressure is on the Dodgers,” outfielder Albert Amora said. “The pressure was on the Yankees when they were up 3-0 on the 2004 Red Sox. They now have to finish the job. By the look in the media and fans’ eyes, it looks like our season is over. I don’t believe there is a soul in here who believes that. The pressure is on them to finish us off. We are coming in to play our best game on Wednesday.”
The 2004 Red Sox that Almora mentioned are the only team to ever rally from a 3-0 deficit in MLB history. The general manager of that team was current Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
There will be no miracle this time unless the Cubs find their top form, which they haven’t come close to showcasing in falling behind 3-0.
“The Dodgers have played way better baseball than us,” said Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks, the losing pitcher after going five innings and allowing four runs, three earned. “The team playing the best baseball usually wins. We are going to take it as a big challenge for us. We have overcome a lot of challenges with this team. We will take it one game at a time, starting tomorrow.”
The Cubs are no strangers to sweeps as a franchise, having been swept six times in their history, including in the 2015 NLCS to the Mets. Since then though, this group has become known for its resiliency in rallying from a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers in the 2016 NLCS, a 3-1 deficit against the Indians in the 2016 World Series and in winning Game 5 on the road against the Nationals last week.
So what will it take for these Cubs to get back in the fray? It starts with the offense, which has scored just four runs total in the three NLCS losses, walked just four times in that stretch and entered Tuesday hitting .162. In Game 3, Darvish went 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on six hits and a walk while striking out seven.
“We have nothing to lose,” Cubs shortstop Addison Russell said. “We just have to go out there and play our hearts out. At this point and time, we just have to lay it all on the table. That is a great ball club over there. So tomorrow we just have to win.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.