CHICAGO — An endless loop of the fight song, “Go Cubs, go” and healthy dose of prayer might be the only chance remaining for the defending World Series champions.
For the first two games of this NLCS it was the Dodgers’ bullpen that put a beatdown on the Cubs. Tuesday night it was Yu Darvish, with the kind of impressive October performance the Dodgers envisioned when they acquired the star right-hander from Texas at the trade deadline.
Maybe the only question now for the Cubs is if they can avoid getting swept. With Darvish in control the Dodgers won Game 3 of the NLCS, 6-1 at Wrigley Field to move within one victory of the franchise’s first World Series appearance since 1988.
The Dodgers, who are 6-0 this postseason, will send Alex Wood to the mound against Jake Arrieta on Wednesday in an attempt to finish the job in four games. The 2004 Red Sox, for which Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was a player and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein the general manager, became the only team to overcome an 0-3 deficit in the postseason when they beat the Yankees in the ALCS.
“It’s been done before — Theo saw it — so we have to figure out a way,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Grabbing a lead and just hitting their pitchers finally. They have pretty much stifled us.”
Darvish manhandled the Cubs over 6 ¹/₃ innings, allowing only one run on six hits with one walk and seven strikeouts.
“This is why you trade for guys like that,” Roberts said.
And Darvish had a key at-bat, drawing a bases-loaded walk on four pitches from Carl Edwards Jr., in the sixth after Roberts appeared ready to send up Curtis Granderson as a pinch-hitter. Granderson was recalled at the last moment and Darvish drew the walk for the Dodgers’ fourth run.
Chris Taylor belts an RBI triple in the fifth inning.UPI
“A guy who throws 95, 96 with a cutter, he’s got something special going,” Darvish said. “I didn’t think I had a chance to hit, so I just wanted to try to do something, draw a walk or maybe get hit by a pitch, anything just to score runs.”
The Cubs’ offensive woes continued, with Kyle Schwarber’s first-inning homer accounting for the team’s only run. Tony Watson, Brandon Morrow, Ross Stripling and Kenley Jansen combined to pitch the final 2 ²/₃ innings. The performance extended the bullpen’s scoreless streak to 10 ²/₃ innings in the NLCS, but Mike Avila’s single in the ninth snapped the Cubs’ 0-for-29 drought against Dodgers relievers in the series. The hitless streak was the longest in major-league history against a bullpen, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“As an organization we’ve done a great job of putting together not only a roster, but a pen that we feel can combat any lineup,” Roberts said.
The Dodgers built a cushion with two runs in the eighth against reliever Mike Montgomery.
Chris Taylor led the Dodgers’ offensive attack against Kyle Hendricks, finishing with a homer and an RBI triple. Andre Ethier also homered for the Dodgers.
Hendricks, last year’s postseason pitching hero for the Cubs, struggled through five innings in which he allowed four runs, three earned, on six hits and one walk with five strikeouts. The right-hander also struggled in his start against the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS, when he allowed four earned runs over four innings.
Taylor ripped an RBI triple in the fifth against Hendricks that put the Cubs in a 3-1 hole. Joc Pederson doubled leading off the inning and failed to advance on the pitcher Darvish’s bunt, but scored easily as Taylor was motoring to third on a shot into the left-field corner. But Taylor was thrown out at the plate by Anthony Rizzo attempting to score on Cody Bellinger’s grounder.
Taylor blasted a monstrous home run over the center field fence in the third to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. It was the second homer this postseason for Taylor, who shifted to shortstop Tuesday after Charlie Culberson played the position for the first two games of the series.
The Dodgers are without starting shortstop Corey Seager, who was excluded from the NLCS roster because of back discomfort.
Ethier’s homer leading off the second tied it 1-1. The veteran outfielder Ethier was making his first start this postseason, giving the Dodgers another left-handed bat in the lineup.
Schwarber homered in the first inning for the game’s first run. Darvish left an 89-mph cutter over the plate that Schwarber launched into the left-field seats.