Cubs' bullpen struggles carry over to NLCS

Rondon, Montgomery serve up key homers in Game 1 loss to Dodgers

October 15th, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- The Cubs added a fresh reliever for the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World in , and the Dodgers' Chris Taylor hit the right-hander's second pitch of the postseason for a tiebreaking home run in the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium.

It's been that kind of postseason for the Cubs' bullpen.

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After Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS, Cubs relievers now have a 7.08 ERA in six postseason games, giving up 16 earned runs over 20 1/3 innings. Only twice has the Cubs' bullpen turned in higher postseason ERAs (12.79 in three games in 1998 and 9.00 in three games in 1932).

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The Cubs beat the Dodgers in the NLCS in six games last year, but this year is different.

"Right now, I think the biggest difference is we have to get our bullpen in order," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That's probably the biggest difference between both seasons -- that we have to be able to hold small deficits or small leads in the middle and then hopefully get to [Wade Davis] in a positive situation.

"I think standing out right now, their bullpen is pretty firm, and we have to really get our feet back on the ground."

Cubs starter faced the minimum in his first four innings but walked two with one out in the fifth, and both of those runs scored. That was his last inning, with Rondon taking over in the sixth.

What happened against Taylor?

"I just missed the location, and the ball ran a little bit to the center," said Rondon, who was added to the Cubs' NLCS roster after being left off the NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile roster. "With those things, if you miss, you pay.

"When you miss a pitch, they make you pay, especially in the playoffs. They were ready for the mistake, and I threw it a little bit in the center and he got me."

Mike Montgomery replaced Rondon and served up a solo homer to before allowed an RBI single to , although that involved a replay review of the play at the plate and resulted in Maddon's ejection after an overturned call. That's another story.

It seemed as if the Dodgers' bullpen was better than the club's ace, .

"That's how this game is turning anyways -- all power arms," said. "All these guys come out throwing 95 [mph] plus with some plus curveballs and stuff like that. You've got to really lock in during that at-bat."

Montgomery didn't blame jet lag from the Cubs' long flight from Washington to Los Angeles.

"It's just a matter of when you're facing good hitters, you have to execute," Montgomery said. "I have to do a better job of that."

"It was a lot of missed locations, a lot of walks, and that's one thing that cannot happen, it cost us some games," catcher said about the Cubs' bullpen. "It's really frustrating. We came here to win the game, but they played better than us."