LOS ANGELES -- Consider it a case of Déjà Blue for the Cubs, whose offense has gone mostly missing once again with a spot in the World Series at stake.After fading quietly while being swept out of the National League Championship Series last October, the Cubs have dug themselves into
LOS ANGELES -- Consider it a case of Déjà Blue for the Cubs, whose offense has gone mostly missing once again with a spot in the World Series at stake.
After fading quietly while being swept out of the National League Championship Series last October, the Cubs have dug themselves into another NLCS hole after a 6-0 loss to the Dodgers in Game 3 on Tuesday. Their scoring drought has reached 18 innings -- longer than any such stretch they endured in the regular season -- and concerns about the suddenly silent bats have ticked up a notch now that Chicago finds itself trailing for the first time this postseason.
• NLCS Game 4: Today at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on FS1
"Just based on what we've done this year, sure, it's surprising," said Kris Bryant, who had one of Chicago's four hits on Tuesday. "It's happening at the wrong time, but we have more games to play, more times to get that confidence back and figure things out. I'm sure we will. We've done it all year. We're here for a reason. Belief is very powerful, and I think we all have that here."
:: NLCS: Dodgers vs. Cubs coverage ::
The Cubs had never been shut out twice in the same postseason, but they are now the first team since the 2012 Tigers to be blanked in consecutive games. In fact, the last time the Cubs shouldered back-to-back shutouts at any point in a season, Joe Maddon was still managing the Rays.
What Maddon is seeing now is reminiscent of what stung his club last fall, when it couldn't tally more than six hits in any of its four NLCS games against the Mets. Over the last two games, the Cubs have six hits in total.
"We're just not hitting the ball well," Maddon said after Tuesday's loss. "We're doing the same kind of routines, the work is the same, the batting practice is the same, or the lack of it is the same, and we're just not getting the results right now. There is really no excuse. We just have to pick it up quickly."
The Cubs generated just one ball with an exit velocity of 100 mph, according to Statcast™. That was Dexter Fowler's double in the eighth inning (102.5 mph), which was also the team's lone extra-base hit in its last two games.
"I think we're trying to do too much," catcher Miguel Montero said. "I think we're all trying to be heroes here. We just need to be ourselves. We need to calm down and go out there and take one pitch at a time. Don't try to hit a three-run homer with nobody on. Take your base hit, take your walk."
The Cubs didn't face much offensive adversity this season. They ranked second in the NL with 808 runs scored, eighth most in modern franchise history, and boasted a .772 team OPS, trailing only the Red Sox and Rockies.
Getting back to resembling the team that averaged nearly five runs a game will require a revival of some of the offensive cogs. Regulars Ben Zobrist (.154), Anthony Rizzo (.077), Addison Russell (.042) and Jason Heyward (.105) have not sustained any production through six postseason games. In fact, the pitching staff has driven in twice as many runs (six) as those four combined.
Maddon attempted a different look by dropping Rizzo and Russell in the batting order and swapping Heyward for Jorge Soler. It proved fruitless. Soler sunk to 0-for-7 in the postseason, and Russell struck out in the Cubs' only at-bat with a runner in scoring position and less than two out.
"You just have to mentally hang in there and keep pushing back until you get it," Maddon said. "It's just about hard contact. Overall, the at-bats haven't been bad. We're just not hitting the balls. We're not striking it well. So we're making it easier on their defense. But it's more of a mental exercise than it is a physical one right now for me."
Of course, the pitchers the Cubs have faced deserve credit for their ability to stifle Chicago's offense. After facing a pair of Cy Young candidates (Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner) in the Division Series, the Cubs were stymied by another in Clayton Kershaw on Monday.
On Tuesday it was the unfamiliarity of Rich Hill that caused Chicago fits. Only two of the Cubs' starters -- Zobrist and Montero -- had faced Hill previously. Hill delivered a heavy dose of curveballs (55 percent), and that exposed the Cubs, who had the lowest average exit velocity against curveballs in 2016 at 84.3 mph, according to Statcast™.
If there's good news, it's this: The Cubs get the benefit of facing a more familiar foe in rookie Julio Urías in Game 4. They scored seven runs (six earned) in 11 innings against Urias during the regular season. The Cubs also haven't lost three straight since the All-Star break.
"You go in ruts and you snap back out of them, score five or six runs, and then it's something different," Fowler said. "We'll be all right. It's not a predicament. It's a seven-game series for a reason."
Jenifer Langosch has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2007.