CHICAGO -- All you had to do was look in Carl Edwards Jr.'s eyes on Sunday to know the Cubs reliever has his confidence back.
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The right-hander had a roller-coaster ride in the National League Division Series, which included Game 2, when Bryce Harper launched a home run off of him. Edwards was the only Cubs pitcher who appeared in all five games against the Nationals, and he headed into the NL Championship Series presented by Camping World with an unsightly 23.14 ERA in the postseason.
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But in the Cubs' 4-1 loss to the Dodgers in Sunday's Game 2 of the NLCS, Edwards looked sharp, striking out three of the four batters he faced. And the 26-year-old sounded confident.
"It's like a new season," he said.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon knows how good Edwards can be. The numbers show the potential. Since 2015, batters are hitting .143 against the right-hander's fastball. According to Statcast™, that's the lowest of any Major League pitcher in that time frame (minimum 200 at-bats).
What was a surprise during the NLDS were the walks. Edwards issued four over 2 1/3 innings.
"It happens," Edwards said. "If we go back, the same thing happened against the [Nationals] earlier in the year. I gave up a grand slam. It's something about them. It's a new start now, and I have a lot of confidence."
The Nats' Matt Wieters connected on that slam on Aug. 6 in a regular-season game. Edwards took the loss in that contest, giving up two hits and walking a batter.
Edwards who is so skinny he looks as if he could fit into one of Anthony Rizzo's pants legs, led the Cubs pitchers in appearances in 2017, pitching in 73 games. That's quite a change from a year ago, when the Cubs were careful, avoiding back-to-back outings to help him build up arm strength. Edwards finished with an impressive 2.98 ERA this year, but both he and lefty Mike Montgomery have had a tough time in the postseason.
"They have not been on top of their game, and they'll be the first two guys to tell you that," Maddon said of the pair. "But we're not winning any more games without them. You have to keep working at it, keep talking to them. Anything they perceive to be flaws, you have to work on. These are our guys. They got us to this point in the year."
Video: NLCS Gm2: Edwards Jr. strikes out Utley swinging
After the NLDS, Edwards talked to Maddon. He talked to family. He talked to everybody.
"Everybody says the same thing," Edwards said before Game 2 against the Dodgers. "It's nothing I haven't been through before. My confidence is still high. We'll never know until I get out there."
Edwards showed he was ready, striking out pinch-hitter Chase Utley to end the fifth and strand two runners, then fanning Logan Forsythe and Yasiel Puig in the sixth.
The Cubs' bullpen has had a rough time, compiling a 7.03 ERA in the postseason. Left-hander Justin Wilson, acquired at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline from the Tigers to be a setup pitcher, is not on the NLCS roster. John Lackey, switched from the rotation to relief, served up Justin Turner's three-run, walk-off homer in Game 2.
Video: NLCS Gm2: Maddon on Edwards Jr.'s return to form
Edwards knows Lackey and the rest of the relief corps will bounce back.
"I'm not more important than anybody else on this team," Edwards said. "I'm the same guy who was coming out in the sixth inning last year. I'm still the same guy. That's how we're going to go about our business. I'm not going to try to put more pressure on myself, and the team isn't going to put more pressure on me.
"This game is built for failure. I sat down and watched Derek Jeter -- he said it perfectly. He said this game is meant for you to fail. when you're doing good, you're not as good as you think you are, and when you're going bad, you're not that bad -- you're really not that bad. It's just a couple of miscues, and that's it."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.