WASHINGTON -- Before the Nationals erupted for five runs in the eighth inning of their 6-3 win over the Cubs on Saturday night, this series' focus was squarely on Washington's lack of offensive production.But with the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile heading back to Wrigley Field for Monday's
WASHINGTON -- Before the Nationals erupted for five runs in the eighth inning of their 6-3 win over the Cubs on Saturday night, this series' focus was squarely on Washington's lack of offensive production.
But with the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile heading back to Wrigley Field for Monday's Game 3 tied at one game apiece, it's the Cubs who can lament their lack of hitting -- by nearly anyone other than Kristopher Bryant or Anthony Rizzo, at least. In order for Chicago to advance to its third straight NL Championship Series, some more of the lineup will need to contribute.
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Bryant and Rizzo each went 3-for-8 at Nationals Park this weekend. Rizzo powered the Cubs' attack, driving in four of the six runs they scored while splitting two games. Remove "Bryzzo" and Willson Contreras, who homered in the second inning of Game 2, and the Cubs are a combined 4-for-39 with one extra-base hit in this series.
Granted, they have faced two excellent starting pitchers. Stephen Strasburg and Giovany Gonzalez could finish among the top five in the NL Cy Young Award voting, and Strasburg possessed no-hit stuff in Game 1 on Friday. But it will not get any easier on Monday, when the Nats are scheduled to start reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.
Still, the Cubs believe they are bound to break out and bounce back.
"I'll take this team any day," Bryant said. "I think we've got some guys that battle. We're not going to give up. That's exciting."
It shouldn't be taken lightly that Bryant and Rizzo are hitting when it matters most, nor should their accomplishments be overlooked. Rizzo ripped a two-run homer off Gonzalez in the fourth inning Saturday night to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead and now holds the Cubs' franchise records for most career postseason home runs (six) and RBIs (16).
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"I know my job is to drive in runs," Rizzo said. "I've done it for a few years now. Just take it in stride."
Bryant, who went 2-for-4 with a double in Game 2, set a franchise record for most career postseason extra-base hits, with 13. When everybody else falls into place around Bryant and Rizzo, the Cubs can count on the same dynamic lineups that posted a collective .775 OPS and scored 822 runs this season.
But Benjamin Zobrist is 1-for-8 so far this series. Javier Baez, a star last October, is 0-for-6 with three strikeouts. The rotating cast around Bryant, Rizzo and Contreras didn't deliver in either game, though Jonathan Jay had a pinch-hit double and scored an insurance run in the eighth inning of the Cubs' 3-0 win in Game 1. Aside from Bryant and Rizzo, Addison Russell (2-for-7) is the only Cubs player with multiple hits.
But the Cubs are mostly content with where they stand. They have pitched well, exempting Saturday's five-run eighth, and played solid defense. They will hold a workout during Sunday's off-day, then essentially begin a best-of-three series with two games at Wrigley Field, where they finished 48-33 this season.
"I think we played pretty well at home in front of our home fans. That's going to be fun," Bryant said. "We feel pretty good with where we're at. Obviously this game didn't go how we wanted it to, but there's a lot of good things to be taken from today and we'll move forward."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.