Cubs' bats finding it tough to spark rallies
Lineup is 0-for-25 in leading off innings in NLCS
CHICAGO -- It's hard enough to score at all against this dynamic group of young Mets pitchers. But as the Cubs have been unable to get a rally going to begin any inning in this National League Championship Series, their disadvantage has only grown.
After going 0-for-9 in such situations in Tuesday night's 5-2 Game 3 loss, the Cubs are now a debilitating 0-for-25 leading off innings in the series. The only solace came in Game 1, when Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch to lead off the fifth and walked to lead off the seventh.
"It is tough," said Cubs catcher Miguel Montero, who preaches to Chicago pitchers the value of securing the first out of every inning. "It's very important to get the first out. It's very important that every play which should be an out, to get an out. This team [the Mets] is playing pretty good ball right now, so you can't give them a break.
"Once you give them a break, you're going to pay for it. So that's why we've got to take every out. We can't just give them away."
Without the benefit of any zero-out rallies, the Cubs have been forced to both rely on the long ball and to play catchup all series. Of their 29 runs scored this postseason, 21 (72.4 percent) have come via the home run.
Still, those homers haven't mattered much in the NLCS: Chicago has not led at any point through three games of the best-of-seven series.
"It's not been any fun," manager Joe Maddon said. "Today, the weather was more favorable to us, and I thought overall we did hit some balls well. [Kyle Schwarber], that ball was at least six inches outside that he hit for a home run [in the first inning], and then [Jorge Soler] crushed that [home run in the fourth inning] to center field. But overall, we didn't do a good job with that. We didn't do a good job of getting on base early."
Still, Maddon is quick to credit the Mets' outstanding pitching. The only pitcher to allow leadoff runners on base -- Matt Harvey in Game 1 -- handcuffed the Cubs on the whole, holding them to two runs on four hits in 7 2/3 innings. One of those runs did come in the fifth, when Rizzo was hit by a pitch in the first at-bat of the inning and scored on a Starlin Castro double.
"They're good," Schwarber said. "It's tough to get things started off them. You just have to go up there and battle and keep grinding your at-bats out, and maybe some results will change. We keep hitting some balls hard, but it seems to be right at someone.
"Lady luck is not on our side right now."