CHICAGO – The Cubs were hoping against hope to give the Los Angeles Dodgers something to think about as they boarded their charter plane after Thursday night’s game.
As it turns out, the Dodgers can think about playing in the World Series.
The Cubs’ longshot hopes of overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the National League Championship Series quickly vanished in the autumn air as the Dodgers routed Cubs starter Jose Quintana and handily won, 11-1, at Wrigley Field.
The Dodgers won the best-of-seven NLCS, 4-1, and ended the Cubs’ reign as defending world champions. The big star of the night was Dodgers left fielder Enrique Hernandez, who hit three home runs, including a grand slam, and had seven RBIs. For the series, the Cubs scored eight runs compared with 28 for the Dodgers. All of the Cubs’ runs in the series came via the home run.
Third baseman Kris Bryant homered Thursday but batted .200 (4 for 20) in the series. First baseman Anthony Rizzo batted .059 (1 for 17). The Cubs faced good pitching in both the division series against Washington and in the NLCS. They went up against the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg twice and Max Scherzer in one start. They faced Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw twice, including Thursday.
“Obviously, you have to give credit to them,” Bryant said. “Both series, it took a lot out of us. That first series, there was some really good pitching with the Nationals; obviously with the Dodgers, too. I think they have a group of people who turned it on at the right time and were clicking, whereas we didn’t. That was the difference.
“I think we were trying too hard. I know I was trying too hard. Sometimes you don’t get the results.”
Rizzo also didn’t have many answers.
“We did enough to beat Washington, and that’s all you can do in the postseason,” he said. “We didn’t do enough to beat the Dodgers. They pitched better than we hit. End of story.”
While Quintana didn’t have it on this night – he lasted two-plus innings, giving up six hits and six runs – Kershaw enjoyed what for him was a “legacy” start. After entering the game with a postseason record of 5-7 with a 4.57 ERA, Kershaw worked six innings, giving up three hits and one run. The run came on a too-little, too-late home run by Bryant in the fourth.
The Dodgers got a run in the first. Chris Taylor led off with a walk, and one out later, he came home on Cody Bellinger’s double.
Hernandez led off the top of the second with a homer to center. There was plenty more to come from Hernandez in the third. Quintana gave up four straight hits to start the inning before Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen and Hector Rondon.
Rondon got Logan Forsythe to strike out, but Hernandez effectively ended the Cubs’ hopes when he launched a grand slam to right-center. Hernandez added a third homer in the ninth off Mike Montgomery.
Cubs president Theo Epstein and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts were part of the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who overcame a 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series to beat the New York Yankees on the way to a World Series title.
Epstein was hoping before the game to hang the Cubs’ hats on that.
“My biggest takeaway is you’ve got to find a way to get the team that’s been up 3-0 on a plane back home having failed to close out a series twice in a row,” he said. “If you can do that, I think the momentum completely changes. The pressure changes.
“The pressure, as you fly home having not closed out a series twice in a row, that gets you thinking about a lot of things. The Yankees (in 2004) looked a lot different once we got back to Yankee Stadium. That makes tonight really big. We’ve got to find a way to win tonight.”
That way never came.
“After what we experienced last year, this is less than what we wanted,” said Ben Zobrist, the MVP of the World Series last year. “At the same time, we have to recognize how tough the year was for us. We kept battling. We ended up overtaking our division and winning the division series. I think the Dodgers were just better.”