Rich Hill is the latest Dodger to leave Cubs with a blank slate; LA takes 2-1 NLCS lead

first_imgThey knew they needed a No. 2 starter in the playoffs and they weren’t sure who that would be. Scott Kazmir was inconsistent and Kenta Maeda was being asked to pitch on a more hectic schedule than ever before. Hill was 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA for Oakland and his raw numbers were better in Los Angeles. But doubts about the mega-blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand made it hard for Dodgers fans to buy in.A couple of truncated starts in the Division Series against Washington didn’t bring reassurance. For Game 3 Tuesday, Hill was matched up against Jake Arrieta, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner who had effortlessly no-hit the Dodgers last summer.If someone had told you that Hill would actually get to bat twice in the first five innings, and would only need 80 pitches to get through those innings would you have taken it? The Dodgers certainly would have. The truly greedy among you would have dreamed of two hits over six shutout innings. That’s what Hill provided.He escaped a tight spot in the second, after he’d walked Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler, but he struck out Addison Russell and got Miguel Montero on a grounder. He churned through the next three innings, and was rewarded with a 3-0 lead. When he dropped to sidearm and struck out Rizzo with Kris Bryant aboard and two out in the sixth, he pumped his fist and manager Dave Roberts held both fists aloft.Josh Reddick, who came over from Oakland with Hill, banged a base hit off Arrieta’s glove in the fifth inning and was on third base when Arrieta threw a fastball on the corner to Yasmani Grandal. That apparent strikeout became a 3-2 count. After a foul ball, Grandal hammered a down-and-in fastball into the right-field pavilion, giving the Dodgers a three-run cushion. He was 2 for 20 for the playoffs before that.This has been such a dry Championship Series round that the Dodgers’ .197 batting average was the highest of the four participants. The Cubs’ starting rotation was supposedly the ultimate weapon. They put together 100 quality starts in the regular season, eight more than anyone else in the National League and 40 more than the Dodgers had. But when the Dodgers got the only run they needed to beat Kyle Hendricks on Sunday, the series began to tilt. The conquest of Arrieta was even bigger.Wednesday, the Dodgers run 20-year-old Julio Urias out there for Game 4 as the youngest postseason starting pitcher in history. The Cubs respond with John Lackey, a postseason warhorse for most of this century, but Lackey hasn’t been as sharp lately. He had one quality start in September and gave up seven hits in four innings when he faced San Francisco in the Division Series.The Cubs can rediscover their ruthless side at any time. But baseball curses can’t be lifted by zeros. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error LOS ANGELES >> Few Cubs’ teams, over the decades, have been truly ruthless. This one was.It averaged 4.99 runs per game, led the National League in on-base percentage, won 103 games, and scored 252 more runs than its opponents. The Cubs didn’t just beat you, they left your bullpen bleeding and your hitters paralyzed.In fact, the Cubs have been shut out only eight times in 169 games. But the Dodgers have administered four of those shutouts, including this 6-0 number in Game 3 of the N.L. Championship Series, which they now lead 2-1.• PHOTOS: Dodgers take 2-1 series leadcenter_img This was the caveat, the billy goat hiding in the shadows. What would happen if the Cubs ran into someone who could match their starting pitching and then boil the game down to clutch hitting and details?Chicago was 22-23 in one-run games. That seemed a blip when the playoffs began. The Cubs will not win that elusive championship, or even get to the World Series, if it turns out to be a characteristic.They were blanked by Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen in Game 2, and they were blanked again by Rich Hill, Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton and Jansen here. They haven’t scored since the five-run eighth in Game 1 and they have failed to score in 23 of their 26 times at bat.The Dodgers got homers from Yasmani Grandal and Justin Turner and a three-hit night from the previously struggling Corey Seager. And, for the first time all season, the Cubs find themselves playing from behind.Nights like Tuesday are why the Dodgers’ seven-GM Army sent three minor league pitchers to Oakland for Hill, who was in the middle of an outstanding season in solitude. last_img