Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Post-NLCS Game 3 Thread: Dodgers 6, Cubs 0; The Hill's Are Alive

DODGERS 6, CUBS 0 (video recap)

Not often that the Sons of Steve Garvey will reference Julie Andrews. But after Rich Hill's most recent outing, a 2.2 IP showing in NLDS Game 5 (which had 3 H and 1 ER against 2 BBs and 6 Ks), it was awesome to see a different Rich Hill in the NLCS, as he made the Cubs' medicine go down without any spoonfuls of sugar. Dodgers take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS.

Hill's NLCS Game 3 line: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, and again 2 BB and 6 Ks. "Filthy Rich", is what called him. "Pitched a gem", said Deadspin. "Owning the Cubs", explained Fox Sports (click through for Hill with the "title belt"). Indeed, it was a great outing for Hill, who got out of a key jam in the second (Cubs had one out and two RISP; more on this in a second) for arguably his best start as a Dodger.

Here's a couple of videos recapping Hill's night:

Now, let's get back to why there were two RISP in the first place. Anthony Rizzo led off the second inning with a walk, and then with one out, stole second base (Jorge Soler walked anyway). And then with Addison Russell batting, Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal had a passed ball, allowing both runners to advance.

I was not watching the game at this time--I was listening to the game on radio--but Rick and Charley seemed to indicate that the PB was due to Grandal's attempt to frame the ball, rather than a true passed ball; Monday described the pitch as very "catchable." And at this point, I lost it on Grandal, who had been hitless in the NLCS after batting a meager .125 in the NLDS vs. Washington--the worst average of any regular starter in the Dodgers' lineup. How many runs was Yaz going to cost us? Why is Grandal so concerned about sign stealing, instead of catching the damn ball? When was Grandal going to get his shit together and start playing?

Well, in the bottom of the fourth inning, Yasmani Grandal finally showed up.

This HR stretched the lead from 1-0 (on a Corey Seager RBI in the third, scoring Andrew Toles from second) to 3-0 (Grandal's HR scored Josh Reddick as well), and seemed to put a little more wind in the sails of the Dodgers. Sure, Grandal took a little too long admiring his shot from the plate. But of all the times to start hitting, this was a good one. Welcome back, Grandal. Now I understand why Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has been behind you all postseason.

And then there's Jake Arrietta, last year's Cy Young award winner, who left the game in the sixth immediately after yielding a leadoff HR to Justin Turner:

Arrietta finished 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB and 5 Ks, but the two HR gave him a 7.20 ERA. It was surprising to see Arrietta in his worst postseason start and 17th worst start of his Cub career. But we'll take it.

On top of this, the Dodgers struck against the Cubs' bullpen (specifically, Mike Montgomery, in the eighth). The Dodgers added two more runs when Joc Pederson doubled home Yasiel Puig for a run (Puig, who singled with one out, was going on the pitch and scored with ease), and Grandal sacrificed Pederson home (Pederson stole third base in Grandal's AB).

And those are remarkable scoring opportunities as well, especially since Pederson (1-for-4) is now batting .182 in this NLCS; Grandal, even with a 1-for-3 / 2-run HR night, is still batting .167 this series; Puig, who went 2-for-2 thanks in part to a deflected infield single (off of Cubs P Travis Wood) that again showed Puig's hustle, is up to .286. All three of those guys need to start getting in their grooves as well, and maybe, just maybe, this Game 3 gives them some confidence from the plate.

[By the way, who is this new Yasiel Puig kid? Could it be that Dave Roberts, by relegating Puig to a backup role, has started to learn humility as a role player who needs to deliver performance rather than histrionics? Even Puig is sobra la importancia del juego 4; Puig sobre la clave de hoy y la importancia de asegurar la serie en casa:

Puig's change is probably not a permanent transformation by any stretch, but it is cool to watch.]

(Howie Kendrick, who has been coming off the bench due to Andrew Toles' hot hand (Toles is batting .500), is still without a hit this series. As is Chase Utley. Who starts and bats leadoff.)

Also of note, with regards to offense: Corey Seager, who entered the game 0-for-23 after the first inning this postseason, went 3-for-4 (single in the first, on schedule; but then RBI single in the third to get the Dodgers on the board; K in the sixth; and then single in the seventh). If Seager can keep hitting all game long, that's a good sign.

The playoffs are all about momentum in a small sample size, and the Dodgers--whose three hits in Game 2's 1-0 victory weren't much more than the two hits the Cubs had in that game--may have found their offensive groove a bit faster than the Cubs. Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who tinkered with the lineup before Game 3 to no avail, is clearly befuddled:

"We're not hitting the ball hard," Maddon said after the 6-0 loss. "Obviously, I have no solid explanation."

No one does.

When an offense slumps, particularly its stars, finding a reason can be as tough as finding the solution. One thing feels certain: The number of players slumping at once isn't a coincidence -- and it's not all about Dodger pitching."I think it's our hitting," Dexter Fowler (.179) said. "We've hit the best of the best. The past few days we just haven't been doing it."

But why? That's what every Cubs fan wants to know. Why now? They can't buy a big hit -- they were shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since May 2014 and now trail 2-1 in their best-of-seven series. The slump could not have come at a worse time.

"Offensively, we haven't executed and put it all together and passed the baton," Chris Coghlan said. "We have to have more productive at-bats. There's not one solution."

If you're keeping track, the Cubs haven't scored since they rocked Wrigley Field in the eighth inning of Game 1 with Miguel Montero's grand slam followed by a Fowler solo shot. That feels like ages ago; the Cubs have managed six hits since then, including just four on Tuesday.

Maybe Game 3 changes if Russell comes through after Dodgers starter Rich Hill opened the door for a rally by walking two batters in the second. A passed ball moved them up a base, but the man who came through in the clutch so often this season has done anything but during the playoffs. Russell struck out -- granted it was on a nasty curveball -- and the offense did little the rest of the game. Hill was good; Cubs' hitting was not. That's the storyline of the postseason so far.

"One you get something on the board, you're like let's roll," Coghlan said. "Then it is contagious. We can pretend like it's not, but it is."

It's contagious both ways, and unfortunately for the Cubs, everything is working against them. It seems that Kris Bryant (.357) is the only batter who's having a good playoffs. Even Javier Baez came back to Earth, showing some shakiness in the field and going 0-for-4 at the plate.

I would argue that it is indeed about Dodger pitching: Clayton Kershaw with a masterful performance in Game 2, followed by Hill's performance in Game 3, both punctuated by scoreless Kenley Jansen outings each longer than the traditional one-inning closer role. Sure, there's pressure on Arrietta and the Cubs. The LAT's Dylan Hernandez says the Cubs are choking.

I wouldn't go that far. It's a razor-thin 2-1 series lead. The Cubs aren't panicking. And I'm confident that the Cubs will start figuring it out as well (possibly tonight, against Julio Urias, who will be the youngest pitcher ever to start a postseason game), and not leave Kris Bryant (.357) as the Cubs' only batter who seems grooved (and even Bryant struck out swinging with Dexter Fowler on second in the top of the eighth).

Maddon and the team kept the post-game locker room very loose, by reporters' accounts:

"They're going to react to how I'm going to react," Maddon said. "I've always believed that. I've always thought, for me, regardless of the situation, that I have to be consistent when I walk into the room. They have to see consistency from me, which hopefully they're going to be able to do. But beyond that, man, like I said, there is not a whole lot to do except come out and play again tomorrow."

We need to get rolling early in Game 4, to make sure Julio Urias stays level-headed. And extending the streak of games with a HR to nine games would also be nice.

So the Dodgers finally win a 2016 postseason game that does not involve Clayton Kershaw (who was interviewed mid-game, though), and take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS with a second straight shutout, marking the first time in 200 postseason games that a Dodgers team has had two consecutive shutouts. The statistics for teams which win Game 3 in a best-of-seven are good (61% margin of victory). ( has the Cubs' chances at a much more positive 40%, also noting that the Cubs' offensive woes should not persist, Arrietta's outing was unusually and aberrantly bad, and the Cubs didn't fold in the NLDS when we thought they would.) Vegas has put the Dodgers as favorites for the first time this series, which I think is a market overreaction. had Game 3 as a 50%-50% outcome. The Cubs are 51%-49% tonight (with playoff veteran, and overall veteran, John Lackey going against Urias). Lackey is 8-5 lifetime in the postseason, with a 3.22 ERA (his 11-8 regular season record gave him a ERA+ of 120 this year; Urias' 5-2 record carried a 115 ERA+).

After scoring 6 runs or more in a game, the Dodgers are 24-47 in the following game, and only 15-15 when facing the same team. So that's basically 50-50 odds. However, the bats tend to get quieter in the next game: after scoring 6+ runs in one game, the Dodgers would follow up with another 6+ run game only 19% of the time (9/47). So unfortunately, Urias will likely have less run support tonight. [This paragraph is from the SoSG stat department / cursory check, so it may not be fully accurate.]

Anyway, these games could literally tip either way, and as incredible as a 3-1 lead would be, a 2-2 split with at least one guaranteed game back at Wrigley Field sounds deflating. We need to build upon Game 3's momentum and make sure the bats keep rolling.

Let's go, Dodgers!


QuadSevens said...

This post is so full of info, my head is spinning. In a good way.

QuadSevens said...

Was it just me, or did Kenley's leg kick look exactly like Kershaw's at times? In the video recap you can see it just before the final out.

Steve Sax said...

Hey thanks Quad. Yeah I really should be posting these before I go to bed, as they're long reads...

Steve Sax said...

I'm in the stadium.

Orel said...

...on FS1