LOS ANGELES — On the fifth day of the season, the Cubs lost to Arizona to fall one game out of first place in the NL Central. They recovered. They won the next night and were never out of first again.
Five-and-a-half months later, the 103-win Cubs find themselves in a similar situation after a 6-0 loss in Game 3 of the NLCS to the Dodgers here Tuesday, falling into a 2-1 series series hole.
They seem about as concerned as they were then.
“I’m so bad at drawing lines in the sand and things,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s about putting this one in the wastebasket and coming back and play tomorrow. We’re just not hitting the ball well.”
The worst thing that happened to the Cubs in the 2015 NLCS was the New York Mets’ pitching staff. The Mets swept the series in four games, holding the Cubs to eight runs. The Cubs never led in the series.
The Dodgers are turning that into an unwelcome reprise, but the Cubs see it a little differently.
“To be honest, I don’t want to be understood the wrong way, but I think the Mets had a maybe better pitching staff,” Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. “They’re good pitchers, too, the Dodgers, don’t get me wrong. I don’t see any panic mode. Nothing like that.”
A lot differently.
“I felt like last year the (Mets’) pitching just beat us, and I feel like right now we’ve had some chances,” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryan said.
“We’re only down two to one. We feel fine.”
The Cubs scored eight runs in the first game of this NLCS but have not scored since Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler hit back-to-back homers in the eighth inning of the 8-4 Game 1 victory.
They have only six hits in 18 innings in the last two games, started by left-handers Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, and they will face another left-hander in 20-year-old Julio Urias in Game 4 Wednesday.
The Cubs’ scoreless streak reached a franchise playoff-high 18 innings, passing the 1907 team.
“In this game, nothing can surprise you,” Montero said. “Obviously we had high expectations of ourselves. You can’t live in past. Rejuvenate yourself tonight.
“Maybe have a few drinks and forget about it and come back tomorrow and have fun.”
As in Kershaw’s start Sunday, the Cubs had two runners on base in only one inning.
Montero had the Cubs’ only at-bat with two runners on base Tuesday, but he grounded to second base with runners on first and second and two outs, hitting one of 20 curve balls Hill threw in the second inning, the only one in which he was in trouble.
The Cubs were shut out only six times in the regular season, only twice since June 1.
One time by James Shields and the White Sox, and the last time by a five-man Dodgers group in a game started by Brock Stewart on Aug. 28. So the Dodgers have shut out the Cubs three of the last four games they have played.
No runs in two straight games?
“I don’t gamble, but I probably would have gambled on that one,” Montero said.
“You have to give credit their pitchers, too. I think they’ve been pitching us well. I don’t like to talk about matches, because I think that is overrated. We haven’t gotten anything going. You have good pitchers out there, but you can’t give them too much credit.”
The Cubs tweaked their lineup Tuesday in an attempt to get a jump start. Maddon hit Ben Zobrist third and Anthony Rizzo fourth, flipping them in the lineup. Javier Baez moved up and Addison Russell moved down, and Jorge Soler played right field for the second time in the postseason against lefty Hill, replacing Jason Heyward.
Bryant had two hits — he is 10-for-26 in the No. 2 hole — but the middle of the lineup still could not get him home. He was scored two runs in seven postseason games. Anthony Rizzo’s broken-bat infield single in the ninth inning was his second hit of the postseason. Russell has one.
While the pitching obviously is a notch above in the postseason, this is the same Cubs team that was second in the NL in runs and led the NL in on-base percentage. They are hitting .161 in the first three games of this series.
“If you look at our season and how we’ve got here, it’s a little surprising,” Bryant said. “The peaks and valleys of this game, they happen all the time. Right now, we’re in a valley, collectively, which isn’t ideal. But I’ve seen it all year long where we pull out of it pretty quick, and I’m confident we’ll do that.”
On his way to the 2015 Cy Young recognition, Jake Arrieta no-hit the Dodgers the last time he pitched in the twilight here, on Aug. 30, 2015.
But rookie shortstop Corey Seager did not play that night, Justin Turner did not start, Josh Roddick was in Oakland and Rich Hill was in the International League in the Red Sox organization.
Arrieta got through the first two innings easily before the Dodgers got Seager’s RBI single in the third and homers by Yasmani Grandal and Turner made it 4-0.
Grandal’s homer, for a 3-0 lead with two outs in the fourth inning, came on a 3-2 pitch. The pitch before was a borderline strike, but the Cubs did not get the call.
“It was close,” Montero said of the 2-2 pitch. “It could have gone either way.”