No title repeat: Cubs bow out in Game 5 against Dodgers
CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs went 108 years between championships. Going home without a trophy isn’t really new.
Still, it was jarring to see the reigning World Series champions go down without much of a fight.
After twice fending off elimination during their October title defense, the Cubs had nothing left for Game 5 of their NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Jose Quintana got knocked out early, the offense was shut down by Clayton Kershaw and the Cubs fell 11-1 on Thursday night after getting outplayed throughout the series.
The Cubs slumped early in the season, a year after rallying to beat Cleveland for their first World Series title since 1908. But in the second half, they looked more like their old selves, pushing for a second straight NL Central title and then advancing to the NLCS for the third straight year after winning a wild Game 5 at Washington in the NLDS.
They just couldn’t hang with the 104-win Dodgers.
“I think if you look at this series, they did exactly what they needed to do to beat (us),” star slugger Anthony Rizzo said. “They executed their plan. They pitched great and the bullpen was lights out. That makes for a tough time scoring runs.”
Chicago beat Los Angeles in last year’s NLCS, but this time, the Cubs were left to watch as the Dodgers celebrated at Wrigley Field. It’s the second time in three years they’ve been through this — the Mets finished a four-game sweep at Wrigley in the 2015 NLCS.
They didn’t have a choice this time, not with how they hit and pitched in the series.
“This year really illustrates the importance of getting off to a good start,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We didn’t, and then we had to fight back, which we did. I said you can, but you’re understanding when you find out you do that, it really expends a lot of energy when you get back into it, which we did.”
The Cubs batted just .156, drew five walks compared to 28 for Los Angeles and scored eight runs in the series — all on home runs. They didn’t sustain rallies or wear down pitchers. Trailing 3-0, they won Game 4 for a fifth straight victory when facing elimination — including three in last year’s World Series. But one club can only overcome so much.
Fatigue may have been a factor. Chicago has played more games than any other team since the start of the 2015 season. Counting the playoffs, that total is 522.
Reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant acknowledged he was feeling it after going 4 for 20 in the series.
“It caught up to me, at least,” he said. “I feel pretty drained, but it’s always a good thing when you’re the teams that are playing later in the year.”
He wasn’t the only Cubs slugger to struggle.
Rizzo had one hit in 17 at-bats in the NLCS. Javier Baez went hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats before knocking two home runs in Game 4 to help the Cubs avoid the sweep. But in Game 5, they were overwhelmed right from the start.
Enrique Hernandez hit three homers, and the Dodgers wasted no time jumping on Quintana. Acquired from the White Sox in a midseason trade, he gave up six runs in two-plus innings.
The way the Cubs were hitting in these playoffs, it was clear they weren’t coming back. Particularly, the way Kershaw was pitching.
The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner held them to a run and three hits in six innings.
He didn’t give up a hit until Bryant homered in the fourth. But all that did was make it 9-1.
“Sometimes you’re not always gonna be in the World Series,” Jon Lester said. “The Dodgers are a really good team. They’re playing really good baseball right now. This series showed it.”