The Chicago Cubs are down 3-0 in the NLCS, and there’s really no use in thinking too hard about why that is. Joe Maddon has made mistakes, and the bullpen has been pretty bad, but there is a simpler explanation for why the Cubs are one loss away from playoff elimination: They can’t hit the dang ball.
After last night’s game, the Cubs are hitting .160/.202/.266 as a team for the series. They have four extra-base hits, four walks, and 32 strikeouts. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Addison Russell are a combined 7-for-32 with 11 strikeouts. The team has scored four runs in three games! This is bad. It’s all very bad.
This isn’t even much of a departure from Chicago’s NLDS performance, in which the Cubs hit .180 as a team but managed to advance on the strength of a well-timed, nine-run outburst in Game 5. It seemed like maybe things were going to turn around in Game 3 when Kyle Schwarber hit an opposite-field dinger in the first inning—the ball was very eager to fly out of Wrigley last night—but they managed just seven more hits after that and never again crossed the plate.
If the Cubs go down like this, and it very much looks like they will, it will be a particularly frustrating way for the season to end. The Cubs were an even better offensive team this season than last, averaging over five runs per game and carrying a team OPS of .775 in the regular season. A year ago, that kind of production accounted for a lineup that looked downright invincible throughout the playoffs, one so good that the very same fuck-ups they’ve endured this postseason—Joe Maddon doing crazy shit and the bullpen failing—weren’t enough to keep them from the title. The 2016 World Series was an exercise in strength overcoming liability; the 2017 NLCS has so far given us a look at what happens when strength deteriorates into liability.