Cubs @ Dodgers Series Review: Cubs Drop Three of Four to Front-Running Dodgers

In a series that felt like an October preview, the Cubs dropped three of four to the Dodgers in Los Angeles this past weekend. Much of the dialogue around the series has focused on using the last four games as a referendum as to whether the Cubs can meaningfully compete against the only National League team that has already solidified itself as a playoff lock.

So if that’s the question, what’s the answer?

Well, the Cubs lost the series, so that’s not a very good start. However, it’s worth noting a couple of things on top of that. First, all of the games were fairly close. Thursday’s game had the biggest disparity, which is a shame since the Cubs got off to a fairly quick 3-0 lead in that contest. All the other contests, including Saturday’s win, were decided by just a run or two.

The other thing worth remembering is that the Cubs did take their home series against the Dodgers earlier this year. Ultimately, the season series ended up with the Dodgers besting the Cubs four games to three. None of us would be pleased with such a result in a National League Championship Series, but it’d be hard to argue that the series wasn’t competitive. It’s the kind of thing that could go either way.

While this wasn’t a particularly fun series to watch from the perspective of a Cubs fan, it at least suggests that the Cubs are capable of competing against one of their potential playoff opponents. That capability will only be boosted by the upcoming addition of Craig Kimbrel and whatever other moves the Cubs make moving forward.

However the rosters shake out, hopefully the Cubs will get a chance for revenge this fall.


Key moments

Thursday and Friday’s games blended together in many ways. The Cubs got off to a quick lead in both but ended up faltering each time. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks both struggled against a difficult Dodgers lineup, with Hendricks potentially impacted by shoulder soreness that landed him on the injured list the next day.

It’s hard to isolate key moments from two games that felt like one, but it’s always worth checking out another opposite-field home run by these Cubs. The team is blasting oppo shots with regularity this season and it’s great to see. Here’s a look at Kris Bryant doing work in Thursday’s game.

Saturday’s game featured a couple of big moments and it’s worth reviewing both of them. Anthony Rizzo‘s 9th-inning, go-ahead homer certainly stands out as a defining moment of the series and maybe of the season to this point. Rizzo blasted one off of perennial All-Star Kenley Jansen to steal a win.

It’s also worth discussing how the Cubs got there. Yu Darvish did everything he could to get the Cubs a win on Saturday. More on that later in this column, but check out his strikeout reel. The Cubs signed Darvish in part because of his ability to generate a lot of whiffs, and you can really see why here.

Moving onto Sunday’s game, it’s hard not to zero in on the Dodgers’ 8th inning, go-ahead single as the key moment. KB is obviously not primarily an outfielder, but he’s still got to make a better throw than this one.

It was probably not a very good send on the part of the Dodgers, but it paid off anyway.

Who’s hot

  • Despite not recording a win, Darvish had what was unambiguously his best start in a Cubs uniform. In a stadium filled with bad memories for him, Darvish was absolutely dominant. He pitched seven innings, striking out 10 and allowing only a single run on a home run. He was on the hook for a loss before Rizzo’s dramatic homer, and that would have been a tragedy. In three June starts, Darvish has pitched 18.1 innings to the tune of a 3.44 ERA and a 4.50 K/BB ratio. Keep it rolling, Yu.
  • The Cubs were a Rizzo home run away from getting swept in this series, so the unofficial captain deserves a least one more mention. The first baseman cranked two bombs in this series and had three on the road trip.

Who’s not

  • Javy Báez is firmly in the middle of a slump and capped off a frustrating road trip by making Sunday’s final out and ended the trip batting .172/.172/.276 over his last seven games.
  • The handle of Addison Russell‘s bat is cold because it’s never being warmed by his hands. Because he can’t hold onto his bat. Do you get the joke here? He can’t stop throwing his bat. It’s inexplicable at this point and the Dodgers sure noticed.

Hold onto your bat, dude. He’s also batting .217/.296/.348 over his last 15 games, which leaves a lot to be desired.

Bottom line

In the series recap of last weekend’s sweep of the Cardinals, I noted that taking all three instead of just getting the series win was important as a means of building a buffer for what looked to be a difficult road trip. And boy, it was that ever the case.

Because of that buffer, the Cubs lost a grand total of one game in the standings to the Brewers. Not what you want, but it certainly could have been worse after a 2-5 trip.

The Cubs have a much-needed off-day Monday before beginning what should be an easier stretch at home against the White Sox, Mets, and Braves. It’s never fun to see the Cubs anywhere other than first place, but they’ve got a good opportunity to change that in the week to come.

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