Oct 16, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) reacts after hitting a pop fly during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game two of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Pressure Builds for Cubs after Dodgers Take 2-1 Series Lead

After getting shut out for the second game in a row, the Chicago Cubs’ clubhouse was a lot calmer than you might expect. After Chris Coghlan lined a pitch for the final out of the game, the Cubs quietly shuffled back inside their clubhouse. But even with the weight of an entire city on their shoulders, there was no talk of panicking about the 2-1 series deficit.

Star third baseman Kris Bryant simply viewed it as a loss with no larger implications. Outfielder Dexter Fowler reminded reporters that it’s a best-of-seven series, not a three-game series. And even pitcher Jake Arrieta, whom the Dodgers victimized last night, remained upbeat about their chances. But while the team is keeping a level-headed mindset, the public is starting to question the team. In fact, for the first time in 2016, the Cubs are no longer World Series favorites.

It gets even a bit more ominous.

Tonight, the teams square off for Game 4 in Los Angeles.  The Cubs face rookie Julio Urias who is all of 20 years old. He’ll be the youngest starter ever in postseason history. He made his major league debut earlier this season and owns an impressive-for-his-age 3.39 ERA in 77 innings. His catcher, Yasmani Grandal, is positive the young lefty won’t get intimidated on the big stage. Opposing the Dodgers will be veteran John Lackey. The right-hander turns 38 on Sunday and is hoping to draw upon his wealth of experience to guide his team. Lackey has a 3.55 ERA in 22 career postseason starts.While he didn’t face L.A. this season, he pitched against them in the playoffs last year as a member of the St.Louis Cardinals. No member on the current Dodgers roster has a home run off Lackey in 102 at-bats.

Looking For Hits

Despite the Cubs’ calm demeanor, it’s hard to ignore the team’s recent listless bats. They’ve recorded only six hits in their last 60 at-bats. Granted, even MLB’s best offense is going to struggle against Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. The two owned a sparkling 1.95 ERA in 249 innings in 2016. The team that was fifth in the National League in home runs has as many home runs (2) from their position players as they do their pitchers. Manager Joe Maddon admitted that they need to score runs early to ease the pressure. The silver lining is that against the young Urias, they own a .359/.405/.590 slash line in two starts this season. To beat Urias, they’ll have to handle his improved curveball.

A win tonight for Chicago guarantees they return to Wrigley Field for at least one more game. First pitch is at 8 p.m. on FS1.

About Eddy Almaguer

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