LOS ANGELES — Jake Arrieta turned, watched Justin Turner’s bomb fly and doubled over on the mound as the ball sailed over the left-centerfield fence.
His night was over. It was only the sixth inning — the score 4-0 in favor of the Dodgers — but the Cubs’ night seemed long finished, too.
All those changes manager Joe Maddon made to the Cubs’ lineup for Game 3 of the NLCS were supposed to prevent such a disaster from occurring. Yet, for the second game in a row against the N.L. West champs, the heavy favorites in this series did damage only to themselves.
Madden spoke before Tuesday’s game of giving certain struggling hitters a “different outlook, different mindset.” So he flip-flopped Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo in the lineup, moving Zobrist up to third and Rizzo into the cleanup spot. Javy Baez, who’d been hitting well, was moved up to fifth to give Rizzo protection. Addison Russell, for several weeks an easy out, was dropped to seventh.
“Put (them) in a different rocking chair, hopefully,” Maddon said.
Whatever that means.
None of the players mentioned above actually got a — what’s it called again? — hit off ex-Cub and Dodgers starter Rich Hill, who might as well have been Clayton Kershaw as the Cubs’ streak of scoreless innings marched on most cruelly.
Does it really matter the order in which a bunch of dead bats are arranged?
Maddon also elected to start all-bat, no-glove Jorge Soler in right field in place of all-glove, no-bat Jason Heyward. It was a risky move, but probably not unwise given Soler’s power and the Cubs’ failure in the playoffs to push more runs across the plate.
“Hill is what you call a ‘neutral’ pitcher — he can be equally effective to righties and lefties,” Maddon explained before the game. “Sometimes under those circumstances, I’d like to choose the power guy right there, the guy who might have a better chance of putting the ball in the seats.”
But just as surely as RBI man Rizzo’s first two at-bats were leading off the second and fourth innings — not much he could do of consequence there — the placement of Soler in right also essentially backfired. And not only because Soler contributed nothing to the offense.
In the first inning, Soler nearly misplayed Adrian Gonzalez’s liner to right into a hit. In the second, he didn’t heed Dexter Fowler as the center fielder repeatedly called him off and caused a collision that, luckily left neither player injured. And then, in the third, Soler airmailed the cutoff man on a run-scoring single by Corey Seager, allowing Seager to take second on a hopeless throw home.
Maddon’s plan for Game 3 had been to jump on Hill early, get a lead and then lock things down in the later innings with key defensive substitutions. But by the time the Dodgers came up to bat in the seventh, Heyward was in right field, Chris Coghlan was in left and Russell was out of the game. It was a strange mix that didn’t seem to make either the offense or the defense better.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, went with an unchanged lineup after their 1-0 victory in Game 2. Maddon wasn’t wrong to shuffle his lineup in an effort to put his best nine on the field for a pivotal game in the series. In fact, many fans and media had called for him to do just that.
But none of it worked. And it left the feeling in the air that Maddon and the Dodgers had played a game of chicken, and Maddon lost.
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