The reminders are everywhere, and they are stark.
The 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers look a lot like the 2016 Cubs. That is, they were the best team in baseball during the regular season, and they’re playing like they want to prove it in the National League Championship Series.
The 2017 Cubs look a lot like the 2015 Cubs. That is, they look like they’re out of gas, and they’re doing nothing with Dodgers pitching, much like the 2015 Cubs looked against the New York Mets in the NLCS.
The Cubs are down, 2-0, in the best-of-seven NLCS against the Dodgers. Yes, they did rally from a 2-1 series deficit last year to beat Los Angeles in six. But this is a different Dodgers team, even if it is playing without shortstop Corey Seager, who is out with a back injury.
So if you’re the Cubs, do you worry a little or worry a lot with Game 3 on deck Tuesday at Wrigley Field?
“We’ve done it before, we’ve been there before,” said shortstop Addison Russell, who homered Sunday night in Game 2. “But this year is a whole new year. That’s a different ballclub. We’re definitely going to have to bring it when we get back home.
“Just get back to playing our ball. As the series pans out, we’re seeing more pitching. I think we’ll be OK, but just get back to our approach, just picking each other up, staying up in the dugout, would be huge.”
Russell was asked what he sees that’s different about the Dodgers, who won 104 games during the regular season. Last year, the Cubs won 103 on the way to a world championship.
“They have experience in the postseason as well with their returning players,” he said. “(Dave) Roberts is a great manager. It looks like he’s got a pretty good hold on what’s going on as far as starting pitching and when he wants to put those guys in from the bullpen.”
The Cubs have done nothing with the Dodgers’ bullpen, getting no hits in eight innings. Since the division series, the Cubs have faced Nationals starters Stephen Strasburg (twice) and Max Scherzer. They went up against lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill in games 1 and 2 of the NLCS, respectively.
The numbers are abysmal.
• Javier Baez is 0 for 19 in the postseason.
• Anthony Rizzo is 4 for 26.
• Kris Bryant is 5 for 28.
• Jason Heyward looks like the hitter he was last year. That is to say not very good. He is 2 for 15.
And so on.
Is there something that has made the Dodgers’ pitching so tough against the Cubs?
“They’re good,” Rizzo said. “They’re a good team. They’re here by no surprise. They didn’t surprise anyone and sneak up here. They’re a good team, and they play well together.
“They’re confident. They were confident last year. Just timely hitting. They’ve got depth and good veterans. It’s good baseball.”
As for the Dodgers, they’re not only looking like the Cubs of last year, they may be starting to feel like them, too.
“We know how short we fell last year,” closer Kenley Jansen said. “And the Cubs deserved it last year.
“The fact that we see how close we got, and we know it’s unfinished business, we have that goal. We’ve been talking about it since January. And when we got to spring training, we had that mindset.
“You could see it. Every day someone on the 25-man roster will be stepping up and doing the job.”