Powell: Cubs Losing the Battle of Bullpens; Down 0-2 in NLCS

Game 2 of the NLCS. (Kevin Powell/WGN Radio)

By Kevin Powell

LOS ANGELES – In a battle of bullpens, the Cubs are losing. The NLCS has essentially come down to which pen out-performs the other. And through the first two games, the Dodgers relievers have been outstanding.

“They’re good, but we’re good, too,” Addison Russell said after his teams, 4-1, loss in Game 2.

The Cubs offense is good, but it hasn’t been productive in the early going of this NLCS rematch. The heart of the Cubs lineup went 1-for-19 in Game 2. That’s your 1-5 hitters collecting one hit. Meanwhile, the Dodgers bullpen hasn’t given up a hit in eight innings of work over two games.

“If you remember last year we didn’t score any runs early on against the Dodgers,” Joe Maddon said, “and then we did and we finally got them.”

The Cubs scored eight runs in Game 1 of last year’s NLCS, but they were scoreless in Game’s 3 and 4 before plating 23 total runs over the final three games of the series.

Maybe it is a two-game slump, but there’s no denying the Cubs bullpen looks tired and worn out, while the Dodgers’ look fresh.

“They’re just executing pitches and they’re ready when called upon and they’re competing,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s a close-knit group down there. Josh Bard, our bullpen coach, has done a fantastic job with those guys, along with Rick Honeycutt. And just the preparation. Those guys know exactly what they want to do, and they’re going out there and executing.”

Meanwhile, the Cubs relievers have given up six runs over the first two games. It’s a problem. Wade Davis is really the only guy that’s been consistently effective, and many think Maddon missed an opportunity to use his lights out closer in the ninth inning with the game tied, 1-1.

Here’s Maddon’s explanation as to why he didn’t use Davis: “You have to understand when you have a guy like that coming off the performance that he had, to warm him up and not use him is equally as bad. Warm him up, not put him in the game, and then ask him to pitch maybe two innings later, that’s really not good for him.

“So today, tonight I really was waiting for that opportunity to grab a lead and then throw him out there. That’s what it was all about. There was no way he was pitching more than one, and that was pretty much it.”

Maddon didn’t seem to mind using Aroldis Chapman whenever and however in the postseason last year. Maybe he should implement that same sort of thinking with his use of Davis.

“I know we’ll be fine. We’ll get a good day’s rest tomorrow,” Maddon said. “We’ll come out and play our game. On Tuesday we’ve got Kyle going, which is good for us. They have a good pitcher also.”

Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720