10/02/08 12:04 AM ET
Unfortunate encore for Cubs hitters
Offensive output in Game 1 similar to struggles of '07 version
By Nick Zaccardi / MLB.com
The National League Central champs began struggling at the plate for the second straight year in the NL Division Series. They went 4-for-32 (.125) against Arizona and ace Brandon Webb a season ago. Against a seemingly more hittable Derek Lowe and the Dodgers on Wednesday, it was a 9-for-35 (.257) line. Improved, but still not good enough.
"Let's hope we get better with it," manager Lou Piniella said. "We need to swing the bats, no question."
Center fielder Jim Edmonds wasn't on that 2007 team. But as a seasoned playoff hitter, he knows what it takes to come through in October.
"You've got to concentrate," Edmonds said. "You've got to swing at strikes. You've got to be patient, take walks and you have to put pressure on the pitcher. We didn't do that tonight, and it showed."
Could nerves have showed, too? Shortstop Ryan Theriot, one of two Cubs with two hits, said butterflies didn't come into play.
"I felt early on that we were ready to go," he said. "After [Mark DeRosa's] homer, and his other hit as well, I had a good feeling. So I didn't feel like we were really pressing. I really can't speak for everybody else, but I felt comfortable and confident personally."
DeRosa's two-run shot to right field in the second could have ignited a big scoring night. It had happened before for the league's top scoring offense. Credit Lowe. He had strong splits against this Cubs lineup in the past, with the exception of Derrek Lee, who had hit him at a .393 clip coming in. Lowe had stifled Edmonds (5-for-30), Aramis Ramirez (2-for-13), Alfonso Soriano (13-for-53) and Theriot (2-for-10).
As it turned out, Lowe stuck to his normal game plan for the most part. The hitters knew what was coming and still couldn't hit it.
"[He threw] what he always throws," Lee said. "He was throwing sinkers down in the zone. He had his slider working. He threw a few more sliders than normal, but for the most part it was the sinker. We were ready for what he had, just didn't get the job done."
The top five hitters, who had carried the offense through various parts of the season, went a combined 2-for-19. Soriano, the leadoff man, typified it with an 0-for-5 day.
"We didn't play our best game," Lee said. "We really didn't give ourselves any opportunities to put some runs on the board."
Should it have been that much of a surprise? Minus Kosuke Fukudome, those boppers bottomed out in the 2007 NLDS with seven hits in 40 at-bats. Four of the five struggled this September: Soriano (.244), Fukudome (.178), Lee (.212 since Sept. 17) and Geovany Soto (.241).
The club has reason to believe its fortunes will change. Dodgers Game 2 starter Chad Billingsley went 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA against the Cubs in two starts this year. Lee, Fukudome and DeRosa all homered off him. That's history Chicago wouldn't mind repeating.
"I think the law of averages says we're going to get going at some point," Theriot said. "Everybody just has to stay positive and upbeat. It's just one game."
Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.