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10/05/08 8:02 AM ET

Cubs' season ends with Game 3 in LA

Chicago swept after winning division for second straight year

LOS ANGELES -- Maybe if the Cubs hadn't posted the best record in the National League, this wouldn't hurt so much. Maybe if it wasn't the 100th year -- how many times have you heard that? -- it would ease the heartbreak.

James Loney smacked a two-run double and Hiroki Kuroda stymied the Cubs to power the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 3-1 victory Saturday and complete a sweep of the National League Division Series.

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"We didn't play well," Chicago's Mark DeRosa said. "We didn't deserve to win. We played well all year and for us to have three games like this is shocking."

For the second straight year, the Cubs won the National League Central but were swept in the postseason. Maybe this is one of those Cubby occurrences that Lou Piniella talks about.

"I don't believe in that stuff," Aramis Ramirez said of the Cubs' 100-year wait. "If you don't play good ball, you're not going to win. Everything comes down to playing good ball on the field. You have to go out there and get the job done."

When the Cubs reached the playoffs in 2007, it felt more like a relief. This year was different. The '08 Cubs won 97 games and seemed to have the best chance to end the incessant talk about curses. But this October, there was no goat or black cat or overzealous fan to blame. It was simply good pitching by the Dodgers and a lack of execution by the Cubs.

"We were expecting more," Piniella said. "I want to do more than play the part of the good loser."

Kuroda (1-0), who had struck out 11 in a four-hit complete-game shutout June 6 against the Cubs, baffled them again with his mix of pitches, which includes a two-seam fastball the Japanese call a "shuto." He held Chicago to six hits over 6 1/3 innings and fanned four, including Derrek Lee, who struck out swinging to end the fifth and flung his helmet in frustration.

"We played three games like this before in the regular season," Lee said. "You just can't afford to do it in the postseason. We just picked a bad time to play like this."

RISPing on empty
As the NL's best team with runners in scoring position during the regular season, the Cubs struggled mightily to drive runners home in the NLDS. The Dodgers, who struggled in such situations during the season, thrived in the NLDS.
CHC Season.278 (1st, NL).452 (1st, NL)
NLDS.179 (5-for-28).250
LADSeason.253 (11th, NL).364 (15th, NL)
NLDS.333 (11-for-33).545

Everyone was available on the Cubs pitching staff -- even Carlos Zambrano, who went to the 'pen after the Dodgers' fourth -- to back up Rich Harden (0-1). In his first career start against the Dodgers, Harden didn't go as deep as hoped, pulled after giving up three runs on five hits over 4 1/3 innings.

Chants of "Sweep, sweep" started in the Dodgers' first. Russell Martin doubled with one out, the ball bouncing just fair and then rolling next to the tarp along the left-field line. Martin hesitated on Manny Ramirez's single to left but slid safely into third under Aramis Ramirez's tag. Piniella questioned the call, but lost that, too. One out later, Loney doubled to right to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. Martin added a one-out RBI double in the fifth.

The Cubs were numb after being ousted so quickly.

"This is the best team I've been on in my career," DeRosa said. "For us to play three games like this, we didn't give ourselves a chance. We kicked the ball around the field, didn't hit, put too much pressure on our pitchers. We never made them get on the defensive at all. We never had any momentum except early in Game 1. We just didn't play well."

Including Chicago's loss in the regular-season finale on Sept. 28 to the Brewers, the Cubs dropped their last four games of 2008. On four occasions during the regular season, the Cubs lost three or more consecutive games (June 17-19; June 26-29; July 13, July 18-19; Aug. 30-Sept. 6).

The Cubs had their chances against the Dodgers Saturday. They had runners at first and second with two outs in the third, but Kuroda got Aramis Ramirez to ground out. Geovany Soto doubled to lead off the fourth and was stranded. Finally, in the eighth, Lee hit his second double of the game to lead off and scored two batters later on pinch-hitter Daryle Ward's single.

"This is the best team I've been on in my career. For us to play three games like this, we didn't give ourselves a chance."
-- Mark DeRosa

For the game, the Cubs went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. For the three-game series, Ramirez had zero RBIs, Alfonso Soriano was 1-for-14, the Cubs stranded 23 baserunners and batted .240.

"We just didn't get clutch hits, we didn't get hits with runners in scoring position," Cubs rookie catcher Geovany Soto said. "They just outplayed us. They outpitched us and outhit us and executed and got on. We just didn't get any big hits or get a rally going.

"It doesn't matter what you do in the regular season. When you get to the postseason, everything goes back to zero. They outplayed us."

These aren't the same Dodgers who were swept by the Cubs at Wrigley Field in May. And now they will advance to the National League Championship Series against the winner of the Milwaukee-Philadelphia series.

The Cubs are the fourth team to go winless in the postseason in consecutive years, joining the Minnesota Twins (1969 and '70); the Dodgers (1995 and '96); and the Texas Rangers (1998 and '99).

Some players said goodbye as they left the cramped visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. What's next?

"You just go home and try to forget about it," Lee said. "You try to forget about it. It's definitely disappointing and frustrating. What are you going to do now? You can't sulk all winter. You just have to try to come back strong next year."

There's always next year.

"We should be proud of what we did during the regular season, but unfortunately it doesn't get you much," Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster said. "That's not what you're playing for to have a good regular season. You hope you have a good regular season to get to the postseason and try to win a championship. We came up short. We'll figure out a way to get it done eventually."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.