Cubs

NLCS: More changes to Cubs lineup for pivotal Game 4

NLCS: More changes to Cubs lineup for pivotal Game 4

LOS ANGELES - Joe Maddon tried to spark his offense with a few lineup changes for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

It didn't work and now the Cubs' scoring drought has stretched to 18 innings, the longest postseason scoreless streak in franchise history.

The Cubs have tallied just six hits (five singles and a double) and three walks in those 18 innings and were left scratching their heads searching for answers after Game 3.

Maddon walked back on some of those Game 3 lineup moves, inserting Anthony Rizzo back to the the three-hole with Ben Zobrist returning to the cleanup spot.

Javy Baez stays at fifth and Addison Russell's slide continues as he is bumped all the way down to eighth. 

Rizzo, Russell and Jason Heyward (inserted back in right field after sitting Game 3 in favor of Jorge Soler) are hitting a combined .072 (5-for-69) in the playoffs.

Willson Contreras (5-for-10 this postseason) is catching.

The Cubs will turn to veteran John Lackey for one of the "Big Boy Games" he's been talking about all year. 

Every game in the postseason can be classified as a must-win game, but the Cubs are certainly facing urgency Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. They don't want to fall down another game, especially with all-world pitcher Clayton Kershaw looming.

Here's how the Cubs will line up against 20-year-old Dodgers starter Julio Urias:

1. Dexter Fowler - CF
2. Kris Bryant - 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Ben Zobrist - LF
5. Javy Baez - 2B
6. Willson Contreras - C
7. Jason Heyward - RF
8. Addison Russell - SS
9. John Lackey - P

Urias is making his first career postseason start. He has just 79 big-league innings under his belt, including two shutout innings against the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS last week.

Here's how the Dodgers will line up behind Urias as they look to deliver the knockdown blow to the Cubs:

1. Chase Utley - 2B
2. Corey Seager - SS
3. Justin Turner - 3B
4. Adrian Gonzalez - 1B
5. Josh Reddick - RF
6. Joc Pederson - CF
7. Yasmani Grandal - C
8. Andrew Toles - LF
9. Julio Urias - P

Apart from Urias, it's the same lineup that put up six runs off Jake Arrieta and the Cubs bullpen in Game 3 Tuesday night.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

Mark Schanowski, Mark Carman and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel.

0:00- The Cubs take 2 out of 3 from the D'Backs thanks to a surprisingly solid start from Tyler Chatwood. Should the Cubs trust him more than they trust Yu Darvish? Meanwhile, the bullpen falters twice. Is it time to call Craig Kimbrel?

12:00- The guys preview the huge series against the Dodgers at Wrigley.

16:00- The White Sox lose 2 of 3 in Detroit but Kap is still excited about the future.

20:00- The NBA Eastern Conference playoffs are becoming a fight. So who will win the East? And can anybody even threaten the Warriors?

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Cubs' pitching coming through with Jon Lester injured

Cubs' pitching coming through with Jon Lester injured

After starting the season 2-7 on the road, two weeks without Jon Lester looked like a possible death sentence for the Cubs. Instead, it now looks like a turning point.

Somebody needed to step up. Anybody. Bullpen or rotation, but preferably both. Well, that is exactly what happened and the Cubs are quickly back to the .500 mark at 10-10.

Jose Quintana was the first to accept the challenge, dominating the surprising Pirates with the eleven strikeouts and then seven shutout innings against the lowly Marlins in his next outing. He pitched "like a Porcshe" while attacking batters in both games with precision handling and it was contagious. Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood followed his lead while the bullpen turned around their production, too.

Our stats guru, Chris Kamka, offered up these facts to show the startling improvements.

In the first nine games, the Cubs' team ERA, starter ERA and reliever ERA all ranked 29th or worse in MLB. It's a team game, but it was obvious which part of the team was struggling. Over the last 11 games, everything has changed. Since that opening road trip from Hell, the Cubs have led the majors in all three categories. The relievers have posted a 1.85 ERA and the starters are at a blistering 1.66 ERA with six quality starts since Lester went on the injured list. 

Yes, it's a small sample size in a 162 game season. However, if we're going to overreact to a disastrous start, it's only fair to also hyperbolize this spectacular stretch. We asked for somebody to step-up. The Cubs' pitching staff did just that.    

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