Cubs Season Ends in L.A.

Harden watches Dodgers celebrate (AP)

The Los Angeles Dodgers put the final nail in the Cubs coffin Saturday, ending yet another postseason filled with disappointment and genuine ineptitude for a franchise that has been disappointing and inept for most of the last 100 years. The Dodgers' pitching shut down the Cubs' offense for the third consecutive game for a 3-1 victory and three-game sweep in the NLDS at Dodger Stadium.

Archie Bunker would have been proud of these Dodgers, even if they aren't in Brooklyn anymore. Take a little Sunday spin, go to watch the Dodgers win … those were the days, an off-key Bunker used to reminisce at the family piano with equally clueless wife Edith by his side.

I don't know just what went wrong, the late Carroll O'Connor's character would add as a postscript. But in this series, virtually nothing went wrong – for the Dodgers anyway.

They out-hit, out-hustled, out-pitched and, some will say, out-managed a team that compiled the most regular-season victories – 97, a number presently as irrelevant as the t-shirts and caps hastily printed to celebrate such a now seemingly hollow feat – in the National League.

Was it a jinx? Hardly, though many other four-letter words come to mind when reflecting on this disaster.

The Cubs were outscored 20-6 in three games. That total alone would suggest the Cubs were flat-out massacred, but in fairness it was partly an assisted suicide.

In Game 1, a 7-2 loss in Chicago, Ryan Dempster inexplicably – and inexcusably – walked seven batters before Dodgers first baseman James Loney gladly served up his comeuppance with a grand slam.

Then there was the Cubs' offense, or lack thereof.

In Game 2, a 10-3 Cubs loss that only appeared less lopsided than it really was thanks to a pair of cosmetic ninth-inning runs, the Cubs were plagued by hideous play defensively. They committed four errors, two of which led to five Dodgers runs in the second inning.

There was also the Cubs offense, or lack thereof.

In Game 3, it was mostly just the Cubs' offense again. The Cubs actually out-hit the Dodgers, 8-6, but stranded a series-high nine runners on base.

Aramis Ramirez concluded another disappointing postseason with just two hits in 11 at-bats. Geovany Soto, the deserving National League Rookie of Year, was also 2-for-11. Kosuke Fukudome was Kosuke Fukudome: 1-for-10 with four strikeouts.

And highlighting the Cubs' struggles at the plate was $136 million man Alfonso Soriano, 1-for-14 with four embarrassing strikeouts. He struck out swinging for the series' final out Saturday – a fitting end if ever there was one.

Cubs hitters combined to bat .240 in the series.

"I was concerned about our offense coming into this thing," Cubs manager Lou Piniella told reporters after Saturday's game. "My concerns were realized."

The Cubs fell to 0-6 in the postseason under Piniella, each loss seemingly more frustrating than the previous one. They've lost their last nine postseason games dating back to 2003.

"You can play postseason baseball for now to another hundred years, but if you score six runs in three games, it's going to be another hundred years before we win," Piniella said. "We just didn't hit. We had opportunities and you have to take advantage of them."

The Cubs did not, totaling just two RBIs with two outs in the series. The Dodgers, conversely, tallied 13.

"This is six games in the postseason I've managed now and we have scored just 12 runs. That doesn't get it done," Piniella said.

Game 3 starter Rich Harden pitched into the fifth inning. He surrendered three runs and five hits in 4-1/3 innings, striking out four batters and walking three. For the second straight game, the Cubs fell behind early as Loney drilled a two-run double to right to give the Dodgers a first-inning 2-0 lead. In the fifth, Russell Martin's run-scoring double off Harden made it 3-0.

The Cubs threatened both in the seventh and eighth innings but came away with only one run – a Daryle Ward RBI single in the eighth to cut the lead to 3-1.

In the ninth, Jonathan Broxton needed all of 11 pitches to retire the Cubs in order.

Au revoir, Cubs.

Afterward, Piniella said the Cubs played a "damn good baseball game."

"We gave an effort, played as well as we could," Piniella said. "We just didn't take advantage of opportunities and didn't create opportunities."

He said to give the Dodgers credit. With the win they stamped their first trip to the NLCS in 20 years. The Cubs meanwhile were left to reflect on what might have been, what really ought to have been with once such a promising postseason ahead.

"We played well during the summer. We won our division convincingly," Piniella said.

Those were the days, indeed.

Yet by the time the last rose was officially placed on the Chicago Cubs' 2008 casket Saturday night in Los Angeles, they'd managed only to extend a 100-year-long (101 now) drought even further.

Perhaps the next 100 years will be different. Let the journey begin.

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