Cubs' bullpen up to the task in Game 3

Cubs' bullpen up to the task in Game 3

CHICAGO -- If the Cubs entered the postseason with one perceived weakness, especially compared to their National League Central rivals, it was their bullpen.

Chicago had put together a 3.38 ERA, eighth-lowest in the Majors yet well above the Pirates (2.67) and Cardinals (2.82). But their relief corps has done its job so far against St. Louis, allowing only three runs on six hits over 8 1/3 innings and recording 10 critical outs in Monday's 8-6 win over the Cards in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.

Game Date Results
Gm 1 Oct. 9 STL 4, CHC 0
Gm 2 Oct. 10 CHC 6, STL 3
Gm 3 Oct. 12 CHC 8, STL 6
Gm 4 Oct. 13 CHC 6, STL 4

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"I don't really care what people think about it. All I care about is what we think about each other over here," catcher Miguel Montero said. "We think we can play, we can compete."

The Cubs will need to do more than that at Wrigley Field in Game 4 on Tuesday, when they take the field with a chance to clinch a spot in the NL Championship Series (4:30 p.m. ET on TBS). Right-hander Jason Hammel gets the start, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon won't hesitate to empty the bullpen behind him.

"If we're going to do what we want to do," Maddon said, "the rest of this bullpen has got to play."

In their Game 3 win, the Cubs saw four relievers put together 2 1/3 scoreless innings between Jake Arrieta and closer Hector Rondon, both of whom showed rare signs of weakness.

"They'll have to play, and they'll have to pitch up to their capability," Maddon said. "So you can't run away from that moment."

Maddon on taking 2-1 series lead

The moment in question came in the seventh inning, when the Cardinals put two runners on with two outs and Jason Heyward coming to the plate. Trevor Cahill had pitched well enough to get out of the inning already, but Heyward had already homered against Arrieta.

In the Cubs' dugout at Wrigley Field, Maddon knew the basic splits and what they meant: As good as Cahill looked at the time, a left-handed reliever had a better chance of retiring the left-handed Heyward.

So Maddon went to his bullpen, calling on Travis Wood. Heyward lined the lefty's first pitch into left field, where Kyle Schwarber caught the inning-ending out.

Wood escapes the jam

"The guys have been doing a great job. Hopefully, knock on wood, they keep doing it," catcher Miguel Montero said. "We've all got confidence in the bullpen."

Lefty Clayton Richard recorded the final out of the sixth inning when Arrieta made a relatively early exit. Cahill and Wood teamed up to pitch a scoreless seventh.

Setup man Pedro Strop exorcised some of his Cardinals demons with a perfect eighth. Rondon served up a two-run homer to Stephen Piscotty in the ninth, but it was too late for the Cards to rally.

"The guys have been doing a great job. Hopefully, knock on wood, they keep doing it," Montero said. "We've all got confidence in the bullpen."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.