Cubs desperately need to end SoCal slump

After back-to-back shutouts, Chicago draws Kershaw

Cubs desperately need to end SoCal slump

LOS ANGELES -- The Cubs are 0-for-California after getting shut out on Saturday for the second straight game, and they face Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Sunday in the series finale.

"He's good," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the lefty. "Our guy [Jon Lester] is good. It should be an interesting game."

The Cubs need to find some offense to back Lester. They totaled two hits Friday in a 4-0 loss, and managed three on Saturday in a 5-0 loss. Each of the Dodgers last six wins against the Cubs have been shutouts, and that includes the postseason.

"What it means to me," Maddon said of the back-to-back shutouts, "is we have no chance to win the last two games."

The sputtering offense is puzzling because the Cubs are coming off a 7-2 homestand in which they hit 20 homers.

"It's not a start and stop, it's just a continuation of a season when you're playing good teams," Chicago's Jason Heyward said, trying the explain the ups and downs. "It is what it is."

Maddon saw encouraging signs from Kyle Schwarber, who was back in the lineup after sitting on Friday. Heyward had another potential home run go foul. The Dodgers' pitchers have been really good.

"As a group, they're an elevated-fastball group, and we have to make an adjustment to that," Maddon said. "They do a really good job and they've carried out their game plan perfectly. That's what's going on.

"It's just important to try to get good at-bats and be process-oriented."

Neither Cubs starter John Lackey nor the Dodgers' Brandon McCarthy gave up a hit over the first three innings. The big blow off Lackey came in the fifth when Chris Taylor belted his sixth homer of the season to open a 3-0 lead.

"Those are the big plays -- that home run [Friday by Adrian Gonzalez] and the home run today really separated it," Maddon said. "And they're pitching so well, once you give them a little room like that, they take advantage of it.

"We haven't played badly. We just haven't hit the ball, and they got timely hits when they needed it. They pitched well, they beat us. That's it."

Lackey admitted he didn't like a two-strike pitch to Kiké Hernandez in the fourth that resulted in a double. Hernandez eventually scored the Dodgers' first run. Lackey walked McCarthy to set up Taylor's homer, and that hurt as well.

"The pitch to Taylor was not where he wanted it to be, but give the guy credit, he hit it," Maddon said. "We've made a couple mistakes and they've taken advantage of it. They've really made very few, if any, mistakes, and we haven't taken advantage of anything.

"Under these circumstances, my perspective is they pitched well. It's not always your fault sometimes. Sometimes it's what they've done well."

And they've got Kershaw on Sunday.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.