CHICAGO -- The team with the best record in the National League played like the team with the worst.
Carlos Zambrano struck out seven but didn't get any help Thursday as the Los Angeles Dodgers took advantage of mistakes and an ineffective offense to beat the Cubs, 10-3, and take a commanding 2-0 lead in the National League Division Series.
Chicago committed four errors, one by each infielder, and forced Zambrano to work overtime.
"We might as well not have had gloves on," Chicago's Derrek Lee said.
Russell Martin hit a three-run double to highlight a five-run second inning, and Manny Ramirez belted his Major League-record 26th postseason homer for the Dodgers, who can clinch the best-of-five series with a win Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Teams that have taken a 2-0 lead in the NLDS are a perfect 16-0, and have swept the series 13 times.
"I don't think you can win 97 ballgames playing that way," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella, whose team clinched the National League Central with a 97-64 mark. "It wasn't good baseball. In fact, the last two days, they've probably been the worst games we've played all year from a walking and errors standpoint. It wasn't fun to watch, I can tell you that."
With four errors in Game 2 of the NLDS, the Chicago Cubs tied the Division Series record for most errors in a game.
There's hope, Cubs fans. In the history of five-game series, including League Championship Series, seven teams have rallied to win after dropping the first two games.
"We were the best team in a marathon," Chicago's Mark DeRosa said. "Now we have to win a sprint."
Zambrano (0-1), making his fifth postseason start, gave up seven runs -- four unearned -- over 6 1/3 innings. Ramirez earned his when he connected off Big Z leading off the fifth, driving an 0-1 pitch onto the roof of a party suite tucked into the bleachers in straightaway center.
The Cubs' miscues came in the second. The Dodgers had runners at first and third with one out when Blake DeWitt hit a potential double-play ball to DeRosa at second, and he tried to flip the ball from his knees to Ryan Theriot, but the shortstop caught the ball off the bag. Everyone was safe and DeRosa was charged with an error. One run scored.
Casey Blake hit another potential double-play ball, this time to Lee, who knocked it down but lost track of the ball and spun trying to find it. By the time he did, the bases were loaded. One out later, Rafael Furcal bunted the ball past Zambrano. DeRosa, who was deep, didn't get to it in time and another run scored. The bases were full again, and Martin cleared them with a double to go ahead, 5-0. Zambrano did his part. He struck out the side in the inning.
"It just got on me good," DeRosa said of DeWitt's ball. "He hit it good. It's probably a play I should've taken a little bit more time. I'm sure he wasn't out of the box before that ball got to me. I should've backed up on it and given Ryan a nice, easy feed.
Cubs Down, Not Out
Only once has a club lost the first two games of a Division Series at home and come back to win it. The New York Yankees rallied from an 0-2 deficit against the Oakland Athletics in the 2001 ALDS.
Oak @ NY
Oak @ NY
NY @ Oak
NY @ Oak
Oak @ NY
"That error steam rolls on you and the next ball goes to D-Lee and takes a funny hop and the next thing you know, Russell Martin hits the ball in the gap. You can't give teams extra outs, not in the postseason. It killed us."
He and Lee weren't alone. Theriot and third baseman Aramis Ramirez also were charged with errors.
"We kicked the ball all over tonight," Lee said. "I have no explanation for it. We haven't played well all around. Tonight, I don't think we gave ourselves much of a chance. We shot ourselves in the foot from the get-go. Tonight was defense.
"They've made us pay for our mistakes. In postseason baseball, you can't give the other team so many chances."
All Zambrano could do was watch as the Cubs unraveled. They were one shy of the postseason club record of five errors, done twice: Oct. 8, 1907, vs. Detroit and Oct. 20, 1910, vs. Philadelphia.
"I'm not surprised, I'm shocked," Zambrano said. "We have a good defense. 'D-Lee,' for me, is the best first baseman. He had an error. Also Ramirez. It's weird. I think it's the first time you see four people in the infield make an error.
"There's nothing you can do about it. Just keep the score tied and close, and then you give your team a chance to come back and win the ballgame."
Well, the offense hasn't exactly been clicking either. For the second straight night -- and fifth consecutive postseason game going back to the 2007 NLDS vs. Arizona -- the Cubs were stymied. Chad Billingsley (1-0) limited Chicago to two hits over the first six innings.
"I think we need to be a little more patient, select our pitch, put a good swing on it," Lee said. "We just have to find a way to do it."
The Cubs are batting .222 in the two playoff games so far. In the NLDS last year, they mustered a .194 average and were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers do boast the best pitching staff in the National League.
"Their pitching has been good," Lee said, "but I don't think we've given ourselves a shot. We've made mistakes we don't normally make and they've made us pay."
Expect a different lineup in Game 3. Piniella has seen enough of Kosuke Fukudome and will likely bench the Japanese outfielder. In Game 1, usually reliable Ryan Dempster walked an unseemly seven. In Game 2, the Cubs' offense continued to stall and they made egregious errors. Is this a Cubby occurrence?
"I can't explain it," Jim Edmonds said. "I don't know -- it's pretty embarrassing. We just haven't been playing like we normally play. We've made some mistakes and when we've gotten a guy on, we haven't moved him over and we haven't driven anybody in. That's what you have to do in the playoffs and that's what good teams do, and we haven't been good yet."
They've got one more chance.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.