Cubs try to make history with comeback

Cubs try to make history

CHICAGO -- Alfonso Soriano remembers what his manager, Joe Torre, told him when the Yankees lost the first two games of the 2001 American League Division Series at home to the A's.

"He had a meeting and said, 'Just play, don't be afraid to make mistakes and go out there and play the game and see what happens,'" Soriano said. "That's what he said and that's what we did."

complete postseason coverage

And that's what Soriano is hoping his Cubs can do against Torre's Dodgers after falling behind 2-0 in the National League Division Series.

Rich Harden will try to get the Cubs going in the right direction Saturday night when he takes the Dodger Stadium mound to start Game 3 at 9:07 p.m. CT.

In 2001, Mike Mussina tossed seven shutout innings for the Yankees in a 1-0 win that helped turn the tide in the Bronx Bombers' favor.

"All you try to do is restore order," Torre said of being down 0-2. "The best way to do it is to pitch. You lose a couple games, you don't feel very good about yourself. We didn't going out [to Oakland] and as I say, everything is based on the pitcher."

That could be good news for the Cubs. Harden was 10-2 with the A's and Cubs this year and has not lost a game since July 21. Meanwhile, Dodgers Game 3 starter Hiroki Kuroda is capable of pitching a great game, but as his 9-10 record shows, he has also had his share of tough outings.

"It's another start," Harden said. "It's an important one, but I've got to approach it the same way and go out and pitch my game. I'm throwing good and I'm ready to go on Saturday."

If Harden can get the Cubs a win in Game 3, then they have the dangerous Ted Lilly going in Game 4.

Home teams down, 2-0
YearHomeOpponentOutcome
2007PhilliesRockiesL, 3-0
2006Padres CardinalsL, 3-1
TwinsAthleticsL, 3-0
2004AngelsRed SoxL, 3-0
2002D-BacksCardinalsL, 3-0
2001AstrosBravesL, 3-0
YankeesAthleticsW, 3-2
2000 White SoxMarinersL, 3-0
1997MarinersOriolesL, 3-1
1996DodgersBravesL, 3-0
1995DodgersReds L, 3-0
RockiesBravesL, 3-1
"We're sending a pretty good pitcher out there on the mound in Los Angeles on Saturday in Harden," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "And we're sending a darned good pitcher out to the mound also on Sunday in Lilly."

If the Cubs win those two, then they come back to Wrigley for a Game 5 and a chance to become the first National League team to win a Division Series after being down 2-0.

First things first, though, the Cubs have to find a way to win one game, and that hasn't been easy for them during the playoffs in California as they've dropped their last six playoff games there.

"We're going to L.A., and we know what we have to do," said veteran first baseman Derrek Lee, whose Marlins came back to beat the Cubs in the NL Championship Series after being down 3-1. "Take it one game at a time. We've just got to play baseball the way we know how. It's not over. It's not the situation you want to be in, but it's not over. You take it one game at a time, that's all we can do. We've got to find a way to dig deep."

The Cubs certainly are capable of winning three straight games. In fact, they've had winning streaks of at least three games 16 times this year. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have dropped at least three straight games on eight occasions this year.

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.
GTeamsScoreWPLP
1Oak @ NYL, 5-2MulderClemens
2Oak @ NYL, 2-0HudsonPettitte
3NY @ OakW, 1-0MussinaZito
4NY @ OakW, 9-2HernandezLidle
5Oak @ NYW, 5-3ClemensMulder

Plus, while a pair of runs in the ninth inning Thursday may have been meaningless in terms of the game's outcome, it certainly didn't hurt the Cubs' confidence to see that they could get to Dodgers closer Takashi Saito.

"I think that's good because we scored two runs, and I hope that builds confidence of some people here," Soriano said.

While there are examples of teams coming back from 0-2 deficits -- the Red Sox also did it against Harden's A's in 2003 -- it doesn't happen that often. In fact, of the 16 teams that went up 2-0 in an NLDS, 13 went on to sweep.

That's why the Cubs need to narrow their focus to Saturday's game. Winning one game Saturday is very possible. Winning three games on Saturday is not.

"I definitely think we have the team to do this," Harden said, "but we just can't get too far ahead of ourselves."

West Side Story
The Cubs have lost all eight of their playoff games played west of Chicago, including six in the state of California. Over that same span in playoff games east of Chicago the Cubs are 4-4.
Playoff Games West of Chicago (0-8):
1984: Lost to Padres in NLCS
Game 3: Padres 7, Cubs 1
Game 4: Padres 7, Cubs 5
Game 5: Padres 6, Cubs 3 (Padres win series 3-1)
1989: Lost to the Giants in NLCS
Game 3: Giants 5, Cubs 4
Game 4: Giants 6, Cubs 4
Game 5: Giants 3, Cubs 2 (Giants win series 4-1)
2007: Lost to D-backs in NLDS
Game 1: D-backs 3, Cubs 1
Game 2: D-backs 8, Cubs 4

While the onus is squarely on the Cubs right now, should they find a way to win Game 3 and then Game 4, the pressure will begin to build on the Dodgers. Harden learned that the hard way in 2003.

"You definitely feel that when you're up and the other team starts coming back a little bit," he said. "You feel that pressure, so hopefully we can put that pressure on them. I'm confident in this team."

Derek Lowe closed out Game 5 for the Red Sox that year, and Harden has not forgotten the gesture that the A's say he made towards their dugout after the final out.

"He turned to us and showed us up," Harden said. "You know what? Hopefully we can return the favor."

Maybe they will, but they'll have to do it one game at a time.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.