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Cubs’ woeful attack shut out for seventh time during 8-22 skid

Updated: September 30, 2013 2:06PM



LOS ANGELES — Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitching great Don Newcombe — the original Cy Young Award winner — gets flashbacks to the 1960s when he watches left-hander Clayton Kershaw and right-hander Zack Greinke pitch for the Dodgers these days.

He sees the ghosts of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, an unparalleled 1-2, left-right pitching punch in their primes who combined to win four of the five Cy Young awards from 1962-66 — leading the Dodgers to a 95-win average and three World Series appearances (two titles) in that span.

“It’s so close,” Newcombe said, “that I can’t possibly see a way that I can give you a word that would make them appear different.”

You don’t have to convince the Cubs. They just got shut out for the third time in five games by the Dodgers on Wednesday — and that was by back-end rotation guy Ricky Nolasco.

Even after surviving the Greinke-Kershaw gantlet earlier in the week with a victory Tuesday — thanks to Travis Wood’s brass-marbles pitching against Kershaw — the Cubs finished 1-6 against the pitching-rich Dodgers, losing to five starters along the way.

The point isn’t so much that the Dodgers have such great pitching — or even that nobody else in the game has as dominant a 1-2 frontline tandem.

“Honestly, I don’t think anybody does,” Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio said.

The point for the Cubs is this:

“I’ve never seen pitching this good across baseball in my 30 years in the game,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

And nobody exemplifies that more than two Cy Young winners at the top of the Dodgers’ rotation.

And what that could mean for the Cubs is the flip side of Newcombe’s 50-year flashback.

If Newcombe, Bosio and Sveum are right, the Cubs — who have been shut out seven times during an 8-22 stretch since late July — haven’t looked this bad at the plate since the pitcher’s mound was five inches higher.

The last time the Cubs looked this talent-thin in relation to the rest of the league was during that Koufax-Drysdale heyday, when Billy Williams and Ron Santo were breaking into the league — and the growing-pains Cubs were losing 103 games in 1962, hitting a franchise-worst .238 in both 1963 and ’65 and waiting for Fergie Jenkins to come to the rescue of the pitching staff in 1967.

This month alone, six Dodgers starters produced a 1.62 ERA against the Cubs in seven starts.

Sound familiar?

Back then, Koufax and Drysdale went 22-11 with a 1.88 ERA in 41 combined starts against the Cubs during that five-year stretch through 1966. The Cardinals’ Bob Gibson was 13-6, 2.56 in 21 starts; San Francisco’s Juan Marichal, 10-4, 2.10 in 15.

It wasn’t until Koufax retired after that ’66 season and Drysdale was on the decline — and Jenkins began a stretch of six consecutive 20-win seasons — that the Cubs under Leo Durocher put together a string of six winning seasons.

And even then, Gibson’s Cardinals won the next two pennants, and the Giants still won more games than the Cubs over those six seasons.

As for now, “It’s not a mystery that things get a little haywire after those trades [at the July deadline the last two years],” Sveum said, “but obviously we know the process, and obviously we’ll reap the rewards next year or the year after that because of the people we got.”

If Jake Arrieta can bring more command more often. If high draft pick Pierce Johnson pans out. If trade acquisition Arodys Vizcaino can get — and stay — healthy. If minor-league trade guy C.J. Edwards reaches his ceiling.

If, if, if.

“Anytime you’re talking about still calling guys up, that’s kind of a crapshoot,” rotation centerpiece Jeff Samardzija said. “Guys need to get here and prove themselves — consistently prove themselves. Kind of like you’ve seen out of Woody. And that takes time.

“To say before they get here that [they will be able to pitch at the big-league level is] tough. But I think we’re going in the right direction.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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