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'School' is in session for Cubs hitters

Kris Bryant struck out four times Friday as Clayton Kershaw fanned 14 Cubs in all. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

LOS ANGELES -- It’s Cy Young week, according to the Chicago Cubs. who have faced some of the best pitchers in the game lately, including Friday’s opponent, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kershaw “schooled” the Cubs en route to a 4-1 Dodgers victory in which he struck out 14.

The loss came a day after the Cubs struck out 16 times facing the Giants and Madison Bumgarner (the World Series MVP struck out 12 himself). Earlier in the week, the Cubs faced Corey Kluber (2014 AL Cy Young) of the Cleveland Indians and Jake Peavy (2007 winner) of the Giants. See the pattern?

“I love the fact that we went to school over the last two days,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after Friday’s game. “We had a hard time, and that’s OK. As we move forward, I anticipate we’re going to do a lot better against guys like this.”

The Cubs can take that perspective because they’ve built a little cushion in the National League wild-card race, though the lead is down to 4.5 games after San Francisco’s win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. Even after dropping three in a row, the Cubs aren’t in desperation mode. The key is what they get out of these losses.

“They’re way different,” Addison Russell said. “They’re at the top of their game. There’s not much you can do but battle it out.”

Russell struck out twice against Kershaw after whiffing three times the day before. Yeah, school is in session for the Cubs' rookies. Kris Bryant struck out four times on Friday while Anthony Rizzo went down twice, but at least he took Kershaw deep for his 26th home run.

“This is good for us to taste this feeling,” Rizzo said. “You can put those pitchers against the most veteran team out there and they’ll look like they’re getting schooled.”

You have to admire the Cubs’ perspective: as long as it pays off later. They figure this is what it’s going to look like in the playoffs so why not get the experience now -- this way they can be ready for October. As long as their lead doesn’t evaporate, it can be a beneficial stance.

“That needs to happen for us to get better,” Maddon said of Cy Young week. “They’re not robots. Our guys are young. They’re learning.”

The Cubs actually had a shot to beat Kershaw for a second time this season. Rizzo had just tied the game 1-1 with a blast to center field, but the Cubs played a sloppy sixth inning that was the difference in the game.

“When you’re facing [Kershaw], you can’t make mistakes,” Maddon said. “We made a couple mistakes.”

So that’s yet another lesson learned on a night when everything went the right way for the Dodgers. During the game, late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel announced Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully was returning for another season while Kershaw proved he’s aging in his job pretty well himself.

“He’s pretty filthy,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “Don’t feel bad about 0-for-3 or 0-for-4 against him. The young guys shouldn’t get frustrated.”

As long as the Cubs find their way out of their mini skid, things will be all right. After all, with Cy Young week over, maybe school is finally out of session.

“He’s human,” Rizzo said of Kershaw. “They’re all human. But they’re really good.”