The Cubs had such a promising start to the evening. Jon Jay went down quickly on strikes to Clayton Kershaw, but a Kris Bryant single and Anthony Rizzo walk gave the Cubs an early scoring chance. Willson Contreras struck out looking and Albert Almora hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. Jose Quintana was sharper in retiring the side in order. Kershaw matched Quintana’s first. Quintana gave up his first hit of the game in the second inning, but the Logan Forsythe single was quickly erased on an inning ending double play.
A Jose Quintana single was the only drama in the third inning between the two teams, but the Cubs would strike first in the fourth. Willson Contreras led off the frame with a solid single, and Albert Almora hit a line drive home run to left to give the Cubs the early 2-0 lead. Kershaw retired the next three batters. Quintana was rolling as well at this point as he faced the minimum through four innings. That was the high point of the game.
The Cubs could not eke out a single base runner as they faced Kershaw for one more inning. Than it was Tony Cingrani retiring Anthony Rizzo before Kenta Maeda retired three batters. Brandon Morrow ended the seventh inning, and Tony Watson got the first two outs of the eighth inning. Kenley Jansen was perfect on the way to the Dodgers victory.
Jose Quintana ran into trouble after striking out Kike Hernandez to start the fifth inning. Forsythe and Austin Barnes drew back to back walks. Yasiel Puig ripped a double that ran off the base of the wall in left to score Forsythe. Charlie Culberson hit a deep fly to tie the game. Pinch hitter Kyle Farmer ended Kershaw’s evening and the Dodger fifth.
Joe Maddon was again quick to the pen inserting Hector Rondon into the game before he had to make a change for a pinch hitter. Charlie Taylor greeted Rondon with a solo shot to give the Dodgers the lead. Rondon struck out Justin Turner. Mike Montgomery was the next hurler, but his postseason struggled continued with a shaky performance in the sixth. Cody Bellinger singled. Hernandez flew out, but Monty walked Forsythe to create some drama. Austin Barnes flew out to end the inning.
The seventh inning was the decisive frame as the Dodgers put the nails in their first NLCS victory of 2017. Yasiel Puig hit a high fly ball that just carried past the left field wall to make it a 4-2 game. Culberson doubled next, but remained at second due to the aggressive fielding of Anthony Rizzo on the Brandon Morrow sacrifice bunt attempt. Taylor hit a groundball single to end Monty’s night. John Lackey finally made a postseason appearance. Justin Turner hit a grounder through the left side. Kyle Schwarber came up with the ball quickly and fired home. Willson Contreras caught the ball and tagged Culberson before he reached home plate. The play went under review and it was ruled that Contreras didn’t give Culberson a lane to reach the plate with his leg. Culberson was ruled safe and the Dodgers had a 5-2 lead. Joe Maddon was incredulous and had his night ended a little earlier than the Cubs by arguing his case. Lackey retired the next two batters to keep the game close. Lackey put up another zero on the board in the eighth inning, but it didn’t matter as Kenley Jansen remains really, really good.
It was so good to start. The confidence felt as Quintana mowed through a dangerous lineup. Then he lost the feel for the strikezone suddenly. A big strikezone tightened at inopportune times as well, but the Dodgers did enough to get the game tied. I was disappointed that Joe was not willing to trust Quintana for another frame. The bullpen has been shaky and is absolutely decimated by the game on Thursday. They also only had two fresh arms in John Lackey and Hector Rondon. The bullpen stayed shaky, but it probably didn’t matter as the very good Dodger bullpen took care of the Cubs lineup.
Jon Jay at the Top
The Cubs had just four hits on the night. They had one walk. Very few hitters looked good when that happens, but Jon Jay deserves a mention. Even when the bats are struggling he consistently puts together solid at bats. Part of why Clayton Kershaw was out of the game as fast as he was the pitch count. Jon Jay had one of his typical Jon Jay at bats as he fouled off several pitches to make Kershaw sweat. That is why he is a valuable presence in the lineup even when he doesn’t make it on base in the game.
Battle of the Bullpens
The Dodgers have a clear edge in the bullpen. Kenley Jansen is just insanely good, but their depth is going to be a challenge. There isn’t going to be a need to insert starters as relievers for the Dodgers. There is no Joe Blanton to hit a grand slam off of either this year. The Cubs are going to have to do damage against very good starting pitchers, and Jon Lester is going to have to be October Jon Lester tomorrow to escape L.A. with the desired victory.
It wasn’t what we hoped for, but the Cubs survived the night without the pen being too damaged. Hector Rondon, Mike Montgomery and John Lackey didn’t pitch particularly well, but the Cubs should be set up well for the rest of the series. So lets be happy for a night.