The first two games of the National League Championship Series were tales of two completely different games. The Los Angeles Dodgers got the much-needed split on the road and now will host the Chicago Cubs for the next three games.
The first game of the series had all the flare, heroics and drama that many were hoping for before this series got under way. The eighth inning is where most of the magic went down.
Trailing 3-1 heading into the top of the eighth innings, the Dodgers started the inning by loading the bases. Joe Maddon then decided to bring in flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman for a potential six-out save. Chapman struck out Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig with pitches over 100-mph. Adrian Gonzalez stepped into the batter’s box and lined a 101-mph pitch up the middle, driving in two and tying the game at 3-3.
In the bottom half of the frame, Chicago loaded the bases with a Ben Zobrist double and intentional walks to both Jason Heyward (who has struggled all series) and Chris Coghlan. Maddon put in Miguel Montero to pinch-hit for Chapman and Montero came through as a hero for the cubs, launching a grand slam into the right field bleachers, sending the Wrigley faithful into a frenzy. Dexter Fowler followed suit with a solo home run in the next at-bat. Joe Blanton was responsible for the nightmarish eighth innings as he pitched 2/3 of the inning and allowing all those hits and runs.
Hector Rondon came in to close things out in the ninth, giving Chapman the win despite the blown save.
Javier Baez became the first Cub since Game 4 of the 1907 World Series to steal home in a postseason game. He did this after stretching a single into a double. Kris Bryant knocked in the game’s first run with an RBI double in the home half of the first inning.
Jon Lester turned in a solid outing, giving up four hits and one run while striking out three over six innings. Kenta Maeda did not fare so well for the Dodgers, as he pitched just four innings, surrendering three runs and four hits while walking a trio of Chicago batters.
Los Angeles was able to quickly put that game behind them and give the ball to their ace, Clayton Kershaw on three days’ rest after he saved Game 5 of the NLDS. Rest was never a factor as Kershaw turned in one of the best games of his entire career. He was dominant in the seven innings he pitched, including taking a perfect game into the fifth innings. He finished with six strike outs and gave up just two hits and one walk.
Manager Dave Roberts decided to go to his closer, Kenley Jansen for a sox-out save, who was also pitching on three days’ rest after pitching a career-high 51 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS. Again, rest was not a factor. Jansen did allow a run, walk or hit in his two innings of work,
Adrian Gonzalez hit a solo home run in the top of the second inning, holding up to be the game’s lone run scored. That came off Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks, who pitched 5 1/3 innings, scattering four hits, issuing four free passes and striking out five. The bullpen came in and had a strong outing, allowing just three Dodgers hitters reach base, all coming via walk. In retrospect, the Cubs had just three base runners all game.
Now these two teams will travel to Dodger Stadium for three-straight games. Jake Arrieta will get the ball for Maddon in Game 3. Arrieta pitched six quality innings giving up two runs and six hits while striking out five. He even hit a three-run home run off Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. Arrieta tossed his first-career no-hitter last aught in Dodger Stadium.
Roberts will send Rich Hill to the bump, but will likely keep him on a short leash. Hill has been bothered by blisters on his pitching fingers and that prevents him from going deep into games. He gave up a run in the 2 2/3 innings he pitched in Game 5 of the ALDS. He will also be on pitching on short rest.