With NLCS loss, Dodgers' World Series drought reaches 28 years

With NLCS loss, Dodgers' World Series drought reaches 28 years

CHICAGO -- Clayton Kershaw's playoff renaissance is over, at least for this year. The Los Angeles Dodgers ace flopped at a big moment - again.

Kershaw's postseason resume took another hit in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series, finishing off the reeling Dodgers. The Chicago Cubs battered the three-time Cy Young Award winner on their way to a 5-0 victory Saturday night, making it 28 years and counting since the Dodgers last won the World Series.

"This day is never fun, the ending of a season," Kershaw said. "You look back and think about the whole season as a whole. It's tough to swallow tonight, obviously, but I'd rather be in this position and fail than not to get to be in this situation at all."

Kershaw could have started Game 5 on three days' rest, but manager Dave Roberts decided to save him for Saturday night at Wrigley Field. Roberts was hoping a couple more days would help Kershaw duplicate his performance from Game 2, when he pitched seven innings of two-hit ball in a 1-0 victory.

The decision worked out quite well - for the Cubs. After winning a pair of shutouts in Games 2 and 3, the Dodgers dropped the next two by a combined score of 18-6. Even the great Kershaw was unable to slow Chicago's momentum, and Roberts' first season as Dodgers manager ended in disappointment.

The left-hander allowed four earned runs and seven hits while dropping to 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA in 18 playoff games.

"I think that the first thing I saw is the Cubs hitters, they had a great game plan tonight," Roberts said. "And there was a couple mistake sliders that they took advantage of. But they were running counts, they used the whole field, and there was traffic all night for Clayton. And he gave it everything he had, but when they did - when he did make a mistake, they made him pay."

Dexter Fowler hit a ground-rule double on Kershaw's third pitch of the night, and the Cubs were off and running. Kris Bryant followed with an RBI single. Then left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Anthony Rizzo's fly ball to the gap in left-center, setting up Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly.

It was the first time Kershaw had given up two runs in the first inning all season. He was limited to 21 starts this year due to a back injury.

"You get out of that first inning and you give up two, you feel like you have a chance maybe," Kershaw said. "They just kept tacking on runs. I gave up some two-out hits and some homers and some two-strike hits - just a lot of things that you can't do in a game like this."

Fowler added a two-out RBI single in the second, rookie Willson Contreras hit a leadoff drive in the fourth and Anthony Rizzo connected in the fifth. Rizzo became the first lefty batter to homer against Kershaw since Daniel Murphy for the New York Mets in Game 4 of their 2015 Division Series.

It was the first time Kershaw had allowed two homers in a game since April 9 at San Francisco. That was it for Roberts, who hit for his star pitcher in the sixth.

"We have asked a lot of Clayton all year long, so, again, it's just more of you got to give those hitters credit," Roberts said.

While Kershaw struggled against the Cubs, the Dodgers were shut down by Kyle Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman. Los Angeles managed just two hits and four baserunners, with none of them advancing past first.

Chicago became the first team to face the minimum in a postseason game since Don Larsen's perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series.

"We had a 2-1 lead with two games at home and it didn't go the way we thought it would go," Los Angeles center fielder Joc Pederson said. "We didn't take care of business. We made some mistakes, all of us."

Roberts managed the Dodgers to their fourth straight NL West title after taking over for Don Mattingly. But injuries to Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson and Hyun-Jin Ryu hurt rotation depth.

Kenta Maeda, who won 16 games during his rookie season, struggled in the playoffs, and 20-year-old Julio Urias was knocked out in the fourth inning of his first postseason start in Game 4 on Wednesday night.

Los Angeles went with three starters in the Division Series against Washington and Kershaw pitched three times, including a two-out save in the clinching Game 5. When he stepped up again in his first start in the NLCS, it looked as if he might be on the verge of a postseason breakthrough.

But his turnaround came to a screeching halt on a cool night in the Windy City. He dropped to 1-3 with a 6.28 ERA in five career starts with the Dodgers facing postseason elimination, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"It's only going to make him stronger for the years coming on," Pederson said. "He's had some trouble with his back and overcame it and came and helped us win the division and get past the NLDS. We wouldn't be here without him. He'll be stronger for next year."

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”