Giants

Kershaw shuts down Cubs, Dodgers even NLCS 1-1

Kershaw shuts down Cubs, Dodgers even NLCS 1-1

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- So much for October closer. With his Dodgers desperate for a win, Clayton Kershaw delivered the most dominant start of his checkered playoff career.

The ace left-hander pitched seven sparkling innings, Adrian Gonzalez homered and Los Angeles beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0 Sunday night to tie the NL Championship Series at a game apiece.

Kershaw retired his first 14 batters and allowed just two hits in first outing since he pitched three times in the NL Division Series, including a two-out save in Game 5 on Thursday night in Washington. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner struck out six and walked one while throwing just 84 pitches in a brisk outing that could help when he returns later in the NLCS.

"It was one of those games where one pitch could have been the deciding factor," Kershaw said. "So, really just kind of couldn't look up for a minute for air and just kind of kept going through it and fortunate to get through it tonight."

The Dodgers needed a clutch pitching performance after their heartbreaking 8-4 loss in the series opener. And Kershaw responded with a postseason gem that continued his reputation repair after a handful of playoff duds over the years. He was just 3-6 with a 4.79 ERA in 16 career postseason games coming into the series.

"I feel like every start he has the chance to be great," catcher Yasmani Grandal said. "It's just unbelievable to see him pitch, it's unbelievable to see him compete."

Kenley Jansen struck out four in two perfect innings for his third save of the playoffs.

Game 3 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta, who pitched a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium last August, faces left-hander Rich Hill, who worked a total of seven innings in two starts in the Division Series against the Nationals.

The Cubs lost a 1-0 game in the postseason for the first time since Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox blanked them in the 1918 World Series opener.

Chicago, trying for its first pennant in 71 years, wasted a solid start by major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks, who pitched 5 1/3 innings of three-hit ball in his first outing since he left his Division Series start against San Francisco with a bruised right forearm.

Hendricks' only mistake was a second-inning fastball that Gonzalez drove over the wall in left-center for his second homer of the playoffs. Gonzalez also had a tying two-run single in the eighth inning of the series opener, but Miguel Montero's pinch-hit grand slam was the big blow in a dramatic win for Chicago.

A day later, the Cubs couldn't get anything going against Kershaw.

"He kept the ball off the fat part of our bat," manager Joe Maddon said. "He threw strikes like he normally does. So despite not having rest, his command and velocity were still good."

Slumping slugger Anthony Rizzo just missed a home run with a foul drive in the fourth, and then bounced out. Javier Baez and Willson Contreras hit consecutive two-out singles in the fifth for Chicago's first baserunners, but Jason Heyward fouled out to third.

Nothing seemed to bother Kershaw on a muggy night at Wrigley Field. After Grandal dropped a foul popup in the seventh, Kershaw responded with a wry grin, and then struck out Ben Zobrist.

With two down and a runner on first, Baez drove Kershaw's final pitch to the warning track in center, momentarily thrilling the crowd of 42,384. But Joc Pederson was there for the catch.

"I think the wind killed it a little bit. I just didn't get all of it," Baez said.

Said Kershaw: "I thought it was out, for sure."

Jansen backed Kershaw with flawless relief. The big right-hander struck out Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant before Rizzo lined meekly to second for the final out.

While the Cubs struggled against Jansen and Kershaw, Hendricks and their bullpen gave them a chance. Carl Edwards Jr.Mike MontgomeryPedro Strop and Aroldis Chapman combined for 3 2/3 innings of hitless relief.

Josh Reddick got Los Angeles' last hit of the night in the sixth, putting runners on first and second. Edwards then came in and got Pederson to hit a soft liner to second that Baez let drop before starting a heady inning-ending double play.

SLUMPING:
Rizzo, one of the leading candidates for NL MVP, went 0 for 3 with a walk. He is 1 for 23 with six Ks in the playoffs. Heyward and Addison Russell each had another hitless night, continuing their struggles.

UP NEXT:
The Cubs and Dodgers work out in Los Angeles on Monday, and then Arrieta and Hill return to the mound for the first time since the Division Series. Arrieta made one start against Los Angeles this season, pitching seven scoreless innings in a no-decision at Wrigley on May 31. Hill, a fourth-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2002, has made one appearance against his first major league team, recording two outs in relief for Boston on May 21, 2011.

MLB rumors: How Dodgers' Dave Roberts could replace Giants' Bruce Bochy

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AP

MLB rumors: How Dodgers' Dave Roberts could replace Giants' Bruce Bochy

The Giants already made one drastic change to their franchise this offseason in hiring Farhan Zaidi away from the Los Angeles Dodgers as their new president of baseball operations. Another year from now, could they add another prominent figure from their archrival?

According to FanCred's Jon Heyman, the Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts appeared close to a multiyear contract extension a week ago, but they now sit at a standstill, unable to come to an agreement. Roberts is said to be on vacation overseas, per Heyman, and the sides “remain far apart."

Los Angeles picked up Roberts’ $1.1 million option for 2019, meaning he’s under contract for next season, but not beyond. If the sides can't come to an agreement on an extension, Roberts essentially will enter next season as a lame-duck manager.

How do the Giants figure into this, you ask? Well, they just might have a managerial opening in one year’s time.

Bruce Bochy is entering the final year of his contract, and while the Giants have experienced plenty of success under the future Hall of Fame manager, there is plenty of reason to believe this will be Bochy’s last season in orange and black.

If 2019 indeed is Bochy’s final season with the Giants, could Roberts be the front-runner to replace him, provided he and the Dodgers don’t reach an extension? In many ways, it would be a logical pairing.

Zaidi obviously is familiar with Roberts, having served as general manager of the Dodgers since the beginning of the 2015 season. Roberts was hired as manager the following year, and Los Angeles has won the National League West in every season since, ultimately losing in the World Series each of the last two years.

Giants fans should be familiar with Roberts as well, and not just because of the last few years. The Dodgers manager spent the final two seasons of his 10-year playing career in San Francisco, batting .252 and stealing 36 bases in 166 games for the orange and black. He also played three seasons in Los Angeles and two in San Diego.

There’s still plenty of time for Roberts and the Dodgers to come to an agreement on an extension, but if for whatever reason they don’t, he could find another home within NL West a year from now.

MLB free agency debate: Where will Patrick Corbin sign this offseason?

MLB free agency debate: Where will Patrick Corbin sign this offseason?

Editor's note: Each day this week, Giants insider Alex Pavlovic and A's reporter Ben Ross will debate where one of the top five free agents might land this offseason. Friday's free agent to discuss is Patrick Corbin, a left-hander who had a career year at the perfect time and could be looking at the biggest deal for any pitcher this offseason.

ALEX: At some point, Patrick Corbin is going to sign a $100 million deal somewhere. When he does, he should send a nice catered meal -- or at least a couple dozen bags of Chick-fil-A -- to the Giants' spring clubhouse. They did more than anyone to help him get to this point.

Corbin faced the Giants six times last year, posting a 2.27 ERA and holding their hitters to a .176 average. Nearly 20 percent of his innings in his huge walk year were thrown against a bad Giants lineup, and he took full advantage. If you throw those Giants starts out, he had a 3.37 ERA. Good but not elite.

But good for him. They were on the schedule, and he dominated.

Here's the question: Do you really think he's the top guy on the market, or would you prefer Dallas Keuchel or Nathan Eovaldi? 

BEN: I have to admit I hadn’t thought of it that way before! Maybe the Giants should sign him just to make sure they don’t have to face him again.

I still think Corbin is the top pitcher on the market. 246 strikeouts in 200 innings is impressive, to say the least. It seems like the Yankees are the favorites to land him. Where else might he end up?

ALEX: The Yankees are the favorites, for sure. It sounds like the Phillies are going to spend a ton of money this winter, and maybe they'll turn to pitching if they strike out on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

In your division, I think the Angels have to be in on all the pitchers, just to make sure they give Mike Trout a real shot at the postseason before his contract expires. And I wonder if the Astros will go big to make up for Keuchel and Charlie Morton being free agents and Lance McCullers having Tommy John. The Braves could use an ace, too, which is why they're a popular Madison Bumgarner destination. Corbin will have a robust market.

Am I missing anyone? 

BEN: I think those are all realistic options. I think the Nationals will have some interest as well. Is there any chance he returns to Arizona? What about the Giants? Or are they done giving big money to free agent pitchers?

ALEX: They should be after giving out $220 million to two guys who are currently injured. Plus, the Andrew Friedman-Farhan Zaidi Dodgers tended to go for three-year deals for veteran pitchers, and Corbin is going to try to get twice that.

I don't see him back in Arizona, given all the talk there about trading Zach Greinke and possibly Paul Goldschmidt -- it sounds like they're taking a real step back. I'm going to go with everyone else and predict he ends up with the Yankees. Let's say, five years and $110 million. 

BEN: I'm picking the Yankees, too. He's used to pitching in a hitter's park, although Chase Field isn't quite Yankee Stadium. But he's a strikeout pitcher, so the ballpark shouldn't matter a ton.

The Yankees need starting pitching, and they have plenty of money to spend. I'll say he gets five years, $105 million.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Friday is dedicated to free agent pitcher Patrick Corbin.