Red Sox

NLCS: Puig, Taylor power Dodgers past Cubs 5-2 in Game 1

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NLCS: Puig, Taylor power Dodgers past Cubs 5-2 in Game 1

LOS ANGELES -- Although Clayton Kershaw once again failed to dominate in a postseason start, these Los Angeles Dodgers don't need one guy to carry them.

With a relentless lineup, flawless relief pitching and a collective charisma epitomized by the bat-flipping Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers are still unbeaten in the postseason and off to a strong start in the NL Championship Series.

Chris Taylor hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning, Puig added a homer and an RBI double to his dynamite postseason, and the Dodgers overcame a short start by Kershaw for a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday night in the NLCS opener.

"We just tried to set the tone early against the Cubs," closer Kenley Jansen said. "We understand they're the defending champions, so they're a really good team. We understand that we won 104 games, but right now it doesn't matter."

Charlie Culberson doubled, drove in the tying run and scored another while replacing injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager for the resourceful Dodgers, who improved to 4-0 in this postseason."

With another collective offensive effort and four innings of perfect relief for Kershaw, the Dodgers calmly overcame an early two-run deficit and took the first game of this rematch of the 2016 NLCS, won in six games by the Cubs on the way to their first World Series championship in 108 years.

"It's two different ballclubs," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "There are some similar players, but I think that the season we had versus the season they had last year, I think that you could parallel those two, and the confidence we have in our group, and they had in their group last year. I just know that this year we're a very focused group, very confident group."

The Dodgers hadn't won the opening game of an NLCS since 1985. Game 2 is Sunday, with Rich Hill starting at home against Chicago's Jon Lester.

Kershaw pitched five innings of four-hit ball, but the Los Angeles ace fell behind 2-0 before getting pulled for a pinch-hitter during the Dodgers' tying rally.

After winning 104 games in the regular season and sweeping Arizona in the Division Series, the Dodgers have a lineup and bullpen equipped to handle almost anything. They made Kershaw's latest laborious postseason start virtually irrelevant, just as they did after he gave up four homers in his 2017 playoff opener against the Diamondbacks last week.

Albert Almora Jr. hit a two-run homer in the fourth, but the final 18 batters failed to reach base for the weary Cubs, still bouncing back from a 10-hour cross-country flight after finishing off Washington in an epic Game 5 late Thursday night.

"Their bullpen is pretty firm, and we have to really get our feet back on the ground," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Puig added another huge offensive game to his recent surge with his first career postseason homer - though in a postgame interview on TBS, he was convinced he had hit one before.

The Cuban slugger also included his usual array of creative bat discards and portentous pauses at the plate.

Los Angeles finally got rolling in the fifth when Logan Forsythe and Austin Barnes drew one-out walks before Puig hammered a double to left-center. The ebullient Cuban slugger headed to second only after flipping his bat and spreading his arms wide at the plate.

Puig's sky-high homer off Mike Montgomery in the sixth barely got over the fence in left. Puig is 7 for 15 with six RBIs in the Dodgers' first four playoff games.

"I grew up a little bit," Puig said. "(I'm) going to home plate having fun, because I know (if) I hit nothing, (if) I do nothing in the game, my teammates are going to have my back."

Kenta Maeda got three outs and the victory in his latest standout relief effort, and Jansen struck out all four batters he faced for his third save this postseason.

Kershaw's inability to match his sublime regular-season performances in the playoffs is a central theme of his career. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner won the NLDS series opener last week despite giving up four homers at Dodger Stadium, and Almora's shot made him the first Dodgers pitcher to yield five homers in a single postseason.

CLOSE CALL

Maddon was ejected in the seventh after a call at the plate was reversed. Culberson initially was ruled out when he attempted to score from second, but was called safe after video review when catcher Willson Contreras was deemed to be in violation of blocking home plate without the ball.

"I saw a great baseball play," Maddon said. "His technique was absolutely 100 percent perfect. I could not disagree more with the interpretation of that."

GOOD START

Jose Quintana pitched five innings of two-hit ball for the Cubs one day after his wife, Michel, was taken off the team plane in Albuquerque with a medical ailment. But the Dodgers tied it against him in the fifth and went ahead in the sixth with Taylor's leadoff shot off loser Hector Rondon.

Despite pitching for the third time in six days after a start and a relief appearance against Washington, Quintana retired 12 of Los Angeles' first 13 batters.

SEAGER OUT

Seager was left off the NLCS roster due to back pain. The All-Star's surprise absence deprived Los Angeles of its No. 2 hitter and prompted the club to play Culberson, who had only 15 big league plate appearances in the regular season. But Culberson came through with a series of big plays at the plate and on the basepaths.

UP NEXT

Cubs: Lester won Game 5 of the 2016 NLCS at Dodger Stadium. He started Game 2 of the Division Series this year and added 3 2/3 innings of relief in Game 4 on Wednesday, but the veteran lefty compared that relief appearance to normal side work between starts. Lester's nine career postseason victories are the most among active pitchers except Justin Verlander, who picked up No. 10 in Houston earlier Saturday.

Dodgers: Hill is a former Cubs pitcher with just one career postseason victory, but the resilient veteran regularly comes through in tough situations for LA. He made it through just four innings in Game 2 against Arizona, but yielded only two runs.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Red Sox place Eduardo Rodriguez (right ankle sprain) on 10-day disabled list; Brian Johnson activated off DL

Red Sox place Eduardo Rodriguez (right ankle sprain) on 10-day disabled list; Brian Johnson activated off DL

Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez left his Saturday outing against the Toronto Blue Jays after injuring his right ankle covering first base.

Boston has now placed him on the 10-day disabled list with the injury diagnosed as a right ankle sprain. Brian Johnson was activated off the 10-day DL Sunday. 

Click here for a replay of the injury. 

Rodriguez pitched 5.1 shutout innings, striking out five before exiting the game. Alex Cora told reporters after Saturday's win the swelling in Rodriguez's ankle, "looked bad."

This injury comes at a terrible time for the 25-year-old lefty. He is 11-3 on the season with a 3.44 ERA, easily marking the best year of his career to date. 

The silver lining is the MLB All Star break is upon us. Boston will wrap up its first half Sunday with a 1:05 p.m. EST game against Toronto, and will not return to the diamond until July 20th in Detroit.

Rodriguez could use the break to get healthy with his next start scheduled 10 days from now. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Bogaerts' walk-off grand slam lifts Red Sox over Blue Jays 6-2 in 10

Bogaerts' walk-off grand slam lifts Red Sox over Blue Jays 6-2 in 10

BOSTON -- Xander Bogaerts relaxed to the beat of his favorite walk-up song. Three pitchers later, he was stunned by excitement rounding the bases.

Bogaerts hit a game-ending grand slam with one out in 10th inning, and J.D. Martinez hit his major league-leading 29th homer to carry the Boston Red Sox to a 6-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.

Mookie Betts opened the winning rally by reaching on an error against Chris Rowley (0-1) when shortstop Gurriel, who moved there in the beginning of the inning, had his grounder go right through his legs. Brock Holt had a hit-and-run single and Martinez was intentionally walked before Bogaerts hit his shot to left-center that caromed around the edge of the bleachers.

Before he came up, Bogaerts heard `X Gon' Give It To Ya' by DMX.

"The music. I'm going to be honest," he said, smiling. "It was a good time for it. I have certain spots where I like to hear that. It really helped me. I kind of smiled going up there."

He said he barely recalled running the bases.

"A walk-off homer is different, a walk-off grand slam even more," he said. "Running the bases, I didn't even remember I hit a homer to be honest."

It was Boston's first game-ending slam in extra innings since Hall of Famer since Jim Rice on July 4, 1984, and Bogaerts' third slam of the season.

Martinez increased his major league-leading RBI total to 80 with a solo shot and red-hot Betts extended his hitting streak to 12 games with three singles to raise his majors' best average to .362 for Boston.

"They're tough, man," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They got different ways they can beat you. They got a little bit of everything."

The AL East-leading Red Sox had their 10-game winning streak halted Friday. They haven't lost two straight since June 19 and 20.

Boston starter Eduardo Rodriguez had to leave the game with a sprained right ankle after stumbling to the ground when his left foot hit the helmet of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who was diving into the bag on his infield hit.

"It looks bad, but we'll see," manager Alex Cora said. "He's moving around which is encouraging."

The Red Sox had tied it in the ninth when Jackie Bradley Jr. had an RBI double after Bogaerts opened the inning with a double.

Craig Kimbrel (2-1) pitched a hitless 10th for the victory.

Rodriguez, who gave up four hits with five strikeouts and no walks in 5 1/3 shutout innings, arrived nearly the same time as Gurriel and reached for a wild throw by first baseman Blake Swihart. The left-hander was on a run with three straight scoreless starts, covering 19 innings.

Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar left the game with a right clavicle injury after making a diving catch on Holt's shallow fly when he rolled before throwing to second for an inning-ending double play.

"He's at the hospital getting checked right now," Gibbons said.

Martinez homered over the Green Monster in the fourth off starter Sam Gaviglio, who worked on two days rest after getting tagged for six runs in 1 2/3 innings in his last start at Atlanta.

In the seventh, Toronto scored twice off reliever Joe KellyKendrys Morales singled and advanced on Dwight Smith Jr.'s double. Aledmys Diaz's run-scoring ground out into the shortstop hole tied it.

Matt Barnes then relieved and Gurriel grounded a hit-and-run single through the vacated second-base position.

MORE RED SOX

TRAINER'S ROOM

Blue Jays: Closer Roberto Osuna, currently serving a 75-game suspension for violating major league baseball's domestic violence policy, started a rehab assignment with their Gulf Coast League team Saturday and gave up one hit and struck out one in an inning. . Highly-touted prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (left knee injury) played defense for the first time with the GCL team, getting in five innings at third and going 1 for 3 with a double.

Red Sox: Cora said LHP Drew Pomeranz (10-day DL, left biceps tendinitis) would make another rehab start with Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday. "We need the good Drew Pomeranz, the guy that can be good consistently and with his breaking ball," Cora said. . Cora also said that knuckleballer Steven Wright (DL, left knee inflammation) is "not having great days. He's still throwing and all that, but he's still sore."

RESPECT

Gibbons elected to walk Betts intentionally with a 3-0 count and a runner on first with two outs in the fifth.

ROSTER MOVES

The Red Sox recalled LHP Bobby Poyner from Pawtucket to add depth to their tired bullpen and optioned LHP Robby Scott back after he threw two innings Friday.

The Blue Jays made changes, too, recalling RHP Rowley from Triple-A Buffalo and sending down LHP Ryan Borucki, who gave up seven runs, four earned, in three innings in Friday's win.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (2-6, 5.90 ERA) looks to win his second straight.

Red Sox: LHP Brian Johnson (1-2, 4.23) is set to go in the series finale.