LOS ANGELES — Ben Zobrist saw the Los Angeles Times story that directly quoted Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal accusing the Cubs of stealing signs, adding another level of intrigue to this National League Championship Series between two cutting-edge teams.
“I think it’s hilarious,” Zobrist said after Monday’s workout at Dodger Stadium. “No, I was not stealing signs, but I appreciate him thinking my baseball IQ is that high.”
What began as a perceptive feature on Grandal working through communication issues with Clayton Kershaw became a talking point heading into Tuesday’s pivotal Game 3. With a best-of-seven matchup now tied, Grandal highlighted an eighth-inning comeback on Saturday in Game 1, when Zobrist led off with a double against Dodgers reliever Joe Blanton and Addison Russell worked a 3-0 count.
“All the sudden, Russell is not taking good swings at sliders, looking like he’s looking for a fastball and in a certain location,” Grandal told the LA Times. “Did we know Zobrist had the signs and was doing something for it? Yeah, we did. That’s why we do it.”
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Zobrist is the switch-hitter who helped the Kansas City Royals win last year’s World Series with his veteran presence and clutch performances. Russell is the 22-year-old All-Star shortstop now batting .045 (1-for-22) during these playoffs.
“I’ve tried before, but it’s never worked out,” Zobrist said. “With Addie up to bat there, I was just looking for him to hit a ball to the right side of the field and try to get a good jump. I don’t know what (Grandal) was looking at or what he thought he saw.
“But really from second base at Wrigley, it’s very tough to even see the signs because it’s so dark. All the lights are behind the hitter there.
“I guess (Grandal) probably used the right word when he said that almost all catchers are a little bit ‘paranoid’ about that.”
Kershaw ensured that wouldn’t become an issue for the Dodgers during Sunday’s 1-0 win, allowing only two singles before closer Kenley Jansen got the last six outs in Game 2. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts wouldn’t completely dismiss Grandal’s conspiracy theory.
“Every team’s going to try to get any advantage they can,” Roberts said. “That’s kind of the gamesmanship part of the game. That’s why catchers or guys on second base give multiple signs and change sequences. So if they are, it wouldn’t be a surprise, and there are many clubs that we’ve played against that do the same thing. That’s part of the game.”