After the Dodgers took Game 1 of the NLCS from the Cubs behind five strong innings from ace Clayton Kershaw and tremendous work out of the bullpen, the Cubs couldn’t stand to let Sunday’s game slip by and fall behind 2-0 in the series.
Both starting pitchers came to play, trading zeroes back and forth through the first four innings. The Cubs finally broke through in the fifth inning, where Addison Russell clubbed a Rich Hill offering over the wall in left field to give the Cubs a 1-0 advantage.
It wouldn’t last long.
The Dodgers struck back off of Jon Lester in the home half of the fifth inning. Charlie Culberson, who’s only on the roster for his defensive prowess in place of the injured Corey Seager, led off the frame with a double. The Dodgers then opted to pinch-hit for Rich Hill, despite him pitching very well and having thrown only 79 pitches in the game, with Curtis Granderson. That move did not pay off, as Granderson fouled out to third base. Culberson advanced to third on a ground out by Chris Taylor, bringing postseason star Justin Turner to the dish. Turner battled Lester to a 2-2 count before lining a game-tying single into right field.
Hill had been terrific over his five innings of work, allowing just one run (the Russell homer) on three hits and a walk while punching out eight. The Dodgers then turned to right-hander Brandon Morrow to give them a lift, and the 33-year-old hurler obliged. Morrow retired all six hitters that he faced, two of them via strikeout, keeping the score knotted at 1-1 heading to the eighth.
The Cubs bullpen did some heavy lifting of their own to keep the game tied. Carl Edwards came on for Lester after Turner’s single in the fifth, getting the final out and avoiding any further damage. He stayed in the game to work a scoreless sixth inning, striking out three in 1 ⅓ innings. Pedro Strop followed him with a scoreless seventh inning and Brian Duensing was able to navigate his way through the eighth without any trouble.
That meant that this game would be decided in the ninth inning or later.
The Dodgers weren’t messing around and sent out All-Star closer Kenley Jansen to start the ninth inning in a tied game. Jansen threw 17 pitches during a four-out save on Saturday, striking out all four hitters that he faced. He was dominant again in this outing, striking out two in a scoreless inning of work, though he did hit Anthony Rizzo.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon on the other hand, decided to go a different direction in the ninth inning rather than giving the ball to closer Wade Davis. Duensing was left in to start the inning and promptly issued a four-pitch walk to Yasiel Puig. Culberson then laid down a successful sacrifice bunt, putting the potential winning run in scoring position with one out. Duensing bounced back to whiff pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer before getting replaced by veteran right-hander John Lackey.
The 38-year-old hurler had never worked back-to-back games in his career and had thrown 27 pitches while recording the final five outs in Saturday’s Game 1 loss. Chris Taylor worked a six-pitch walk, once again setting the stage for the Dodgers’ hottest hitter, Turner.
After taking Lackey’s first offering for a ball, Turner clobbered the next pitch over the wall in center field for a walk-off three-run homer. He’s now hitting a mighty impressive .429/.500/.714 with a pair of homers and 10 RBI in the postseason.
When asked about the decision to go to Duensing and Lackey in the ninth inning, rather than Davis, Cubs' manager Joe Maddon stated "I really needed him for the save tonight. He had limited pitches."
The series will now shift back to Chicago on Tuesday with the defending World Champions facing a 2-0 deficit. The Dodgers will send Yu Darvish to the mound, looking to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. The Cubs will counter with right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who was hit hard in a rain-shortened start against the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS.
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Elsewhere, in New York...
In American League action, the ALCS will shift back to New York on Monday with the Yankees looking to battle back from their own 2-0 deficit.
For the Yankees, it’ll be veteran left-hander CC Sabathia taking the hill, fresh off of his out-dueling of Corey Kluber in the decisive Game 5 of the ALDS. In that game, the southpaw racked up nine strikeouts over his 4 ⅓ innings before turning the ball over to the Yankees’ bullpen.
Sabathia has pitched well historically against the current Astros’ roster. As a club, they are hitting just .193/.273/.375 with 24 strikeouts in 88 at-bats against him. Evan Gattis is expected to start behind the plate for the Astros on Monday. He’s 1-for-3 lifetime with a home run off of Sabathia.
He’ll be opposed by Astros’ right-hander Charlie Morton He wasn’t at his best in his lone postseason start, allowing a pair of runs over 4 ⅓ innings against the Red Sox in Game 4 of the ALDS.
Several Yankee hitters have had tremendous success in their careers off of Morton, but none jump off the page the way that Todd Frazier does. The veteran third baseman has slashed .389/.421/.944 with two doubles, a triple, two homers and six RBI in 19 plate appearances against him.
Quick Hits: Former White Sox' hurler Daniel Webb, 28, was killed in a tragic ATV accident on Sunday. He missed the entire 2017 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery... Jake Marisnick (thumb) played catch for the first time on Sunday since undergoing surgery to repair his fractured thumb. There's still a chance he could return in time for the World Series should the Astros advance past the Yankees... Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that Alex Cora is viewed as the "top candidate" for the Red Sox' managerial vacancy... The Red Sox have also requested permission from the Diamondbacks to interview bench coach Ron Gardenhire... According to John Perrotto of FanRag Sports, Fredi Gonzalez is "considered the favorite" to become the Tigers next manager.