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MLB Playoffs: Clayton Kershaw tosses gem to help Dodgers knot up NLCS with Cubs

MLB Playoffs: Clayton Kershaw tosses gem to help Dodgers knot up NLCS with Cubs

CHICAGO -- So much for October closer. With his Dodgers desperate for a win, Clayton Kershaw delivered the best 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."

Kenley Jansen then struck out four in two perfect innings for his third save of the playoffs. The teams combined for just five hits for the lowest total in a playoff game since the Cardinals and Pirates had four in Game 4 of their 2013 NL Division Series.

"I think that you couldn't have scripted it any better," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "And it was just another fun ballgame."

Roberts almost went to Jansen with a runner on first and two out in the seventh, but Kershaw argued successfully to stay in the game. Javier Baez then hit a drive to the warning track in deep center, but Joc Pederson was there for the catch.

"He hit it pretty good," Kershaw said. "And yeah, after Dave came out and that, I kind of talked my way into it. I really wanted to -- he was probably not going to trust me again after that, but, fortunately, he hit it at somebody, so it was good."

Baez's drive was one of a precious few hard-hit balls for the Cubs. Kershaw was that good.

The Dodgers needed a clutch pitching performance after their heartbreaking 8-4 loss in the series opener. And Kershaw responded with a 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 this 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."

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.

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.

"Playoffs is always about pitching and defense," said Miguel Montero, the Game 1 star for the Cubs. "Tonight we played great defense as well and we couldn't score."

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 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. 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.

"I honestly thought with him pitching with a couple of days' rest, he wasn't going to be that nasty," Baez said, "but obviously he came ready for us and he just did his job."

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.

About Gonzalez
Gonzalez became the seventh player in major league history to homer in at least six consecutive playoff series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was the third go-ahead homer of his postseason career.

What a relief
While the Cubs struggled against Jansen and Kershaw, Hendricks and their bullpen gave them a chance. Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, Pedro 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 .

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.

Late homer spoils Nick Pivetta's strong outing against MLB-best Red Sox

Late homer spoils Nick Pivetta's strong outing against MLB-best Red Sox

BOX SCORE 

The Phillies continue to play the Boston Red Sox tough. But that didn’t produce a win Tuesday night.

The Red Sox, who have the majors’ best record at 86-35, beat the Phillies, 2-1, at Citizens Bank Park. The Sox have beaten the Phillies two out of three games the last two weeks.

Boston’s wins have both been by scores of 2-1.

The Phils won one of the games by a 3-1 score.

The Phillies entered the game in second place in the NL East, a game behind Atlanta. It was the first time since July 4 that the Phils did not enter a game in first place.

The Phillies had just two hits in the game and they struck out 13 times. They have scored just 16 runs in the last seven games. They are 2-5 over that span.

It was a 1-1 game until pinch-hitter Brock Holt came off the bench and launched a first-pitch homer against Tommy Hunter with one out in the top of the eighth inning.

Boston starter Rick Porcello pitched brilliantly with seven innings of one-run ball, no walks and 10 strikeouts.

Porcello was staked to a 1-0 lead on a home run by Sandy Leon in the top of the third inning. Porcello did not allow a hit through the first four innings. Rhys Hoskins broke through with the Phillies’ first hit when he launched his 23rd homer to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. The blast tied the game at 1-1.

After batting second most of the season, Hoskins hit cleanup as manager Gabe Kapler shuffled his lineup in the wake of the Phillies scoring just 15 runs while going 2-4 on their recent trip to Arizona and San Diego. Kapler dropped Carlos Santana from fourth to fifth and used Nick Williams in the No. 2 hole.

Hoskins struggled mightily on the trip with just one hit in 21 at-bats. That was part of a bigger 1-for-27 funk.

Phillies starter Nick Pivetta scattered three hits and a walk over six innings of one-run ball. He struck out six. The only run he allowed came on Leon’s solo home run in the third. The Red Sox continued to threaten in that inning as Porcello doubled with one out and Mookie Betts walked. Pivetta then battled Andrew Benintendi to a full-count showdown and got an important double play on a breaking ball. The double play was one of two the Phils turned behind Pivetta.

Pivetta threw just 84 pitches and was in control. However, he was lifted for pinch-hitter Roman Quinn to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning. Before the game, Kapler indicated that he would be aggressive with his bench and bullpen in pivotal situations in the game. That’s why the Phils added a ninth reliever before the game (see story).

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Phillies trade Jake Thompson, call up Hector Neris, and monitor Wilson Ramos' progress

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Phillies trade Jake Thompson, call up Hector Neris, and monitor Wilson Ramos' progress

The Phillies made several transactions before Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox.

In a move that could have an immediate impact Tuesday night, the club recalled reliever Hector Neris from Triple A Lehigh Valley. To make room for Neris, the Phillies sent infielder J.P. Crawford to Lehigh Valley.

The move left the Phils with a four-man bench and gave them an unusual nine-man bullpen — three lefties and six righties.

Also on Monday, the team traded pitcher Jake Thompson to the Milwaukee Brewers in a cash deal. Thompson had been designated for assignment when the Phillies acquired left-handed slugger Justin Bour from Miami on Friday.

Thompson, 24, joined the Phillies organization from Texas in the July 2015 trade that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers. He pitched in 30 games for the Phillies over three seasons and shuttled back and forth to Triple A this season while working out of the bullpen.

Thompson was one of six players acquired from the Rangers for Hamels and reliever Jake Diekman. The others were pitchers Matt Harrison, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher, catcher Jorge Alfaro and outfielder Nick Williams. Harrison never pitched for the Phillies because of a back injury. The Phillies essentially took on his remaining contract as part of the deal. Asher was designated for assignment at the end of spring training 2017 and eventually dealt to Baltimore. Ironically, he landed with Milwaukee and was designated for assignment Monday to make room for Thompson.

Eickhoff, Alfaro and Williams remain with the Phillies. Eickhoff has been on the disabled list all season but is pitching on minor-league rehab. Alfaro and Williams are regulars with the big club.

Crawford sent down

Manager Gabe Kapler said the Phils decided to send Crawford down for more at-bats because Bour would be the first left-handed hitter off the bench and that would reduce some need for Crawford.

Also, the Phils like the idea of a super-deep bullpen against Boston and its majors-best offense.

“The Red Sox don’t have many holes,” Kapler said. “They do everything really well. We felt like if we could stay in games these next couple of games — even if we don’t have the lead, if we’re within striking distance, we felt like it was advantageous to stay in games even if it was two, three or four runs away from going for the jugular. So in that case, it’s nice to have an additional reliever for sure.”

Neris returns

Neris was sent to the minors in early July to repair his splitter and his confidence. He has been very good recently, giving up just three earned runs in 16⅔ innings over his last 17 games. He has allowed just nine hits and six walks over that span while striking out 29.

Wilson Ramos ready?

One final note: Catcher Wilson Ramos appears to be making speedy progress in his recovery from a hamstring strain. He was 4 for 9 with three doubles in three games for Clearwater from Saturday through Monday. Ramos is expected to be evaluated in Philadelphia on Tuesday and could be in the Phillies’ lineup sooner rather than later. The Phils acquired Ramos from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline knowing he’d need some time to recover from the injury suffered in early July.

“With Wilson, we're discussing what his next steps are going to be,” Kapler said. “Nothing is set in stone and nothing is off the table.”

Ramos' three rehab games have been “really, really good,” Kapler said. “He's come out feeling especially healthy. He's been productive at the plate. Last report from his game Monday night — nine innings, he was much more mobile behind the plate, no health issues, looking very good.”

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