Despite a slow start offensively on Saturday evening, the Dodgers rallied with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the contest, and eventually went ahead to stay in the sixth en route to capturing the opener of the 2017 NLCS with a 5-2 victory over visiting Chicago.
The Cubs took an early 2-0 advantage in the top of the fourth when catcher Wilson Contreras scored after Albert Almora Jr. drove a home run to the stands down the left field line. It was starter Clayton Kershaw‘s fifth home run surrendered already during the 2017 postseason. All five long balls were given up at Dodger Stadium.
Early on, it appeared as if the Los Angeles offense was affected by the absence of their regular No. 2 hitter Corey Seager, who was not included on the NLCS roster after suffering a sprained back in the third game of the NLDS on Monday.
However, after an Enrique Hernandez strikeout in the bottom of the fifth, Logan Forsythe and Austin Barnes reached on consecutive walks, setting the stage for a Yasiel Puig double which plated Forsythe. Barnes would later score on a Charlie Culberson sacrifice fly to tie the game at two apiece. Kershaw was lifted for pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, who would end the rally with Puig stranded on second base.
The Dodgers relief crew was once again untouchable. Maeda handled one more batter in the top of the seventh frame, and was succeeded by hard-throwing righty Brandon Morrow, who retired the remainder of the Cubs’ side on 10 pitches.
Puig, who has been seeing the ball extremely well during the playoffs thus far, took lefty reliever Mike Montgomery deep to extend the Dodgers lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh. It would be Puig’s second huge hit of the evening which spearheaded yet another Dodgers rally.
After a double to left field, Culberson would score on a call that was overturned after being tug out at the plate by Contreras when Justin Turner singled on a grounder to left field. Manager Dave Roberts would challenge the play, and won when it was determined that Contreras blocked Culberson’s path to the dish. The inning would end with the Dodgers up 5-2 when pinch hitter Curtis Granderson grounded out to second base.
Southpaw Tony Watson retired the first two batters of the eighth inning, opening the door for All-World closer Kenley Jansen to collect a four-out save and preserve the 5-2 victory. Maeda was credited with the win, while Rondon registered the loss for the Cubs.
With the early 1-0 series lead, the Dodgers will send Rich Hill to the mound in Game 2 on Sunday evening, as the veteran lefty will be opposed by another experienced southpaw in Jon Lester. First pitch is slated for 4:38 p.m. Los Angeles time.
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