NLCS 5: CHC vs. LAD — Showing off the ace
The Cubs are going back to Chicago in control of the series, needing just one win in the next two games to secure their spot in the World Series. The Dodgers have to win both of them in Chicago to take that honor. I said earlier in the postseason that this was going to be one of those races to watch, and it hasn’t failed me yet. The ALCS teams just plowed through their games, but the NLCS has taken it to the nth degree on postseason drama.
So, for tonight’s game, the Cubs pulled out their ace Lester to dominate the Dodgers and allow the Cubs to show off why they deserve to be in the postseason. Lester was strong through his 7 innings, giving up 5 hits, a walk, and a single run in the 4th. The Dodgers’ Kendrick hit a 1-out double, stole 3rd (an overturned out call on a requested replay), and then scored on a ground out to get the home team on the board. Other than that, the Dodgers couldn’t do much damage under Lester’s watch.
The Cubs, on the other hand, dinged into the Dodgers’ pitching staff early and often. The Dodgers had to play a bit of patchwork with their pitchers tonight, and it still didn’t keep the Cubs from commanding the offense as well.The Dodgers starter only lasted into the 4th inning and managed to keep most things under control. Fowler’s lead-off single in the 1st inning scored on Rizzo’s RBI double to get things started for the night.
But the Cubs really damaged the bullpen tonight, beginning with breaking the tied game in the 6th with Russell’s 1-out 2-run home run straight up the middle. But the 8th inning was the worst for the Dodgers as the Cubs just pounced on the Dodgers’ defense and pitching. Leading off, Russell reached on a sloppy missed catch error by reliver Baez, and Contreras singled before they both moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Fowler’s single then scored Russell and put runners on the corners.
And then came a couple of failed challenges (as if we needed more drama). Bryant singled, scoring Contreras, but the Dodgers challenged the safe call at 1st. Replays upheld the call. A line drive out to the Dodgers’ 2nd baseman, who promptly threw it to 2nd for the force out, was challenged by the Cubs as a possible double play and then upheld as a line drive out with 2 runners on base. Then the reliever added a third to load the bases with a walk. A new reliever then allowed a bases-clearing 3-run double. Only half of the Cubs’ runs in this game were considered “earned”.
So, with a 8-1 lead going into the bottom of the 8th, the Cubs were sitting pretty and could afford a couple of bad innings by their relievers, both who allowed too many runs for a postseason game and yet this wasn’t exactly a typical postseason game. The Dodgers did their best to chip away at that hefty lead. Toles led-off the 8th with a double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then easily scored on Ruiz’s double.
But it would be the 9th against Chapman that would prove the best opportunity for the Dodgers. Gonzalez worked a walk to lead-off the inning, moving to 3rd on Puig’s single. Reddick’s 1-out single scored Gonzalez, and Toles’ sacrifice fly scored another runner. But a ground out ended the possibilities of really catching up. The Dodgers simply ran out of innings.
Final score: 8-4 Cubs, Cubs lead series 3-2.
So we shift back to the Windy City to wrap up this series either Saturday or Sunday, depending on how the Dodgers do at Wrigley. Both teams like to score late in the game, which really won’t work out well for either of them facing the indomitable Cleveland bullpen.
Someone asked me what I consider a standard postseason game. It’s pretty simple. The teams should be fairly evenly matched and at their peak on all the areas of the game. So it should be a close game, only one or two runs difference on the scoreboard. It should be a low-scoring game, less than seven or eight runs between both teams. It should be error free. It should be just a little over three hours in length (about 3:15) — less than is when a team clearly dominates with pitching, more than is either a sloppy game or one with too many runs (or both). It should feel like either team could win the game right down to the last out. That is a good, standard postseason game to me.
But since when is the postseason anything standard?