Matthew Mesa/Los Angeles Dodgers
By Jon Weisman
Undeniably, emphatically, the Chicago Cubs have made 2016 their year.
And like Al Downing allowing Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in 1974, the Dodgers’ ultimate role in 2016 turned out to be as a springboard to history.
Putting the Dodgers on their heels from the second pitch of the game, the Cubs hosted a nine-inning Wrigley Field parade to a mad celebration of their first World Series in 71 years, capturing the National League pennant with a 5-0 victory.
For the third time in the past 28 years, the Dodgers came within two wins in the National League Championship Series of ending their own Fall Classic drought, their fans’ own suffering a pale footnote to the Windy City celebration triggered by the final out.
By Jon Weisman
The earth spins, seven days of suns rise and set, and here we are once more.
Two wins needed for land. Two games to do it, with two prime captains in Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill.
That’s the map of the world for the Dodgers, who find themselves back in the strait between exhilaration and elimination after losing Game 5 of the National League Championship Series tonight to the Cubs, 8-4.
Barely a week ago, Kershaw and Hill (with a large dose of Kenley Jansen and others) rescued the Dodgers’ title raft in the National League Division Series against Washington. Following two more victories in NLCS Games 2 and 3 against the Cubs, the Dodgers will look to circumvent their Game 4-5 losses and complete a happy repeat.
To continue scavenging sea and sky for good omens, know that those two wins followed an 8-4 Game 1 loss that played out similarly to Game 5, even to the final score. Tonight, the Dodgers fell behind early, tied the game — then watched that tie broken thanks to a home run off the previously stalwart Joe Blanton. There was even another late five-run eighth inning to ride out, and an even later short-lived comeback attempt.
By Cary Osborne
For a Dodger team with a mantra that has been “Win the day,” the Dodgers have a couple of tomorrows left in them.
And by tomorrow, the news of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series will all be what the British would call “fish-and-chip paper.”
We know the scenario for the Dodgers to win this series now, and even after a deflating 10-2 loss that saw the Dodgers both unlucky and underwhelming, that scenario is still ideal.
The Dodgers are tied at 2-2 with the Cubs in the NLCS and will have Kenta Maeda going in Game 5 in the National League Division Series — at home — with the opportunity to send the National League West champions to Chicago with a 3-2 lead in the series and Clayton Kershaw on the mound in Game 6.
“It happens and obviously it’s more magnified in the postseason, but we haven’t had a game like that in a long time,” said Dave Roberts. “It wasn’t to be. So I think for us it’s one of those things you have to brush off and get ready to go tomorrow.”
What bearing will four errors, a replay that didn’t go the Dodgers’ way in the first inning and a short outing by Julio Urías have on the Dodgers later in this series?
The Dodgers got lengthy outings — by the 2016 Dodgers standards — from Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill in Games 2 and 3, so if anything the Dodger bullpen needed the work it got on Wednesday. The five relievers the Dodgers used Wednesday didn’t appear in Tuesday’s game.
If there’s any concern, maybe it’s that some hibernating Cubs hitters woke up. Anthony Rizzo, who was 2 for 26 this postseason coming into Game 4, went 3 for 5 with a solo home run that put the Cubs up 5-0 in the fifth. Addison Russell was 1 for 24 before his 3 for 5 day. He hit a two-run homer off Urías in the Cubs’ four-run fourth.
Urías, who became the youngest pitcher to make a start in postseason history at 20 years, 68 days old, was impressive in innings one through three. He retired the side in order in the first inning, got out of a second-inning jam and worked a mostly clean third.
But the fourth was his undoing. Ben Zobrist led off with a bunt single and then Urías surrendered back-to-back soft singles — the second gave Andrew Toles a chance to get Zobrist at the plate, but he threw it wide left and to the backstop. After an RBI groundout by Jason Heyward, Russell homered and ended Urías’ day.
The Dodgers’ best opportunity to jump back in the game was the bottom of the fifth after Cubs starter John Lackey departed following back-to-back walks to Toles and pinch-hitter Andre Ethier. After a Howie Kendrick single and Corey Seager strikeout, Justin Turner knocked them both in with a one-out, two-run single off reliever Mike Montgomery’s glove. Montgomery got groundouts by Adrián González and Kiké Hernandez to end the inning, though, stranding a pair of Dodger runners.
Two Dodger errors helped contribute to the Cubs’ five-run sixth.
You can also look back and shake your head on the second inning when Toles singled and González was thrown out at the plate — a play that was upheld by replay, but could have gone either way.
It was a forgettable game, one you can be sure the Dodgers have cleared out of their memory already.
And here’s another positive to look forward to. After Kenley Jansen threw 21 pitches on Tuesday, the blowout kept him out of Wednesday’ game.
It just wasn’t a good at-bat.
Swinging strike on a Jake Arrieta curveball. Another flailing effort on another curveball. Short salvation came in the form of a high fastball. But then Arrieta hit the inside corner with a called strike three to end the second inning.
Yasmani Grandal turned and did the one thing a catcher shouldn’t do. He argued the call with home plate umpire Gary Cederstrom.
It was the equivalent of spilling some coffee on your shirt and having a disagreement with your boss — all before 10 a.m.
Ah, but there were innings left and hours left in the work day. And if we’ve come to know anything about Grandal, it’s that one stain need not ruin his day.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Arrieta got ahead 0 and 2 on Grandal, but the Dodger catcher worked the count to 3-2, also fouling off a couple of Arrieta’s offerings. And on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Grandal dug a fastball from below the strike zone and drove it out 398 feet to left center field for a two-run homer — the biggest hit in the Dodgers’ 6-0 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. (more…)
By Jon Weisman
Pitchers paint on the edge of a cliff. They are artists, tending to a tiny canvas that hovers in mid-air, and they are adventurers who might fall at any moment.
Rich Hill took a minor masterpiece into the sixth inning tonight at Dodger Stadium. After walking two of three batters with some tremulous brush work to start the top of the second, Hill was in his element. Twelve of the next 13 batters he faced became dots on his Seuratian landscape.
In the top of the sixth, the ground beneath Hill’s easel began to quiver. With one out, Kris Bryant singled to left center, for the second hit off the Dodger left-hander. With two out, Anthony Rizzo took the first four pitches, and three fell outside the borders of the strike zone. On deck was Javy Baez, whose electric play helped the Cubs win Game 1 of the National League Championship Series and nearly Game 2 as well.
Hill raised his arm and lofted the next pitch, a 74 mile-per-hour curveball that sidled through the California air with the arc of a rainbow, landing into the glove of Yasmani Grandal for strike two.
Then, at 87 mph, Hill dropped down with a master’s flourish.
Hill pumped his fist, shouted to the heavens and handed his work to the gallery, for 54,269 art-lovers at Dodger Stadium to marvel.
The 36-year-old’s six innings of two-hit shutout ball, his finest performance since he threw seven perfect innings at Miami on September 10, were framed by Grandal, the catcher who also hit a two-run home run off Jake Arrieta in the Dodgers’ 6-0 victory.
Taking a 2-1 lead in the NLCS, the Dodgers are as close to the World Series as they have been in 28 years.
Hill struck out six, giving him 19 in 13 postseason innings (13.2 strikeouts per nine innings) with a 3.46 ERA. With Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton and Kenley Jansen finishing the game, the Dodgers have thrown consecutive postseason shutouts for the first time in franchise history.
By Jon Weisman
Surrounded by the bricks in Wrigley Field on a Sunday evening, Clayton Kershaw was a wall.
And no one blew him down.
Kershaw, kicking his October naysayers in the teeth with each inning he throws, combined with Kenley Jansen on a razor-thin 1-0 shutout, evening the National League Championship Series at one win for the Los Angeles Dodgers, one for the Chicago Cubs.
“It’s a good feeling,” Kershaw said in an on-field interview with Fox Sports 1 after the game. “I don’t know how to compare games or anything like that, but we needed this win tonight bad.”
This was the first 1-0 postseason victory by the Dodgers since Game 3 of the 1963 World Series (Don Drysdale three-hitter), and the first two-hit shutout in Dodger playoff history.
“Awesome. Watching Kersh, that shows he’s the best in the game,” Jansen said. “His stuff that he had, the way that he pitched against this team. He showed you again, he can just put this team on his back.”
The Dodgers will take home-field advantage in the NLCS back to Dodger Stadium for Games 3, 4 and 5, Tuesday through Thursday.
“Going back home, splitting this series in Chicago, we like where we’re at right now,” Kershaw said.
By Jon Weisman
This game was nothing like it should have been, and everything it shouldn’t have been.
Bloops fell daintily for doubles. Liners zipped into gloves like magnets. Busted squeezes became steals of home.
The Dodgers should have been buried, but weren’t. Then they could have won going away, but didn’t.
Trailing for seven innings, then tying the game in the top of the eighth with Adrián González’s two-run single off human sonic boom Aroldis Chapman, the Dodgers fell to the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, 8-4, after a pinch-hit grand slam by Miguel Montero off Joe Blanton.
Still hoping for a road split, Los Angeles will send Clayton Kershaw to the Wrigley Field mound Sunday for Game 2, following a night of contemplating how nearly they stole their pennant series opener.
“It stings a little bit,” Dave Roberts said. “But just the way that we kept fighting and we kept playing … I felt that our at-bats all night long were quality. I thought we were gonna win it, but we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
As I sat watching Clayton Kershaw throwing those pitches in Washington, trying to protect a one-run lead and save the Dodgers’ season, of course my mind hearkened to 1988, when Orel Hershiser was doing the same thing in the 12th inning in New York.
But just as present was 2009, Jonathan Broxton trying to protect a one-run lead and save the Dodgers’ season in Philadelphia.
Part of the problem was I was literally in the exact same seat, in our little half-office at home, watching on the same 13-inch television purchased in an era closer to Tommy Lasorda than Dave Roberts. It was the same moment, the same prayers, the same brain-crushing line between agony and ecstasy.
By Jon Weisman
You are dry. You are bled dry, you are bone dry, you are a body crawling across the desert toward paradise, and not until the last reach of the arm, not until the last extension of the fingertip, not until the last grain of sand was behind you, did you know if you had reached a mirage or the Promised Land.
You open your eyes, and it’s paradise.
In the most epic Dodger playoff game in a generation, in the longest nine-inning playoff game in postseason history, the Dodgers found the buried treasure of a four-run seventh-inning rally, then watched Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw drag that golden chest to glory, defeating the Washington Nationals, 4-3, to advance to the National League Championship Series.
Jansen, whom Dave Roberts boldly put into the game with the tying run on base in the seventh inning, threw a career-high 51 pitches — four fewer than Dodger starter Rich Hill — to get the Dodgers within reach of victory.
Kershaw, the 19th Dodger to play in the game, got the final two outs, two nights after he threw 110 pitches in the Dodgers’ Game 4 victory — instantly recalling Orel Hershiser’s extra-inning save in the last playoff series the Dodgers came from behind to win, the 1988 NLCS.
The winning pitcher was none other than Julio Urías, who became the youngest pitcher in MLB playoff history to get the W.
It was the victory of a generation. It was a victory that seemed to take a generation.
By Jon Weisman
Clayton Kershaw stood on the mound in the angled October sun, at once alone and the embodiment of the Dodgers’ postseason fate.