You didn’t think beating Clayton Kershaw would be easy, did you?
Of course it wasn’t, even with Kershaw’s not-so-great lifetime postseason numbers. In this one, Kershaw gave the Cubs just two singles and a walk over seven dominant innings. Kenley Jansen did what Kenley Jansen normally does, only for two innings instead of one, and the Dodgers beat the Cubs 1-0 behind a solo homer from Adrian Gonzalez off Kyle Hendricks. The NLCS is now tied 1-1.
That’s it! See you Tuesday!
Well, of course that’s not “it,” although this recap is going to be shorter than most of those so far this postseason, because most of the story is above. The middle of the Cubs offense simply couldn’t do anything with Dodger pitching Sunday night — not that any other part of the order could, either. But Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist are a combined 6-for-60 this postseason, and that’s going to have to change for the Cubs to have a chance to win this series.
Rizzo did hit one loud foul ball:
Anthony Rizzo's foul ball was hit 103.5 MPH ... The hardest ball he's hit in the playoffs.— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 17, 2016
Here, there aren’t many Cubs highlights from this one, so have a look at Rizzo’s foul:
Yes, fans in the area tried to wave it fair. It wasn’t.
Whether that indicates he might be coming out of his slump, we’ll have to wait to find out. One thing I don’t understand about Rizzo, in a 1-0 game: Three times he came to the plate with the Cubs already trailing by that score. Three times the Dodgers gave him the entire left side of the infield by shifting. Why not bunt? Okay, I understand why he’s not doing that in the fourth inning with two out. But leading off the seventh? Why not? Rizzo has successfully bunted his way on a number of times, including twice against the shift in this 2014 game in St. Louis:
You’ll note in that video that Jim Deshaies says it “makes perfect sense” leading off an inning, and the Cubs were desperately seeking baserunners Sunday night. With Rizzo slumping otherwise, why not try something different?
Meanwhile, Hendricks didn’t pitch badly, though he did walk four in addition to the homer allowed to Gonzalez. He was finally removed with one out in the sixth and two runners on base and that’s when we got the defensive version of the Javier Baez show:
Joe Buck mentioned Baez’s “baseball IQ” Saturday night and with plays like this, it’s heading off the charts. What a smart play to see the runners going, deliberately let the ball short-hop him and then, after realizing he wasn’t going to get the batter (Joc Pederson) at first base, firing to Russell to begin a rundown and get Gonzalez to end the inning.
The Cubs got only one runner past first base all night, when Baez and Willson Contreras singled with two out in the fifth. That broke up a nascent perfect game by Kershaw, who’d retired the first 14 Cubs he saw, but Jason Heyward hit a foul popup to Justin Turner at third base to end the inning. The only other Cubs baserunner was Rizzo, who walked leading off the seventh. The Cubs briefly got a second chance when Zobrist’s foul pop was dropped by catcher Yasmani Grandal, but Zobs was then called out on strikes.
Two batters later, the crowd, which was silent with less energy than Saturday night due to the lack of action, roared when Baez hit this ball:
If the wind had been blowing the same way it was Saturday night, that’s a home run. But it wasn’t.
Credit to the Cubs’ bullpen, and to Baez’s defense, for keeping the score close. After Turner had been hit by Pedro Strop leading off the eighth, Baez took a relay from Kris Bryant and turned another double play [VIDEO] to help quash any potential Dodger rally in that inning.
In the end, it was simple: Cubs pitching made one mistake, Gonzalez’ homer. Dodger pitching made none, and that’s the game. Here are a few historical notes on this 1-0 postseason game:
Add: Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) October 17, 2016
2016 NLCS Game 2 pic.twitter.com/16u53hHEym
There’s not much more that I can say about this one. As I noted above, the crowd was kind of subdued the entire night — not much to cheer for. The teams lucked out on the weather, as there was heavy rain Sunday morning in Chicago, but both Saturday night and Sunday night were pleasant with game-time temperatures in the low 70s. (The Los Angeles-area weather forecast for the three games at Dodger Stadium calls for high temperatures in the upper 90s.)
We now know that all three games at Dodger Stadium will be played, and the Cubs should have favorable pitching matchups for all of them, even for Game 4 with John Lackey going for the Cubs. It would be nice to see the postseason-experienced version of Lackey show up on Wednesday. It won’t be easy, but the Cubs could close things out in Los Angeles and not have to see Kershaw again. (A bold dream, I know.)
Jake Arrieta returns to the scene of his first no-hitter for Game 3; he’ll face former Cubs lefthander Rich Hill. There’s a few storylines right there. Let’s hope the Cubs offense wakes up, too.