If I had told you Sunday morning that the Cubs would hit three home runs off Clayton Kershaw and chase him from the game before the fifth inning ended, and that he would throw 109 pitches and allow 11 Cubs hits, you’d have been pretty happy, right?
Unfortunately, Jon Lester kept putting Dodgers runners on base and giving up three-run homers, exiting the game an inning before Kershaw did.
Thus ended the “pitcher’s duel” between two of the best in the game. Combined, Lester and Kershaw threw 7⅔ innings, allowed 18 (!) hits, 10 runs and five home runs.
Yikes. This would be funny if the Cubs had managed to come back and win the game after being down 6-1. Unfortunately, their comeback fell short and they lost to the Dodgers 9-4. That’s a sweep, the third time the Cubs have been swept in a three-game series this year. That’s one more time than they were swept in a three (or more) game set all of 2016.
This game might have been closer, or the Cubs might have won it, if they had taken advantage of significant opportunities off Kershaw in the first inning, when they had runners on first and third with one out, or in the third inning, when they had the bases loaded with two out. No runs scored in either of those innings.
Sandwiched in between those frames was this opposite-field homer [VIDEO] by Willson Contreras.
That actually gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead, but the two three-run homers off Lester, by Cody Bellinger and Kiké Hernandez, made it 6-1 in a big hurry.
The Cubs, though, weren’t done hitting homers. Javier Baez absolutely crushed this one [VIDEO] in the fourth.
Kris Bryant then drew a walk, and Anthony Rizzo smashed a baseball far into the southern California afternoon [VIDEO].
That ball was crushed!
In case you're wondering, Rizzo HR exit velo 109 mph and soared 416 feet. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 28, 2017
So now it’s 6-4, and we’ve still got five innings to go. Kershaw was out of the game with one out in the fifth after throwing 109 pitches:
This is the first time Clayton Kershaw has allowed at least 10 hits, four earned runs and three home runs, regular season or postseason.— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) May 28, 2017
Small consolation that is. On the broadcast, Jim Deshaies said this reminded him of a Kershaw outing against the Cubs a couple of years ago. He was undoubtedly thinking of this game, September 19, 2014, when the Cubs also chased Kershaw after 109 pitches and five innings. The Cubs didn’t win that game either and I’ll warn you, if you click on that boxscore link you will not be able to unsee the awful Cubs pitching that afternoon at Wrigley Field. (Remember, I warned you.)
JD also talked about the “meaning” of this series and I agree with his take: it’s just three more games on the schedule of a long season. The Cubs could easily take the three games in San Diego and be back on track. (Better pitching, please.)
Mike Montgomery allowed a homer to Austin Barnes to make it 7-4. Idle thought: The Cubs should pick up Barnes somewhere along the way, because he could partner with Cubs bullpen catcher Chad Noble and... well, you get the idea.
Yasiel Puig homered off Hector Rondon in the seventh with a runner on base to put the game out of reach. Joe Maddon emptied his bench in the middle innings and got everyone who didn’t start and was healthy — Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Miguel Montero — into the game. Ben Zobrist, still nursing a sore wrist, is expected to be ready to play Monday. Schwarber even got an inning behind the plate, his second game catching this season.
Look, the Dodgers are a very good team and they showed it over the weekend. The Cubs ... well, I think they’re still a good team, but there is obviously work to do in all areas. There have been plenty of good teams that have creaked along with slow starts like this and turned it on once they got all their talent to produce the way they know how.
I still have confidence this Cubs team can do that. There are still 113 games left in this season, a very long way to go.
One last bit of entertainment, since we could all use some: the Dodgers’ ball girl making a fine play on a foul ball.
Perhaps playing the Padres, who — let’s be honest — aren’t very good, will help the Cubs get back on track. A three-game series begins Monday afternoon in San Diego. Kyle Hendricks will go for the Cubs and Jarred Cosart for the Padres.