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Dodgers 2, Cubs 1: This team needs a real closer

This was about to be a really nice win, until it wasn’t.

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Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Up until the ninth inning, this was a well-pitched game by three Cubs righthanders, Jameson Taillon, Mark Leiter Jr. and Keegan Thompson, who allowed just two Dodgers hits through eight innings, and it looked like the Cubs maybe, just maybe, could hold on for a 1-0 win.

Then Michael Fulmer entered to close and it all blew up, with the Dodgers posting a winning rally with three hits and two runs in the bottom of the ninth, defeating the Cubs 2-1.

That’s two blown saves in three opportunities for Fulmer and even though it’s still very early, maybe it’s time to give Brad Boxberger a shot at closing. Or perhaps Adbert Alzolay, which I’ve been advocating since late last year.

Let’s rewind to the beginning of this game.

The outfielders who sort of “swapped sides” between these two teams over the winter swapped great outfield plays early on.

Jason Heyward, playing center field for the Dodgers, made this nice grab on the very first pitch of the game hit by Nico Hoerner [VIDEO].

In the next inning, Cody Bellinger stole a home run from Heyward [VIDEO].

Right there you see the value of defense. I can’t think of a Cubs center fielder in recent years who could have done that — no, not even Dexter Fowler. If not for Bellinger, the game would have been 2-0 Dodgers at that point. You can see why Bellinger won his Gold Glove.

In the third inning, Nico Hoerner stole his eighth base of the year without being caught. It didn’t help lead to a run, but I want you to look at this video anyway [VIDEO].

Scroll in to about :10 in that clip. See that little walking/running/jumping lead Nico is taking? That’s something the Yankees started in Spring Training as a response to the “two disengagements” rule (see this article in The Athletic for details). Players can do this now once the pitcher has disengaged twice, as Michael Grove had done at that point with Nico on base. That means that if Grove threw over again, he had to catch Nico off base or it’s a balk — thus Nico has a much better chance of stealing the base, which he did.

Patrick Wisdom gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead with this solo homer in the fifth [VIDEO].

Here are the numbers on Wisdom’s blast, his fifth of the season [VIDEO].

Unfortunately, that turned out to be the only Cubs run.

Jameson Taillon was better in this game than in his previous two starts. He struggled through a 28-pitch first inning without giving up a run, then improved over the succeeding four innings. It wasn’t a great outing, but it was good enough for five scoreless innings with just two hits and two walks allowed with seven strikeouts. Look at this nasty slider:

Here’s even more on Taillon’s outing [VIDEO].

Mark Leiter Jr. threw a scoreless seventh and he continues to be effective against lefthanded hitters. His splitter has been very effective. Check out his three strikeouts:

The Cubs wasted a couple of opportunities to score more runs, first when Seiya Suzuki was caught stealing in the seventh, and then when they loaded the bases with one out in the eighth but both Ian Happ and Suzuki struck out.

Keegan Thompson threw two scoreless innings with a walk and two strikeouts, and here’s where I have to say that Mike Muchlinski’s pitch calling was pretty much awful all night — for both teams. I think that’ll show when the @UmpScorecard for this game is available later this morning.

And then there was Fulmer, and again, I think they’re going to have to re-think who closes games.

The rubber game of this series happens Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, a battle of lefthanders: Drew Smyly for the Cubs and Julio Urias for the Dodgers. Game time is 3:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network (and on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Dodgers market territories).