The Dodgers fought back, but a nightmare inning and some questionable decisions cost them game one in the NLCS.
The Dodgers were probably going to lose this game. They had much less rest than the Cubs, who were sending a lefty to the mound. The Dodgers were sending their third best starter to the hill, so the odds weren’t great. However, the way they lost hurts more than the lost.
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Kenta Maeda has struggled lately, and most of those struggles have come due to the inability to put hitters away.
The Cubs got the lead two hitters into the bottom of the first, as Dexter Fowler led off with a single. Kris Bryant followed that up with a double off the wall in left. Not many left fielders make that play, but Howie Kendrick made it look especially ugly. Both of those hits came on 1-2 counts, which is not what you want.
Maeda’s struggles continued in the second, as Jason Heyward led off with a triple and Javier Baez hit a bloop hustle double to score him. Both of those hits came on two-strike counts as well. Baez took third on a wild pitch. Carlos Ruiz had him picked off of third, but Baez stole home on Ruiz’s throw to third to plate a third run.
Maeda finished the fourth inning, but was pinch hit for in the top of the fifth. He certainly wasn’t sharp (especially with two strikes), but he got the Dodgers through the fourth and kept them within striking distance. He finished allowing four hits (all on two-strike counts), three walks (two of them to the opposing pitcher) and three runs.
Javy Baez’s double was rather annoying, as he stuck his bat out and blooped a double over the infield. Per Baseball Savant, it had an exit velocity of 72.7 MPH. Meanwhile, the Dodgers did this.
Jon Lester started for the Cubs, and he throws with his left hand. However, the Dodgers worked some very nice at bats and hit the ball very hard. Still, they couldn’t do much offensively. It wasn’t all awful luck, as the Cubs had a few phenomenal plays in field. Particularly Fowler, who made two diving catches on gappers that could have been extra base hits.
They had a shot to score in the second, which started with an Adrian Gonzalez single. Ruiz crushed a ball right at Bryant, but Enrique Hernandez put together a great plate appearance and drew a walk. After a strikeout, Maeda came up and knocked a single to left, and Chris Woodward inexplicably sent Gonzalez. Gonzalez is not a fast man, and they could have had the bases loaded for Howie Kendrick. However, Gonzo was thrown out by a lot and the Dodgers were kept off the board.
The Dodgers got on the board in the fifth, as Andre Ethier pinch hit for Maeda. This seemed like a dumb decision, as Ethier against a lefty isn’t ideal. However, mother nature helped Ethier hit a homer to left.
Ethier's HR was 98.3 mph at a 43 deg angle. As @jasonbernard_10 points out, it had a .025 expected batting avg. Not HR avg. Batting avg.
It was legitimately a shallow fly ball that turned into a homer. My only regret is that I couldn’t hear Charlie Steiner call it.
The Dodgers went quietly until the eighth, where things went wild in both directions. Andrew Toles led off the inning with a pinch hit single and moved to second on a walk. Justin Turner hit an infield single to third, and Toles barely beat Bryant to the bag. Bases loaded, no outs is a nightmare situation for the Dodgers, and that got worst when Aroldis Chapman came in. Chapman came out firing bullets, as he struck Seager and Yasiel Puig out. However, Adrian Gonzalez tied the game with a single right up the middle, finally giving the Dodgers a bases-loaded hit.
After a nightmare inning, the Dodgers kept fighting. Joc Pederson legged out an infield single and Toles followed it up with a double in the gap to plate him.
Pedro Baez was the first man out of the Dodger pen. He issued a walk in the fifth, but picked up a pair of strikeouts. Much to the chagrin of the FS1 announcers, Baez remained in for the sixth and worked around a one-out double for a second scoreless inning. Baez is quite good (but still hard to watch) when given a clean inning, but maybe next time don’t use him in a bases loaded spot.
Ross Stripling tossed a perfect seventh, keeping the deficit at two to give the Dodgers the chance to tie. However, after tying, Joe Blanton made a mess of things.
He gave up a leadoff double to Ben Zobrist, but got a harmless groundout. He intentionally walked Heyward for some reason to face Baez, who popped out. Blanton issued another intentional walk, forcing Chapman’s spot to the plate and a pinch hitter. In a vacuum, it was nice to get the opposing closer out of the game, especially someone as dominant as Chapman. If you have to intentionally walk Heyward (fourth-worst wRC+ in baseball) and Chris Coghlan to do it, it’s probably the wrong move. However, Roberts went for it, and Blanton hung a slider to Miguel Montero, who hit the ball a very long way to quickly make it 7-3. Blanton hung another slider to Fowler, who made it 8-3 on the next swing.
Blanton was so good all season, but he was put in a position to fail, and he did. Walking the bases loaded is risky (putting it nicely) and was the wrong decision from the get-go, but if Blanton executes his pitches it becomes a footnote. Instead, it’s the story, as he threw two of the worst sliders he’s thrown this season. Baseball, man.