October 17, 2016 [LINK / comment]
NLCS: Dodgers & Cubs split, 1-1
After a dramatic and ultimately jubilant (for the home fans) Game 1 in Wrigley Field on Saturday night (see next paragraph), the Los Angeles Dodgers prevailed in yet another tense pitchers' duel in Game 2 last night. On just two days' rest, their ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw kept his pitch count low enough to last for a full seven innings, confounding the expectations of critics. How did he do that? The red-hot Cubs sluggers could only manage two hits over the course of nine innings, while the Dodgers had three -- one of which was a solo home run by Adrian Gonzalez in the second inning. One slight lapse by the Cubs' starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks was all it took. Final score: Dodgers 1, Cubs 0.
In Game 1, the Cubs took an early lead and had a 3-1 lead going into the eighth inning. The the Dodgers loaded the bases with nobody out on two hits and a single, and manager Joe Maddon decided to send in closing pitcher Aroldis Chapman to the mound. The next two Dodgers struck out, making Cubs fans feel a little better, but then Adrian Gonzalez hit a single that tied the game, 3-3. Cubs fans groaned nervously, but their spirits rose in the bottom of the ninth when Ben Zobrist hit a leadoff double. Two outs and two intentional walks later, the bases were loaded as pinch-hitter Miguel Montero stepped up to the plate. When the count when to 0-2, hopes dim. And then a miracle happened: a grand slam that almost went over the bleachers in right field!! As Harry Caray would say, "Holy cow!" But wait, there's more: Dexter Fowler hit a solo homer, and then Kris Bryant doubled. Joe Blanton was replaced as pitcher, but with the Cubs 5 runs ahead, it didn't seem to matter. In the top of the ninth, however, the Dodgers scored a run, and threatened to get more, raising nerves a little once again. Nevertheless, the Cubs got the third out to win it, 8-4.
Joe Maddon later defended his decision to remove starting pitcher Jon Lester after six innings in Game 1; he had only thrown 77 pitches. Maddon did regret having Aroldis Chapman try to rescue the Cubs from a precarious situation in the eighth inning, however. That's not his usual job. See chicagotribune.com
That continues the pattern in which the Dodgers have won all four of their games this postseason by exactly one run, including their three wins against the Nationals last week. It was somewhat similar in the regular season against the Nats: the Dodgers won five out of six games, even though the cumulative score in those games was only 26-21.
The last time the Cubs faced the Dodgers in the postseason was the 2008 NLDS, which the Dodgers won in three straight games. By amazing coincidence, I paid a visit to Wrigley Field exactly one day after Game 2 was played there on October 3, 2008.
It's the second consecutive year in which both the Cubs and the Blue Jays have reached their respective league championship series. The last time in the NLCS before 2015 for the Cubs was 2003, which many of us would just as soon forget. The last time in the ALCS before 2015 for the Blue Jays was 1993, when they went on to win the World Series.
FUN FACT: Even though my dad was a huge Cubs fan, he didn't care much for Harry Caray, the jovial, bespectacled play-by-play announcer.
Old Wrigley Field photo
Speaking of the Cubs, just yesterday a guy named Stew Thornley posted on Facebook this photo of a game he saw at Wrigley Field in June 1972, with Roberto Clemente at bat. (That was about a year and a half before the heroic slugger tragically died.) The photo had special meaning for me, as I too saw Clemente in the same place in the first major league game I ever saw, in August 1963 (see My ballpark visits), with my dad and younger brother Chris. So, I asked if I could use it, and Stew graciously said yes.
ALCS: Indians take 2-0 lead
About 340 miles to the east on the shores of Lake Erie, meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians edged the Toronto Blue Jays in the first two games of the American League Championship series, by scores of 2-0 and 2-1. In Game 1, Francisco Lindor's home run provided the only runs the Indians needed, and in Game 2, his RBI single in the third inning gave his team a 2-1 lead it would not relinquish.
ALCS Game 3 begins very soon...