The Los Angeles Dodgers’ march to the World Series will continue as the “Boys in Blue” will try to take a two games to none lead in the National League Championship Series Sunday when they face the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers 5-2 victory in Game 1 Saturday was their first in Game 1 of an NLCS since 1985.
The team winning Game 1 has won 22 of 31 National League Championship Series since it was expanded to a best-of-seven format in 1985.
Rich Hill will pitch for the Dodgers against Chicago’s Jon Lester in a matchup of left-handers Sunday. The first pitch is slated for 4:38 p.m. in Los Angeles and will be televised on TBS.
If the Cubs win Sunday’s game, they’d be playing the next three games at their Wrigley Field home.
Hill last pitched Oct. 7, allowing two runs and three hits in four innings before being pinch-hit for in the Dodgers 8-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 2 of a National League Division Series.
Hill will be facing the team he spent the first four seasons on his major league career with. Hill also pitched against the Cubs in last year’s NLCS, limiting them to two hits in six innings, striking out six and walking two, in a 6-0 Dodger victory in Game 3. He did not face Chicago in the 2017 regular season.
Lester said his goal will be “to hold back momentum as best you can.”
“You can’t let those guys string hits together, long at-bats, foul balls, stuff like that,” Lester said. “You see these guys feed off the energy, especially here at Dodger Stadium, so if you can kind of keep that down as best you can, I think it gives you a chance.”
Lester last pitched Wednesday, allowing one run and one hit on 55 pitches in 3 2/3 innings in the Cubs 5-0 loss to the Washington Nationals in Game 4 of their National League Division Series.
“I don’t think it’s a problem,” Lester said. “This time of year you have to adjust and figure it out.”
Lester was 0-1 against the Dodgers in two starts during the regular season with a 6.75 ERA.
The ceremonial first pitch will be thrown by Dodger broadcaster Manny Mota, who played for the team for 13 seasons and has been on its coaching staff since 1980. The national anthem will be sung by the rhythmic pop recording artist Tinashe.
The keys to Saturday’s victory included six pitchers not allowing a Cub hitter to reach base against after Albert Almora Jr.’s two-run homer in the fourth inning opened the scoring and Chris Taylor hitting a tie-breaking solo home run in the sixth.
Taylor hit 21 home runs in the regular season after never hitting more than eight in his five previous seasons as a professional.
“C.T. is one of many guys that are just winning players,” Dodger manager Dave Roberts said. “He just carries himself well, doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low. People use that word poise a lot, but he has poise. And in big spots, he has the ability to zone in and swing at strikes and take balls. So he’s done that all year for us.”
Charlie Culberson, starting in place of injured shortstop Corey Seager after spending all but September with the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City, drove in the tying run in the fifth with a sacrifice fly and doubled and scored in the seventh on a play that would lead to the ejection of Cubs manager Joe Maddon.
Culberson was initially called out, but the call was overturned on video review because the New York City-based review umpire ruled Chicago catcher Willson Contreras violated the home plate collision rule by blocking the runner’s path to home plate before he had the ball.
“I saw a great baseball play,” Maddon said. “I saw (left fielder Kyle) Schwarber come in on a grounded ball, use his feet perfectly, make a low, great throw to the plate that could have been cut off, had we needed it to be, but did not because we chose to have it go to home plate.
Perfect skip-hop, great play by Contreras. The ball kind of taking Willson towards the line, towards foul territory. He catches the ball, and his technique was absolutely 100 percent perfect.
I could not disagree more with the interpretation of that. However, I will defend the umpires. The umpires did everything according to what they’ve been told, but I, from day one, have totally disagreed with the content of that rule. I think it’s wrong. I think there’s anybody that’s played major league or even minor league baseball will agree with me 100 percent on that.”
Maddon later said he didn’t think “the rule was called correctly either. From what I saw, the ball took Willson toward that line. I disagree with that.”
After the reversal of the call was announced, Maddon went on to the field “not arguing against the umpires. I thought the umpires did a great job. I thought the game was well-officiated. I thought whoever had to make that decision, you put them in a bad decision in a replay booth in New York City.”
“I could easily not say anything, absolutely,” Maddon said. “And I could easily just acquiesce. But if I’m doing that, I’m going against what I believe in, and I’m not going to do that.”
Calls decided by video review cannot be overturned by an umpire on the field.
Roberts said Contreras “was in violation” of the rule that went into effect in the 2014 season and intended to reduce injuries.
“I looked at it just like everyone looked at it, and as the rule states, he was in violation,” Roberts said. “So it was pretty clear to us, so that’s kind of pretty simple.”
Kenta Maeda, the third Dodger pitcher, retired all three batters he faced for the victory. Kenley Jansen struck out all four batters he faced for the save before a sellout crowd announced at 54,289.
The Dodgers tied the score with two runs in the fifth. Logan Forsythe and Austin Barnes drew back-to-back walks with one out. Yasiel Puig doubled in Forsythe. Barnes scored on Culberson’s sacrifice fly.
The Dodgers added two insurance runs in the seventh. Puig led off with a homer. Culberson followed with a double and scored two batters later on Justin Turner’s single on the play triggering the video review and Maddon’s ejection.
Hector Rondon, the second of four Chicago pitchers was charged, with the loss. He allowed a home run by Taylor, the first batter he faced in relief of starter Jose Quintana, struck out Turner, then was replaced by Mike Montgomery.
Culberson replaced Seager on the 25-man roster for the series released Saturday. Seager was unable to play because of a back injury.
Culberson was recalled by the Dodgers on Sept. 4, after the major league roster limit was expanded to 40 players. He was two-for-13 for a .154 batting average in 15 regular season games with the Dodgers and had been hitless in seven at-bats in the postseason before Saturday.
Dodger starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth after allowing two runs and four hits, striking out four and walking one.
–City News Service
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