The Chicago Cubs defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers by an 8-4 score in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, giving them a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series. The Cubs received a strong outing from left-handed starter Jon Lester, as well as the middle-infield combination of Addison Russell and Javier Baez, who drove in five runs total.
Here are 10 things to know about Game 5 of the NLCS.
1. Blanton has had a rough series
Two years ago Joe Blanton was retired. He decided to give baseball another go last season, and after a successful year with the Royals and Pirates, he signed with the Dodgers last offseason. Blanton was great in the regular season and the NLDS. The NLCS? It's been a disaster.
In Game 1 at Wrigley Field, Blanton gave up the go-ahead grand slam to Miguel Montero in the eighth inning. Then, in Game 5 at Dodger Stadium, he Mark Wohlers'd a slider to Addison Russell, who deposited it into the center field seats for a two-run go-ahead homer in the sixth. Look how bad this pitch is:
.@Addison_Russell, out.— MLB (@MLB) October 21, 2016
Watch on @FS1: https://t.co/4o8W3XgGFN#NLCS pres. by @TMobile pic.twitter.com/5vDYpvLMc9
Woof. Terrible. Both the Montero grand slam and the Russell two-run home run came on sliders up in the zone that did nothing but spin. No action. Classic cement-mixers. Blanton was great this year overall, but he's now given up two back-breaking home runs in the NLCS.
2. The Cubs have destroyed the Dodgers' bullpen
To be fair, it's not just Blanton who is getting hammered by the Cubs. It's everyone in the Dodgers' bullpen not named Kenley Jansen.
So that's 3 5-run innings by the Cubs against the Dodgers bullpen in a 5-game series.— Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) October 21, 2016
Against Kershaw, Jansen & Hill, the Cubs have scored 0 runs in 16.1 innings.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) October 21, 2016
Against everyone else, they've scored 26 runs in 26.2 innings.
Luckily for the Dodgers, they have Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, and a whole lotta Jansen lined up for Games 6 and (if necessary) 7.
3. The Dodgers took huge leads against Lester
Coming into Game 5, the Dodgers were determined to take advantage of Jon Lester's issues throwing to bases. Enrique Hernandez danced off first and second base in the first inning trying to distract the left-hander. It didn't work though. He was stranded.
In the fourth inning, Los Angeles made one of those huge leads count. Howie Kendrick stole third with one out -- he was initially called out before it was overturned on replay -- following his double, and his lead was massive:
Howie Kendrick was basically in Pasadena when this pitch was released— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) October 21, 2016
(do save your "Pasadena is actually in that direction.." @'s) pic.twitter.com/TmWdDKWL2q
Kendrick was more than one-third of the way to the next base when Lester released the pitch. Catcher David Ross deserves a ton of credit for making that play so close that replay was required.
The next batter, Adrian Gonzalez, drove in Kendrick with a ground out to first base. I don't love the idea of dancing off first base like Hernandez in the first inning. Does anyone really think Lester will get rattled? Just steal the base. The extra 90-feet are more valuable than trying to distract him.
4. The Dodgers also tried to bunt against Lester
Well, let me rephrase. They squared around to bunt against Lester a bunch of times.
"Dodgers have shown bunt 10 times against Lester" that is a lot of mostly wasted pitches.— Rob Arthur (@No_Little_Plans) October 21, 2016
Only two of those bunt attempts actually got down, and the runner was thrown out each time. Lester was fired up about making the play himself. It's weird teams don't do more to try and take advantage of Lester's throwing issues, especially in the postseason, when he's close to unbeatable.
5. Lester joined exclusive strikeout company
By striking out Hernandez to end the fifth inning, Lester became only the sixth left-hander with 100-plus strikeouts in his postseason career. Here's the list:
Career #Postseason strikeouts by LHP— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) October 21, 2016
183 Andy Pettitte
143 Tom Glavine
132 Randy Johnson
102 Clayton Kershaw
101 CC Sabathia
100 JON LESTER
It's no surprise those guys all played during the divisional play era. The LDS round means extra games and more opportunities to strike dudes out. Still one heck of an accomplishment though.
6. The Dodgers got really sloppy in the eighth
The wheels came off in the eighth inning for the Dodgers. The Cubs scored five runs that inning while hitting two balls out of the infield. Two. Here's how the inning unfolded:
- Addison Russell: Safe when Pedro Baez can't handle the flip from Gonzalez at first base. Error called on Baez.
- Wilson Contreras: Pulled the soft single to right field to put runners on first and second.
- Albert Almora Jr.: Bunted the runners up. It appeared Baez had a play at third, but he went to first.
- Dexter Fowler: Reached on an infield single to first. Gonzalez tried to look Russell back to third, failed, then lost the foot race to the bag. One run scored to make it 4-1 Cubs.
- Kris Bryant: Reached on an infield single to third. Justin Turner had to come in on the ball and Bryant just beat it. Replays confirmed. One run scored to make it 5-1 Cubs,
- Anthony Rizzo: Lined out to second. Fowler got back to second in time to avoid the double play, replays confirmed.
- Ben Zobrist: Walked on five pitches to load the bases.
- Javier Baez: Cleared the bases with a booming double to right field. Finally, a well-struck baseball.
Just a brutal inning for the Dodgers. Much of the damage was self-inflicted too. I mean, look at that three singles:
#Cubs crushing the ball this inning:— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 21, 2016
39.3 MPH Single
80.9 MPH Single
68.5 MPH Single
The Cubs gave the Dodgers the first out on a bunt, the second out was a line drive at the defender, and the third out was a Jason Heyward pop-up. Might as well have been the pitcher hitting. Not a good inning for the Dodgers. No siree. Credit the Cubs. They were aggressive and broke the game open.
7. Turner reached base again
With his third inning single, Justin Turner has now reached base in 15 straight postseason games. That is a new Dodgers' record. Here are the four longest such streaks:
- Justin Turner, 2015-16: 15 games and counting
- Carl Furillo, 1953-56: 14 games
- Steve Garvey, 1974-77: 13 games
- Pee Wee Reese, 1953-56: 13 games
Turner came into Game 5 as a career .388/.500/.673 hitter in 16 postseason games. He then went 1 for 4 on Thursday night.
8. Zobrist bailed out Pederson
Joc Pederson, who is normally a very good defensive center fielder, made a major blunder in the fifth inning when he got twisted around on Bryant's double. He turned left, then turned right, then the ball sailed over his head. It should have bee caught.
Kris Bryant's double had a hang time of 4.4 seconds & Pederson needed to cover 60ft to catch it. Similar balls are caught 91% of the time— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 21, 2016
The Dodgers escaped the inning unscathed because Grant Dayton struck out Rizzo and got Zobrist to line out to right field. Zobrist, surprisingly, hasn't been all that good in the clutch this year:
Ben Zobrist had the third-most PA's (93) with two-outs and RISP this season. He only batted .192 in that situation.— Inside Edge (@InsideEdgeScout) October 21, 2016
That surprised me. Zobrist seems like one of those guys who always comes through. So much for preconceived notions!
9. Chapman was not good in the ninth
It's a good thing the Cubs built a big lead, because Aroldis Chapman did not look sharp in the ninth inning. He allowed two runs on two hits and a walk in the inning, and did not strike out a single batter.
Aroldis Chapman threw a 95.7 MPH fastball... The slowest fastball he's thrown this year..— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 21, 2016
Chapman looked like he would have rather been doing literally anything else. His body language stunk.
10. The Cubs are one win away from the World Series
Up 3-2 in a best-of-seven series with Games 6 and 7 at home? You bet the Cubbies are feeling good right now.
No NL team that has taken a 3-2 lead in the NLCS and gone home for the final two games has lost the series since 2003.— Bob Timmermann (@bobtimmermann) October 21, 2016
Oh. Oh no. No no no.