Dodgers-Cubs Game 1: Final score, things to know as Cubs win NLCS opener
The Cubs' bats came through late, as they took NLCS Game 1 over the Dodgers in Wrigley
CHICAGO -- After blowing a two-run lead in the top of the eighth, the Cubs stormed back in the bottom half of the inning to take a 8-3 lead in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Dodgers. They'd eventually win by a score of 8-4 (box score).
Jon Lester pitched six strong innings, and the decisive blow was a pinch-hit grand slam by Miguel Montero off L.A. reliever Joe Blanton. As a result the Cubs now have a 1-0 lead in this best-of-seven series to determine the National League pennant for 2016.
And now for some things to know about the Cubs' series-opening victory ...
1. Aroldis Chapman blew the lead, but ...
Let's think about the circumstances under which he entered the game in eighth inning: bases loaded, no outs, Cubs up by two runs. According to basic win expectancy, the Dodgers were actually the odds-on favorites to prevail, as they had a 51.8 percent chance of winning Game 1. He got two strikeouts and then yielded a two-RBI, game-tying single to Adrian Gonzalez before getting out of the inning. So what did win expectancy tell us in the middle of the eighth? It told us that the Cubs had a 63.17 percent chance of winning Game 1. By allowing just two runs to come across out of a bases-loaded, no-outs situation, Chapman significantly improved his team's chances -- the home team's chances -- of winning Game 1. Everything in context.
2. Joe Blanton ... did not have a good outing.
After the Dodgers came back in the top of the eighth, Dave Roberts summoned Joe Blanton to protect that tie in the bottom half. Here's how Blanton's appearance went: double, ground-out, intentional walk, fly-out, intentional walk, grand slam, home run, double. That Miguel Montero grand slam came on an 0-2 pitch, by the way. For the night, Blanton allowed five earned on four hits in 0.2 innings of work.
3. The Montero grand slam gave us the undisputed photo of the night.
Drink deeply of this one for a moment ...
Check out on-deck hitter Dexter Fowler tossing his bat in celebration. Great shot.
4. A regular left fielder probably catches Kris Bryant's first-inning double.
The Cubs took charge early with Kris Bryant's RBI double to left. Bryant briefly admired his blast out of the box, and with the winning blow stiffly out to left, a home run was a reasonable assumption. However, Bryant's drive died at the track and wound up looking like a playable ball. As it turns out, it was quite playable ...
Kris Bryant's double had a hang time of 4.5 seconds and landed 67ft from where Kendrick started. That balls is caught 90% of the time— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 16, 2016
Howie Kendrick is of course only an outfielder in the technical sense of things. Coming into this season, he had fewer than 200 career defensive innings in left field. While he's definitionally able to man left for a contender, he grades out as a liability. Kendrick, after all, is a 33-year-old second baseman. Kendrick was in the lineup because Dave Roberts was loading up with right-handers against Jon Lester. That's a sensible approach, but sometimes getting the platoon advantage at the plate exacts a cost in the field. Andrew Toles, for instance, makes that play.
5. The Dodgers took a calculated risk in sending Adrian Gonzalez home in the second, and it didn't work.
Ben Zobrist easily hosed Gonzalez, who tried to score from second on a two-out single by Kenta Maeda. On the one hand, there were two outs and Zobrist had exactly zero assists as a left fielder this season (and just four for his career). On the other hand, Gonzalez is a slow-footed first baseman who's taken the extra base just 27 percent of the time in his career, and the platoon-advantaged Howie Kendrick was up next. On the disembodied third hand, A-Gon scored from second on a single five times in 11 opportunities this season. With two outs, it's an obvious send with a good or maybe even average runner at second base. With Gonzalez? Well ...
Gonzalez: 20 ft past 3B at Zobrist throw. BZ was 283 feet from home at start of play, shallow w/ P up (his LF avg: 295 ft). 164 ft at throw. pic.twitter.com/2nUUadURZp— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) October 16, 2016
When it comes to being ill-advised It certainly wasn't a Jayson Werth in NLDS Game 5-level send by Chris Woodward, but it was a risky one. This time, the risk didn't pay off.
6. Javier Baez's run was an unlikely one.
Baez in the second reached badly on a 1-2 Kenta Maeda slider breaking low and away, but he managed to put a bat on it and pop it up. It should've been a routine back-pedal play for Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. However, Dave Roberts had his infield in with Jason Heyward on third following his leadoff triple. That allowed the ball to drop in between Dodger fielders. Baez, who broke into a full sprint about a third of the way down the first-base line slid head-first into second base just ahead of the tag ...
Baez advanced to third on a wild pitch, and then with Jon Lester batting Baez strayed a bit too far off third base. Behind the plate, Carlos Ruiz gunned to Justin Turner at third, but Baez, with an amazing read on the situation, immediately broke for him and just slid under -- feet-first this time -- Ruiz's tag. The result? Baez became the first Cubs player to steal home in a postseason game since Jimmy Slagle in the 1907 World Series. A pop-up and the early makings of a critical base-running error add up to a run for Baez.
7. But Javy Baez's run wasn't as unlikely as Andre Ethier's home run.
In the top of the fifth, the Dodgers finally broke through with a pinch-hit solo home run by Andre Ethier. To say it was a wind-aided homer is, well, a bit of an understatement ...
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.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) October 16, 2016
And more specifically ...
In any event, it counted.
8. That said, the Dodgers did hit the ball hard at times.
Since we highlighted a batted ball on which the Dodgers got lucky, let us note their misfortune on other batted balls. In addition to tallying four hits against Jon Lester, the Dodgers also racked five line-outs against the left-hander. Yes, the Cubs' stellar defense had something do with turning those scalded liners being turned into outs, but simple misfortune played a role, too. An inch or three in either direction, and Lester's night could've gone very differently.
9. Joe Maddon had a quick hook.
It wasn't a hook in the traditional sense, as Maddon lifted Lester for pinch-hitter Jorge Soler in an attempt to add an insurance run in the home half of the sixth. It didn't work, as Soler grounded out. It was also an unusually short night, given that Lester had allowed only one run ...
Jon Lester (@Cubs) had never been pulled at 77 pitches or fewer in a start where he's gone at least 6 innings allowing 1 ER or fewer.— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) October 16, 2016
Of course, Lester was into his third time through the Dodger order, and as noted above the Dodgers had hit him hard at times.
10. The Cubs are in good shape, historically speaking.
The Cubs' win in Game 1 puts them in good shape moving forward. For instance ...
- Teams winning Game 1 of a best-of-7 series at home go on to win Game 2 55.8 percent of the time.
- Teams winning Game 1 of a best-of-7 series at home go on to win the entire series 67.4 percent of the time.
- The team that wins Game 1 regardless of whether they're playing at home go on to win the series in question 64.1 percent of the time.
Obviously, there's still plenty of series left, but on Saturday night the Cubs laid the foundation of a pennant.
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