CHICAGO -- Lose a postseason game on a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning and the box score looks devastating, but Adrián González had a completely different take on the Dodgers' 8-4 loss to the Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday
CHICAGO -- Lose a postseason game on a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning and the box score looks devastating, but Adrián González had a completely different take on the Dodgers' 8-4 loss to the Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday night.
Gonzalez's two-run single with the bases loaded off a 102-mph Aroldis Chapman fastball tied the game in the top of the eighth, but that was just the most productive of a half-dozen other squared up balls that the Cubs turned into well-played outs. The Dodgers trail 1-0 in the best-of-seven series, which continues Sunday at Wrigley Field (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on FS1).
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"You look at those early outs, diving plays, line drives at people, at the whole thing, and it's kind of like, this game was meant for them to win, as hard as it is for me to say it," said Gonzalez. "But, you know what? They know we're here to play, they know we're not backing down and they know we can beat them."
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They only had an Andre Ethier pinch-hit wind-blown home run to show for it, but the Dodgers weren't overmatched by Jon Lester's six innings the way they have been by so many left-handers this year, repeatedly putting line drives in play. Even pitcher Kenta Maeda got in on the act, delivering a single to left off Lester in the second. Third-base coach Chris Woodward sent Gonzalez home on the play, but the slow-footed slugger was thrown out easily.
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"I was just following directions," Gonzalez said.
The Dodgers hung a blown save on Chapman. And down by five in the ninth, they came up with one more run, just to announce they hadn't quit.
Setup man Joe Blanton, who served up Miguel Montero's crushing grand slam, had the pinch-hitter 0-2 when he hung a slider. The Dodgers, after successfully chipping away at a 3-0 deficit until it was tied, were one strike away from moving to the ninth inning deadlocked on the road, thanks to another clutch hit from Gonzalez.
"Adrian's been ... throughout his career he's gotten so many big hits," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "When it gets hot and stressful, he finds a way to calm down and take a good swing. Obviously you got a guy throwing [100 mph], left on left, there's no panic, and he just took a nice swing. Big hit. And right there, yeah, I thought we were going to win the game."
Gonzalez was uplifted by the Dodgers' eighth-inning comeback. Pinch-hitter Andrew Toles started it with a single off lefty Mike Montgomery. Pedro Strop entered and walked pinch-hitter Chase Utley. NL MVP Award candidate Kris Bryant backhanded Justin Turner's bouncer over the third-base bag, but he lost a race to third with Toles and the bases were loaded.
On came Chapman, who first overpowered Corey Seager with a 101-mph heater, then a 103-mph pellet struck out Yasiel Puig, who before his at-bat received a pep talk from Gonzalez in the dugout.
"I was just telling him to stay short, stay up the middle," said Gonzalez, who then used the same advice on a 1-1 fastball that he turned around and nearly shelled Chapman with.
"I know my fastball is my best pitch," said Chapman, who threw 17 of them. "I know the catcher does, too. That's my best pitch. If you're going to get me, if you're going to hit me, you're going to hit me with my best pitch. I don't want someone to score on me knowing it wasn't with the pitch that I wanted. The fastball is my pitch, and that's what you're going to get me on."
That's what Gonzalez was counting on. And he said the Cubs can count on the Dodgers not rolling over just because they lost Game 1.
"We're going to fight until the end," said Gonzalez. "They had big innings, they answered back, which is what great teams do, but we answered again [with a Toles RBI double] in the ninth. It wasn't enough, but we're here to fight to the end.
"We like where we're at. They won Game 1, but we can come back tomorrow, we'll be ready. This game gave us a lot of confidence that we know we can beat them."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.