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Dodgers' offense again stifled by Lester

Cubs lefty allows just two runs in pair of NLCS starts
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Another short start from Kenta Maeda and another hanging slider from Joe Blanton led to another Dodgers loss to the Cubs, 8-4, in Game 5 of the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, which resumes Saturday in Chicago with Clayton Kershaw standing in the way of the first Cubs World Series since 1945.

The Dodgers didn't lose Thursday's game because of the left-hander who didn't start on short rest -- Kershaw -- who gets Saturday's must-win start on extra rest.

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LOS ANGELES -- Another short start from Kenta Maeda and another hanging slider from Joe Blanton led to another Dodgers loss to the Cubs, 8-4, in Game 5 of the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, which resumes Saturday in Chicago with Clayton Kershaw standing in the way of the first Cubs World Series since 1945.

The Dodgers didn't lose Thursday's game because of the left-hander who didn't start on short rest -- Kershaw -- who gets Saturday's must-win start on extra rest.

View Full Game Coverage

NLCS Game 6: Saturday at 5 p.m. PT on FS1

They lost because of the lefty who did start -- Chicago's Jon Lester -- who held them in check on one run over seven innings. Lester allowed the Dodgers one run on six innings in a Game 1 no-decision that the Cubs eventually won.

:: NLCS: Dodgers vs. Cubs coverage ::

So two of Chicago's three wins have come when the Dodgers face a lefty, and haven't we heard that before? In the regular season, the Dodgers were 22-24 in games started by left-handers, the worst record in that category for any team in the postseason. They lost the one game that Washington started a lefty in the NL Division Series, even though they scored three runs off Gio Gonzalez in 4 1/3 innings.

"We can grab back that momentum with one name: Kershaw," Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said.

OK, but even in Kershaw's Game 2 win at Wrigley Field, the Dodgers scored one run on Gonzalez's home run. They have been outscored by the Cubs, 26-17, further evidence that in a season when the rotation was virtually a daily scramble, the Dodgers usually won or lost because of their offense. They were 67-17 when they scored four runs or more, 24-54 scoring three runs or fewer. Three of the four runs they scored Thursday came against the Cubs' bullpen when the game was already pretty much out of reach.

Already utilizing numerous platoons to pack his lineup with right-handed hitters, manager Dave Roberts shuffled the order for Game 5 to create run-producing matchups and tried to rattle Lester with baserunning distractions, but the smoke and mirrors didn't work.

"He keeps the ball down, doesn't make a lot of mistakes, not a lot of pitches over the plate," said Gonzalez, who had the only RBI off Lester on a groundout.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Dodgers on running strategy vs. Lester

"I thought that when we did get a little bit of traffic, I thought that we put a little pressure on him," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "But he's a great pitcher. He's a great pitcher who competes and finds ways to get outs when he needs to."

Roberts even gave Lester credit for discouraging the Dodgers from trying to steal bases, even though they were taking huge leads knowing that the left is fearful of throwing to bases, pickoffs or otherwise.

"[Cubs catcher] David Ross still throws the ball well, and even Jon Lester, there were some 1-1.5, some 1.2s [seconds per delivery], so you've still got to get a pretty good jump," he said. "Also when you start getting behind in the game, you don't want to give outs away by just stealing."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers