LOS ANGELES -- Dealt a pregame blow when injured shortstop Corey Seager was left off the roster and an in-game setback when Albert Almora Jr. took Clayton Kershaw deep, the Dodgers rallied to beat the Cubs, 5-2, behind home runs from Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig in Game 1 of the best-of-seven National League Championship Series presented by Camping World on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.
Since the LCS expanded to the best-of-seven format 31 years ago, the team that won Game 1 of the NLCS has a 22-9 record. The Dodgers are 3-1 in the NLCS when they win the opener, and the Cubs are 0-3 when they lose the opener.
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"[The Dodgers] won 100-plus games for a reason," the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo said. "They have a really good bullpen. It's just about bringing those guys into the strike zone. They don't really have guys who give in."
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Kershaw retired the last six batters he faced before leaving for a pinch-hitter, then the Dodgers paraded their bullpen arsenal flawlessly to the finish.
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Tony Cingrani got one out, Kenta Maeda got three outs and his second postseason victory in relief, Brandon Morrow got two outs, Tony Watson retired his two batters and Kenley Jansen fanned the final four for the save. The last 18 Cubs were retired in order.
"This is the way we played this whole year. ... Guys went down, and everyone stepped up and tried to do the job to help us win," said Jansen. "We understand that this series, we're going to pick up Corey. Put him on our back and carry him."
Kershaw and Cubs starter Jose Quintana left after five innings with the Dodgers and Cubs deadlocked at 2. Taylor greeted reliever Hector Rondon (added to the roster on Saturday) by blasting a 97-mph fastball over the fence in right-center leading off the sixth inning, and Puig just cleared the left-center fence off lefty Mike Montgomery in the seventh.
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"I just missed the location, and the ball ran a little bit to the center," Rondon said of the pitch to Taylor. "With those things, if you miss, you pay."
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The Dodgers had countered Almora's two-run shot in the fourth inning with a pair of runs in the fifth, with Puig's RBI double followed by a sacrifice fly from Charlie Culberson, Seager's roster replacement. Culberson also doubled in the seventh.
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"That sac fly he got there to score the second run was huge," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Culberson. "He got behind, 0-2, and dug a breaking ball out and lifted it to left field."
Kershaw -- charged with two runs on four hits in five innings with four strikeouts -- regretted the 3-1 single by Willson Contreras more than the Almora home run.
"Like I've always said, solo home runs you can take, but the ones with guys on base are tough," Kershaw said. "Other than that, it was OK. They battled me well, like I thought they would, got my pitch count up."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The swing works: Taylor, who began the season in the Minor Leagues, reworked his swing last winter to be able to handle today's high-velocity fastballs. The result was 21 home runs in the regular season, including three grand slams. But none mattered as much as the solo shot he hit off Rondon's 97.3-mph heater to break the 2-2 tie, estimated by Statcast™ at 401 feet.
"I felt it was just something I had to do, had to make that adjustment to take it to the next level," Taylor said of his mechanical changes. More >
Bat-flip double: That could only be Puig, who split the gap with his RBI double, which cut the lead to 2-1 in the fifth and moved Austin Barnes to third. Barnes scored the tying run on Culberson's sacrifice fly. Puig stood at home plate watching with his arms raised, then took off for his double.
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"It's impacting everyone," Roberts said of Puig's emotional play. "And I think that it's great when he can play with such emotion and focus as well. He loves the big stage. Not only the fans, but his teammates are feeding off it." More >
"Everybody's going to have to step up, and you saw that with Culby tonight. He's had big moments for us in the past. Seems to come up clutch for us. Great guy to plug in there." -- Kershaw, on Culberson
"It's a series, so we just have to come at it the same way and just not panic, really. Just go in with the same mindset and just be ready [on Sunday]. I think we're going to come in here with clear minds and an upbeat attitude and ready to get after it." -- Chicago's Addison Russell
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Cody Bellinger singled with one out in the Dodgers' sixth and stole second, but the Cubs challenged the ruling, saying Javier Baez made the tag in time. After a review, the call was confirmed.
In the bottom of the seventh, Justin Turner singled to left and Culberson was called out at the plate on a throw by left fielder Kyle Schwarber and tag by catcher Contreras. After the Dodgers challenged on the Home Plate Collision Rule, the call was overturned, the run scored and Cubs manager Joe Maddon was ejected by crew chief Mike Winters for arguing. The ruling determined that the catcher was not in possession of the ball and was not reacting to the trajectory of the throw while blocking the pathway of the runner to the plate.
"I could not disagree more with that," Maddon said of the call, absolving the umpires but criticizing the rule. "I think it's wrong. That was a beautifully done Major League play all the way around. [The way] that gets interpreted is kind of, like, tantamount to the soda tax in Chicago, for me."
Said Contreras: "It was a basic play. The ball took me to that position. I cannot do anything. I cannot do more. I did what I needed to do."
Cubs:Jonathan Lester will make his second postseason start and third appearance of 2017 on Sunday. The lefty started Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the Nationals and gave up one run on two hits over six innings. He also pitched 3 2/3 innings in relief in Game 4. This will be his 21st career postseason start.
Dodgers:Rich Hill, who allowed two hits over six scoreless innings in beating the Cubs in Game 3 of last year's NLCS at Wrigley Field, starts this year's Game 2 at home on Sunday. Hill, a former Cub, allowed two runs on a Paul Goldschmidt homer in four innings of the Dodgers' Game 2 comeback win in the NLDS eight days ago.