Saturday night, the
Los Angeles Dodgers
and
Chicago Cubs
opened their NLCS matchup at Dodger Stadium. This series is a rematch of last year’s NLCS, which the Cubbies won in six games en route to their first World Series title in 108 years.

The Dodgers rallied from behind to win Game 1 (LAD 5, CHC 2) and take a quick 1-0 series lead. The NLCS is of course a best-of-seven series, so Los Angeles needs three more wins to clinch their first NL pennant since 1988.

Here are seven things to know about Game 1.

Kershaw’s command was suspect

Right from the get-go,
Clayton Kershaw
didn’t look quite right in Game 1. His stuff was fine — much better than fine, really — but his location was not good. He wasn’t hitting the mitt. Kershaw was missing his spots consistently. It happens.

The poor location didn’t cost Kershaw until the fourth inning, when
Willson Contreras
lined a leadoff single to center and
Albert Almora
followed with a long two-run home run to right field. 

Kershaw left the pitch a little up, higher than catcher
Austin Barnes
wanted it, and Almora turned it around for the home run. Kershaw was missing his spot so consistently that pretty much everyone noticed. Comedian Norm Macdonald warned something bad would happen right before the homer.

Kershaw finished his start having allowed those two runs on four hits and one walk in five innings. He struck out four and threw 87 pitches before being removed for a pinch-hitter.

Quintana was razor sharp early

In Game 1,
Jose Quintana
became the first pitcher since David Wells in 2003 to start a game on one day of rest following an appearance out of the bullpen. Quintana got two outs and threw 12 pitches in relief in Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday. He then started Game 1 of the ALCS because, well, the Cubs didn’t have many options.

And for the first four innings of Game 1, Quintana was razor sharp. He faced the minimum 12 batters — there was a single and a double play mixed in there — and was locating well to both sides of the plate. Then, in the fifth, Quintana’s location quickly deteriorated and the Dodgers tied the game. His final line:

It looked like Quintana started to tire out in that fifth inning, which is usually how it goes for a pitcher in short rest. The lack of rest doesn’t necessarily show up in their stuff. It tends to show up in their stamina. They hit a wall and tire out sooner than usual, and that’s what I think happened to Quintana in the fifth. For the first four innings though, he was lights out.

Puig bat-flipped a double

It wasn’t until Quintana’s tank hit empty that the Dodgers were able to break through and tie the game. Quintana walked
Logan Forsythe
and Barnes, setting up
Yasiel Puig
for the double into the gap. Puig bat-flipped the heck out of it, of course.


Charlie Culberson
, who started at shortstop in place of the injured
Corey Seager
, followed Puig’s double with a sac fly to knot things up 2-2.

The Summer of Chris continues

The Summer of Chris is now the Autumn of Chris.
Chris Taylor
, one of 2017’s best breakout players, gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning with a solo home run off
Hector Rondon
. To the action footage:

I swear, it seems like every time I watch Rondon pitch, he gives up a home run. He had a 1.5 H/9 from 2016-17 after posting a 0.4 HR/9 from 2013-14. Rondon was added to the NLCS roster essentially to give the Cubs a fresh right-handed reliever following their bullpen-laden NLDS win over the
Washington Nationals
. So blame me for the homer, Cubs fans. I won’t watch next time Rondon pitches.

Anyway, a few innings later, Puig added an insurance run with a wall-scraper of a home run against
Mike Montgomery
. The previous pitch buzzed Puig up high — not intentionally, of course — then he went deep. You know that felt good. Here’s the video:

No bat flip on that one. Puig just stood there an admired it. Fun fact: that is Puig’s first career postseason home run. This was his 31st career postseason game.

A run scored without the runner touching the plate

The still relatively new home plate blocking rule came into play in the seventh inning. Culberson chugged around from second base on
Justin Turner
single, though he was thrown out at the plate by
Kyle Schwarber
. It was a bang-bang play and it appeared to be a great play by Taylor.

HowEVA, replays showed Contreras stuck out his leg and blocked Culberson’s path to the plate. That’s a no-no. Here is the play:

The Dodgers challenged the play and the replay crew in New York ruled Contreras made an illegal block with his leg. The Dodgers were awarded the run even though Culberson never did actually touch home plate. Huh. You see something new every day in this game.

Chicago’s thin bullpen cost them

Due to a rainout, Games 4 and 5 of the NLDS were played on consecutive days earlier this week. The Cubs worked their bullpen hard in those games —
Wade Davis
,
Brian Duensing
, and
Carl Edwards
Jr. all pitched in both games, and starters
Jon Lester
and Quintana came out of the bullpen — and it left them a little short in Game 1 on Saturday night.

With their best relievers sidelined, the Cubs bullpen let the game slip away in the late innings. Rondon, Montgomery, and
John Lackey
combined for the following line: 3 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR. The game was tied and very winnable after five innings. Alas, once Quintana was removed, the bullpen couldn’t keep the Dodgers in check. All that work in Games 4 and 5 of the NLDS cost the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLCS. The Dodgers should send the Nationals a thank you note.

Jansen picked up another multi-inning save

Once again,
Kenley Jansen
recorded more than three outs to nail down a postseason save. He’s done that quite a bit the last few years. Jansen picked up the final four outs in Game 1. Here is the postseason saves of four outs or more leaderboard since the turn of the century:


  1. Mariano Rivera
    :
    21
  2. Kenley Jansen: 5 and counting

Rivera is in a class by himself. He also had much more time to rack up multi-inning saves than guys pitching today. Chances are Jansen is not finished piling up multi-inning saves in the postseason though. Not this year and not in his career.

By the way, Dodgers pitchers retired the final 18 batters they faced in Game 1. The Cubs didn’t put up much of a fight in the late innings.

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