Pete Hodges presents our NLCS Game 3 recap in which Rich Hill stymied the Cubs, putting them in an unenviable position.
A leadoff walk to the ice-cold Anthony Rizzo (.277 OPS in postseason) was followed by a pop out by Javier Baez. Rizzo, perhaps eager to contribute offensively, swiped second base with Jorge Soler at the plate. Hill then walked the Cubs’ right fielder. One of Hill’s ridiculous curveballs proved too much for backstop Yasmani Grandal during Addison Russell‘s at-bat, resulting in a passed ball and allowing both baserunners to advance. Hill ultimately struck out Russell and then forced Miguel Montero into an inning-ending grounder, stranding the runners in scoring position.
In the bottom of the third inning, left fielder Andrew Toles stroked a single into left field and advanced to second on a weak grounder by Hill. Following a Chase Utley pop out, Corey Seager laced a line drive into right field, scoring Toles and giving the Dodgers the 1-0 lead. Arrieta struck out Justin Turner to end the inning.
The Dodgers would continue to press the attack in the fourth when Josh Reddick’s grounder up the middle defected off of Arrieta’s glove and Baez was unable to make a play on it at second, resulting in an infield single. The slick-haired outfielder swiped second base, with Joc Pederson at the plate, who struck out flailing. Reddick then pilfered third before all his hustle was rendered moot by this splendid show of power:
With the score 3-0, Arrieta settled down and retired Toles, at least keeping it so the fifth inning would be led off by the pitcher.
After a quiet fifth inning, the Cubs’ righty was welcomed back to reality by a Justin Turner blast to end his night. Lefty Travis Wood entered the game and retired Adrian Gonzalez by way of the K. Yasiel Puig pinch hit for Reddick and managed an infield single thanks to some confusion:
A Pederson popout was followed by a Grandal walk and Toles was replaced by veteran Howie Kendrick. Joe Maddon came on to call for righty Justin Grimm who retired the venerable utilityman to end the inning.
Joe Blanton entered the game to pitch the top of the seventh. Hill’s night ended after he tossed six innings of shutout ball, allowing two hits and two walks and striking out these six batters:
Blanton has had a rough postseason and after retiring Baez on a sharp liner to third, some miscommunication almost allowed an infield single. A weak grounder to first by Chris Coghlan caused the pitcher to charge over in that direction in case Gonzalez needed assistance covering the bag. However, the groundball took Gonzalez toward the bag and by the time the first baseman fielded it, he was mere steps away from the bag. The ball, baserunner, Gonzalez, and Blanton, almost all got to the bag simultaneously, but – luckily for the Dodgers – Gonzalez was able to sidestep the burly pitcher and tag first base before Coghlan. The call was originally safe, but was overturned on replay review. Blanton then struck out pinch hitter Jason Heyward to end the top of the seventh.
In the bottom of the eighth, Yasiel Puig hit a ground ball through the infield following an Adrian Gonzalez lineout. A Joc Pederson double down the third base line scored Puig thanks to some fantastic baserunning and a great set of wheels by Puig. Pederson steals third, forcing Maddon to play with the infield in. Baez was shifted to shortstop following a host of substitutions and he almost made a tremendous barehanded play throwing Pederson out at home on a Grandal grounder, but he had a slight bobble, so he had to eat it and throw the catcher out at first. Pederson scored, giving the Dodgers another run and a 6-0 lead. Kendrick struck out to end the eighth.
Kenley Jansen came on to pitch the ninth despite the six-run lead, as no lead is too safe in the playoffs, and he closed the door despite a Rizzo single.
The Dodgers are now up 2-1 with homefield advantage clearly in their favor. It’s possible the Cubs do not play in Wrigley Field again in 2016. For Game 4, Los Angeles turns to 20-year-old Julio Urias and Chicago turns to old-enough-to-be-his-dad John Lackey. Urias could forever cement his name among Dodgers fans with a win no matter what happens with the rest of his career, while Lackey could do the same… with a win or a loss.