Dodgers manufacture one run, with some help, and it’s enough to beat Cubs
In the wake of the Dodgers’ victory on Sunday, Brock Stewart smiled. In his third major league start, the Dodgers had beaten the best team in baseball, a taut 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
“I thought it was a playoff atmosphere,” Stewart said. “But I don’t really know any better.”
He was right, and consider this: His team took two of three games from the Cubs, with the Dodgers starting rookie pitchers in the two victories. If the Dodgers face Chicago in the playoffs, they could start the best pitcher on the planet (Clayton Kershaw) and two pitchers who never have started against the Cubs (Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda).
Advantage, Dodgers? It is too soon for the players to start talking about that — the Dodgers have a modest two-game lead in the National League West — but it is not too soon for closer Kenley Jansen to start talking about why he believes this year’s edition of the Dodgers is better positioned than the previous three, each of which won the division but fell short of the World Series.
“We’re tougher,” Jansen said. “Mentally, we are stronger. The chemistry we have is better. The atmosphere is so much better here.
“It’s going to be awesome to see how this is going to end up.”
The new and improved Dodgers won with heart and hustle on Sunday, and with a nod to history.
On Sunday, the Dodgers won with a hitless rally, when Cubs third baseman Javier Baez threw to the wrong base. Jansen, the last of five Dodgers pitchers, completed a four-hitter by pitching a perfect ninth inning for his 39th save.
With one out and none on in the eighth, and the game scoreless, Cubs reliever Trevor Cahill hit pinch-hitter Andrew Toles. Howie Kendrick followed with a dribbler in front of home plate, and Cahill heaved it over the head of first baseman Anthony Rizzo for an error.
Toles sped to third, Kendrick took second, and the Cubs walked Corey Seager intentionally, loading the bases.
Carl Edwards Jr. relieved Cahill and struck out Justin Turner. Edwards appeared to have gotten the Cubs out of the jam when Adrian Gonzalez grounded to Baez, the lone defender on the left side of the Cubs’ over-shifted infield.
But Baez threw to second base, where Seager did his best Chase Utley imitation to hustle and beat the throw, rather than to first base, where the slow-footed Gonzalez would have easily been out. Toles scored the game’s lone run.
“I completely forgot about who was running down the line,” Baez said.
And so the Dodgers emerged with a victory in their second series against the Cubs this season. Their celebration was tempered; by no means do 1-0 and 3-2 victories suggest domination.
“Listen, man, they’ve been playing the whole year great,” Jansen said. “When we played them in Chicago, we were on our down side.”
In the first series, three months ago, the Dodgers lost three of four games.
“Completely different,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “I don’t know who was on the roster then.”
In one game, the Dodgers started three players no longer with the club: outfielder Carl Crawford, catcher A.J. Ellis and pitcher Mike Bolsinger. But the biggest name no longer with the club is outfielder Yasiel Puig, in minor league purgatory while the Dodgers see if a team claims him on waivers — and, if so, while they decide whether to let him go.
Jansen was reminded that, when he talks of a tougher and stronger team and a clubhouse with better chemistry and atmosphere, fans might wonder if the absence of Puig is the reason why.
“Listen, man, we can’t worry about that,” Jansen said. “All we have to do is worry about winning ballgames.”
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