|5:08 PM PT6:08 PM MT7:08 PM CT8:08 PM ET20:08 ET0:08 GMT8:08 5:08 PM MST7:08 PM EST7:38 PM VEN4:08 UAE (+1)7:08 PM CT, October 14, 2017
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California Attendance: 54,289
Dodgers strike first in NLCS with 5-2 win over Cubs
(TSX / STATS) -- LOS ANGELES -- When Corey Seager was not included on the Los Angeles Dodgers' National League Championship Series roster, Charlie Culberson made sure to quiet the shock to the system of the team's faithful.
Culberson, a surprise starter at shortstop in Game 1 when Seager was considered to be a no-go because of a back injury, delivered a game-tying sacrifice fly in the fourth inning and an insurance run in the seventh as the Dodgers opened the NLCS with a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
Culberson had 13 major league at-bats this season so expectations he might make a difference Saturday were low. He even admitted to some butterflies right before the game, but the reality was that he could not have been more prepared, at least in his mind.
"I started preparing before the postseason, to mentally prepare, that I would play every day so I wouldn't be shocked if I was to be activated," Culberson said. "Yeah, there were little emotions running through me before the start of the game, but it was a lot of fun. Getting this win was huge and I was glad to be part of it."
The Cubs' roller-coaster week simply continued. They won the NLDS on Thursday, but then had their travel plans to Los Angeles interrupted early Friday morning. Next, they dropped the NLCS opener.
Things really came to a boil for the Cubs when Culberson scored his seventh-inning run on a Justin Turner single. Culberson appeared to get thrown out at home when catcher Willson Contreras applied the tag in time, but blocked the plate with his left foot before he had the ball.
On a replay challenge, Culberson was called safe. The official ruing from MLB offices in New York was that Contreras was in violation of the "home plate collision rule." Cubs manager Joe Maddon was ejected for arguing the replay reversal.
"I could not disagree more with the interpretation of that," Maddon said. "However, I will defend the umpires. The umpires did everything according to what they've been told, but I, from Day 1, have totally disagreed with the content of that rule. I think it's wrong. I think there's anybody that's played major league or even minor league baseball will agree with me 100 percent on that."
Yet it was an insurance run, and Maddon agreed that the outcome might not have been impacted by the call.
"Correct; I'm not arguing that," Maddon said. "And again, I'm not arguing against the umpires. I thought the umpires did a great job. I thought the game was well-officiated. I thought whoever had to make that decision, you put them in a bad decision in a replay booth in New York City."
There were other Dodgers heroes such as Chris Taylor, who hit a go-ahead home run in the sixth inning and Yasiel Puig, who added his own home run in the seventh.
The runs came in support of Clayton Kershaw, who gave up two runs in a shaky five innings. Kenley Jansen came on to get the final four outs for the save as the Dodgers used five relievers.
Kershaw gave up a two-run homer to Albert Almora Jr. in the fourth inning but nothing else despite some hard-hit balls by the Cubs. The left-hander, in his second start this postseason, gave up four hits with four strikeouts.
"It was OK," Kershaw said. "They battled me and made me get my pitch count up like I thought they would. Almora put a good swing on the ball. ... Other than that, it was OK, and with the way our bullpen is throwing the ball, you feel good going into a tie game with them."
Taylor's breakout regular season has continued on into the playoffs. He had three runs scored in a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks during the NL Division Series and added his first postseason home run after hitting 21 in the regular season. He entered the season with one major league home run in 120 career games.
"You know, I had been up and down between Triple-A and the big leagues the last few years, and hadn't been able to stick in the big leagues or have long-term success," Taylor said. "I felt it was just something I had to do. I had to make that adjustment to just take it to the next level. I knew I wanted to be an everyday player, and I knew that was an adjustment I would have to make."
Cubs starter Jose Quintana, who had experienced an emotional few days, might have needed 22 pitches in a perfect first inning but was locked in early. Through four innings, Quintana gave up one hit but had faced the minimum thanks to a double-play grounder from Austin Barnes.
The Cubs revealed the reason their family charter flight to Los Angeles was diverted to Albuquerque, N.M., early Friday morning was because of a medical condition with Quintana's wife. The flight continued after a five-hour delay and Maddon waited to officially name Quintana his Game 1 starter until Saturday morning.
Quintana did not start showing cracks until the fifth inning when he issued back-to-back walks to Logan Forsythe and Austin Barnes. Puig followed with an RBI double to cut the early Cubs lead to 2-1.
One batter later, Culberson tied the score with a sacrifice fly to left field that brought home Barnes.
"Emotionally he was pretty much drained at that point," Maddon said. "The couple walks were indicators of that, right around 90 pitches after five, that's a pretty heavy load. Based on what he's been coming off of the last couple days, I thought it was the right time to get him out."
Kershaw was nowhere near as efficient as Quintana in the early going. He had a runner on base in three of the first four innings, running into trouble in the fourth when he gave up a line-drive single to Contreras and a two-run homer to Almora.
Almora got the call in the outfield for Game 1 after batting .354 against lefties during the regular season. He batted .433 with four doubles, a triple, two home runs and 11 RBIs against all pitchers over his final 16 games of the regular season.
It was the third time in the last two years a Kershaw start in the postseason lasted only five innings. Two of the outings were against the Cubs, including the deciding game in the NLCS last year.
NOTES: Dodgers SS Corey Seager said his injured back is somewhat improved after receiving an epidural injection this week, but he was not deemed healthy enough to be added to the active roster. ... Dodgers OF Chris Taylor now has two go-ahead and game-winning RBI in these playoffs, which is the first postseason of his career. ... The Cubs officially named LHP Jon Lester their Game 2 starter, scheduling him to pitch on three days' rest after throwing 51 pitches in a relief outing Wednesday against the Washington Nationals. ... The Cubs added RHP Hector Rondon to the active roster and his second pitch of the NLCS was greeted with a home run by Chris Taylor.
Updated October 15, 2017