Chicago: Left-handed hurler Clayton Kershaw pitched seven stellar innings and Adrian Gonzalez hit the winning homer on Sunday in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 1-0 Major League Baseball play-off victory over the Chicago Cubs.
Dodgers starter Kershaw allowed just two hits to help the Dodgers level the best-of-seven National League Championship Series at one game apiece.
Gonzales belted a solo home run off Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks in the second inning, and thanks to Kershaw and closing pitcher Kenley Jansen it was enough.
Kershaw gave up back-to-back Cubs hits in the fifth inning, when Javier Baez and Willson Contreras produced two-out singles, but not before he retired 14 straight batters.
Kershaw struck out six in the dominant performance, and Jansen pitched a perfect eighth and ninth to secure the win.
“It’s fun when you win,” Kershaw said, although he said that during the game the level of concentration required leaves little room for enjoyment.
“When you’re in the moment, you’re just trying to just constantly stop runs, preventing runs ... it was one of those games where one pitch could have been the deciding factor. So, really just kind of couldn’t look up for a minute for air and just kind of kept going through it and fortunate to get through it tonight.”
Jansen struck out four, including pinch hitter Miguel Montero, whose eight-inning grand slam lifted Chicago to an 8-4 victory in game one on Saturday.
Hendricks struck out five, walked four and threw 91 pitches before he was lifted in the sixth inning having surrendered three hits.
That included the home run by Gonzalez.
“First at-bat, nobody on base, I wanted to be aggressive,” Gonzalez said. “I just wanted to get a fastball and try to elevate it. I felt pretty good about it once I hit it, but I still ran knowing that it could have easily not gone over the wall.”
Ready for Tuesday
The series shifts to Los Angeles for game three on Tuesday, when the Dodgers give the ball to former Cub Rich Hill, while the Cubs send ace Jake Arrieta to the mound. Arietta threw a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium on August 30, 2015.
“I know that we came in here wanting both, but taking one is good and we’ll be ready on Tuesday to try to take the series lead.”
The winner of the series will face either the Cleveland Indians or Toronto Blue Jays in Major League Baseball’s World Series championship showcase.
The Indians won two games at home to take a strong grip on the American League Championship Series, which shifts to Toronto for game three on Monday.
Indians manager Terry Francona said he expected pitcher Trevor Bauer to start the game, after being scratched from his game two start after cutting the little finger of his pitching hand while working on his drone.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal,” Francona said of Bauer’s injury.
While the Cubs’ title drought stretching back to their last World Series triumph in 1908 is the longest in North American sport, the Indians have endured their own epic stretch of futility since last winning it all in 1948.