Clayton Kershaw laid to rest any concern over his recent workload, Adrian Gonzalez delivered a big hit that held up, and Kenley Jansen answered the bell in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.
Kyle Hendricks got off to a quick start, striking out Chase Utley and Corey Seager on a combined eight pitches. Justin Turner then grounded out to conclude a quick first inning. Kershaw was similarly efficient, collecting one strikeout as he retired the Cubs in order in the bottom of the first.
Adrian Gonzalez picked up where he left off in Game 1, lifting an opposite-field solo home run in the second inning. It was Gonzalez’s seventh postseason home run with the Dodgers, which trails only Duke Snider (11) Steve Garvey (10) in franchise history.
Yasmani Grandal drew a two-out walk but Hendrick induced Andrew Toles into a foul out to end the inning. Kershaw threw a 1-2-3 bottom of the second, ending the inning with a strikeout by dropping his arm angle to get Javier Baez to swing through a fastball.
Hendricks continued to work the corners of the strike zone but walked Seager and Turner with two outs in the third. He escaped the small jam by striking out Gonzalez.
Wilson Contreras led off the bottom of the third with a rather perplexing strategy. He rested the bat on his shoulder for each of Kershaw’s first two pitches, getting to a 1-1 count. The rookie catcher then watched strikes two and three.
Jason Heyward slapped a grounder to third base, and Hendricks was called out on strikes to end the third inning. Kershaw to that point was perfect on 31 pitches with four strikeouts. Anthony Rizzo crushed a sidearm offering from Kershaw down the right-field line but couldn’t keep it fair.
His at-bat ended on a groundout to the right side, and Kershaw was through a fourth perfect inning on an efficient 40 pitches. Kershaw lined a one-out single into center to double the Dodgers’ hit total.
Utley’s swinging bunt moved Kershaw into scoring position, where he was stranded as Seager rolled a grounder over to first base. Baez broke up Kershaw’s perfect game by staying back and lining a two-out single into center field in the bottom of the fifth.
Contreras followed with a grounder that skipped off the mound and carried into center for a base hit. However, both runners were stranded as Kershaw quickly induced Heyward into a pop-up on his 11th pitch of the inning.
Gonzalez walked with one out in the sixth and Josh Reddick followed with a line-drive single, which knocked Hendricks out of the game. Although Joc Pederson, Grandal and Toles were due up, Cubs manager Joe Maddon elected for hard-throwing right-hander Carl Edwards Jr.
The decision paid off, though not without the help of a heads-up play by Baez. He let Pederson’s soft liner drop for the start of an inning-ending double play as confusion set in after a force out was recorded at second base.
Kershaw started the sixth by striking out pinch-hitter Jorge Soler, and got through another scoreless frame by retiring the next two batters faced. Mike Montgomery worked around a leadoff walk to Grandal and two-out walk of Utley in the seventh to keep the Dodgers’ lead at 1-0.
The bottom of the seventh came with the oddities and hurdles that have haunted Kershaw throughout his postseason career during that inning. After Rizzo walked on four pitches, miscommunication between Gonzalez and Grandal resulted in a foul ball inexplicably dropping.
It didn’t cost the Dodgers, however, as Zobrist was called out on strikes. With two outs and Kenley Jansen warming up, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made a trip to the mound. A quick conversation ended with Kershaw remaining in the game.
Baez nearly added to his lore as he drove a ball to deep center field that Pederson caught on the warning track. Kershaw immediately put his hands on his knees as he watched the ball soar through the Chicago night, and he wore a wry smile on his walk to the dugout.
Aroldis Chapman started the ninth by walking Pederson, who then stole second base. Grandal’s sacrifice bunt advanced Pederson another 90 feet, but he was stranded by Kiké Hernandez and Yasiel Puig.
Hernandez flied out to shallow center and Puig popped up a half-hearted bunt attempt. Jansen navigated his way through the Cubs’ top of the lineup in the bottom of the ninth to convert the six-out save and pull the Dodgers even with the Cubs in the NLCS.