While the Los Angeles Dodgers benefitted from an off-day after Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, getting length from Rich Hill against the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 went a long way in protecting the bullpen.
Hill picked up a strikeout and retired the side in order on just 11 pitches in the first inning. The Dodgers quickly fared better against Jake Arrieta at Dodger Stadium than his previous start there, as Corey Seager singled with one out in the bottom of the first.
But he was stranded by Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez. Hill’s efficient inning was a distant memory come the second.
Anthony Rizzo, batting cleanup for the first time in this postseason, drew a leadoff walk on a nine-pitch plate appearance. Rizzo stole second base with one out, then Jorge Soler walked.
Hill managed to escape the jam by striking out Addison Russell and getting Miguel Montero. But it came at a costly 30 pitches. Arrieta retired the side in order in the bottom of the second, striking out Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal to end the inning.
Kris Bryant singled with two outs in the third, only to be stranded by Ben Zobrist. Andrew Toles led off the bottom of the inning with a single to left field. He advanced to second base on what was a slash-swing from Hill.
Hill’s decision to pull his bunt back and swing raised some immediate questions as Toles got a terrific jump on the pitch. Chase Utley popped out to drop to 0-for-15 in his career, including the postseason, against Arrieta.
But the right-hander failed to escape the inning unscathed, with Seager knocking an RBI single into right field. The base hit snapped Seager’s 0-for-15 drought with runners in scoring position in his playoff career.
Hill ended a 1-2-3 fourth inning by getting called strike three on Jorge Soler. Josh Reddick reached on an infield single and stole second and third base. Reddick became the first Dodger with two stolen bases in a playoff game since Steve Sax swiped three bags in Game 4 of the 1988 NLCS.
With two outs, Grandal went down and drove a fastball into the pavilion in right-center field for a two-run homer. Bryant roped a one-out single into left field in the sixth inning. It was just the Cubs’ second hit of the game, both of which were courtesy Bryant.
Hill successfully got through the top of the Cubs’ lineup a third time by striking out Bryant on a sidearm fastball. Turner jumped on the first pitch he saw and clubbed a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the sixth.
It extended the Dodgers’ lead to 4-0 and knocked Arrieta out of the game. Joe Blanton got through the seventh without issue, ending the inning by striking out pinch-hitter Jason Heyward. Seager lined a two-out single into center field in the bottom of the seventh.
The three-hit game was Seager’s first since Sept. 25 against the Colorado Rockies. Nothing came of it however, as Justin Grimm retired Turner. Dexter Fowler doubled off Grant Dayton with two outs in the eighth.
That prompted Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to go to Kenley Jansen for a four-out save. He struck out Bryant to end the inning. That pushed the Cubs’ scoreless streak to 17 consecutive innings, which set a franchise postseason record.
Puig singled in the eighth and scored on Pederson’s RBI double that came against Cubs left-handed reliever Mike Montgomery. Pederson kept the pressure on the Cubs by stealing third base, which paid off.
Javier Baez juggled a Grandal grounder, leaving him no choice but to make a play at first base. Despite the 6-0 lead, Jansen remained in the game in the ninth. He worked around a Rizzo broken-bat infield single to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the NLCS.
The Cubs were shut out in back-to-back games for the first time since May 27-28, 2014.