What you need to know: Well, that wasn’t a whole lot of fun, was it?
The Cubs offense did some damage to baseball’s finest starting pitcher in Clayton Kershaw, but it wasn’t enough to silence a Dodger offense that’s currently clicking on all cylinders. Jon Lester wasn’t good in a short start by his standards, and the Dodgers swept the weekend set while winning the season series against the Cubs 4-2. A consolation for last year’s NLCS, perhaps?
Next level: What absolutely must not be lost in the sadness of a sweep is just how good the Cubs approached Kershaw this afternoon.
Kershaw, who Buster Olney noted is a Hall of Famer without throwing another pitch earlier in the day (and I agree with him), looked like a mere mortal against the Cubs on this sunny afternoon at Dodger Stadium, giving up four runs on 11 (that’s right, eleven) hits, three of which were home runs. Kershaw threw 109 pitches and was pulled after 4 1/3 innings, disqualifying him from the win as the Cubs’ lineup mystified the lefty ace in an extremely rare showing of mediocrity.
Make no mistake, he showed signs of his typical brilliance, stranding plenty of Cubs runners through his short outing; the score could have just as easily been 7-6 Cubs after four, but they left a slew of runners standing without crossing the plate, and that credit goes to Kershaw for limiting even more damage.
But give the Cubs, who were shut out twice in as many nights in Los Angeles, credit for displaying an excellent approach against Kershaw who, in his last two starts against the Cubs, has looked just like any ol’ pitcher. Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras reprised their NLCS Game 6 homers against the Dodgers’ ace, while Javy Baez touched him up for his eighth of the season (for perspective, he had 14 in all of 2016).
Top WPA Play: For as encouraging as the Cubs’ approach against Kershaw was, they played from behind all day long, as the Dodgers hit four home runs of their own throughout the game. Yasiel Puig, Kike Hernandez and Austin Barnes all managed to hit big home runs against Cubs pitching Sunday afternoon.
But given that the Cubs had to play from behind all day, it took one to start it all for the Dodgers, and it was a three-run blast off the bat of rookie sensation Cody Bellinger (.224), his tenth in 31 games.
Bottom WPA Play: Javy Baez had a good day at the plate, with his homer off Kershaw as the exclamation point. In the fifth inning, the Cubs got the first two runners on, and Mike Montgomery bunted them into scoring position for the first out, which chased Kershaw in favor of Josh Fields. Javy worked a fine at bat against Fields, but struck out for a big out number two (-.098), resulting in the lowest WPA play of the afternoon.
Credit to the Dodgers for a well-pitched, well-hit series. Wish we could say the same. But hey, why not head to San Diego to try and break a slump? The weather is glorious, and the team is… not all that good (19-33, as a matter of fact). The next and final stop of the Cubs west coast swing begins tomorrow afternoon, with Kyle Hendricks set to face Jared Cosart. Given that it’s Memorial Day, first pitch is scheduled for 3:40 CT.
Lead photo courtesy Kelvin Kuo—USA Today Sports