Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw‘s seventh-inning troubles have been well-documented. The best pitcher in baseball somehow brought a career 4.79 postseason ERA into Sunday night’s NLCS Game 2 start against the Cubs, which included a staggering 23.82 ERA in the seventh inning of those games. But Kershaw pitched the seventh and survived, helping the Dodgers tiptoe out of Wrigley Field with a 1-0 victory to even up the NLCS.
Kershaw went seven scoreless frames, giving up only two hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 84 pitches. He was pitching on short rest, technically, as he threw seven pitches to close out Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals. He last started on October 11, tossing 110 pitches in Game 4.
The Cubs’ best opportunity against Kershaw came in the fifth inning when Javier Baez and Willson Contreras hit back-to-back two-out singles, but Jason Heyward popped out foul to first baseman Justin Turner. The Cubs also had a runner on first base with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when Javier Baez smoked a Kershaw fastball that looked like a home run off the bat but died in the glove of Joc Pederson in deep center field.
The only offense came from Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez swatted a solo home run to left-center at Wrigley Field off of Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks in the second inning. Hendricks yielded the lone run on three hits and four walks with five strikeouts on 91 pitches before giving way to the bullpen.
Closer Kenley Jansen took over in the eighth inning, requiring only nine pitches to send the game to the ninth. He struck out Contreras on three pitches, got Heyward to fly out on three pitches, and then struck out pinch-hitter (and Game 1 hero) Miguel Montero on three pitches. Jansen returned in the bottom of the ninth for his second inning of work. The right-hander struck out Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant before getting Anthony Rizzo to hit a weak liner to Chase Utley at second base to end the game.
With the series tied at one apiece, the two clubs will take Monday off to travel. Game 3 will start at 8:00 PM at Dodger Stadium. The Cubs will send Jake Arrieta to the hill to oppose Dodgers lefty Rich Hill.