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Home runs spark 5-2 win over Cubs, Dodgers take a 1-0 lead in NLCS

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The Dodgers worked their way to a 1-0 advantage in Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday, powering through another short start from Clayton Kershaw with a handful of homers and a shutdown performance from the bullpen. Jose Quintana went five strong for the Cubs, allowing two runs on a pair of hits and walks, but Chicago’s relievers cracked under pressure, handing Los Angeles the lead with home runs from Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig and a controversial play at the plate.

At the outset of the game, it looked like both sides were in for a pitcher’s duel, albeit a short-lived one. Kershaw needed 23 pitches to get through the first inning, but worked out of a jam to strand two baserunners and was able to make it through three scoreless innings before Albert Almora Jr.’s two-run homer in the fourth. Quintana was more dominant, setting down 11 of the first 12 batters to preserve Chicago’s one-run lead through four frames.

In the fifth, the Dodgers caught up with him. Logan Forsythe and Austin Barnes drew back-to-back walks, which prompted a visit to the mound moments before Yasiel Puig ripped a one-out RBI double into center field. Charlie Culberson followed the double with a sac fly to tie the game.

With the score knotted 2-2 in the sixth and Kershaw closing in on 90 pitches, Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts pulled the left-hander for fellow lefty Tony Cingrani. The five-inning performance stands as Kershaw’s shortest postseason start since Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS. Cingrani, meanwhile, pitched to just one batter, inducing a groundout before he was pulled for Kenta Maeda.

The Dodgers kept things interesting for Hector Rondon, who replaced Quintana in the sixth and promptly gave up a 401-foot, go-ahead home run to Chris Taylor. Rondon was immediately removed from the mound, but the damage had already been done. In the seventh, Yasiel Puig led off with another home run, this one a 378-footer courtesy of Mike Montgomery.

The real drama, however, came later. Culberson doubled into left field, followed by a base hit from Taylor. With one out and John Lackey on the mound, Justin Turner lined a single into left to score Culberson, who was blocked at the plate by Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras. The initial ruling determined Culberson was out at home, but a challenge revealed that Contreras had violated the home-plate collision rule by blocking the runner’s path to home plate without first having possession of the ball.

Despite protests from an irate Joe Maddon, the ruling was overturned in the Dodgers’ favor, boosting them to a three-run lead with two innings left to play. The Cubs couldn’t get another runner on base against Tony Watson and Kenley Jansen, the latter of whom struck out the side on 13 pitches to cap the Dodgers’ win in the ninth.

Game 2 is set for Sunday evening, when Rich Hill (12-8, 3.32 ERA) will face off against Jon Lester (13-8, 4.33 ERA) at 7:30 PM ET. From there, the series will move to Chicago for Games 3 (Yu Darvish vs. Kyle Hendricks) and 4 (Alex Wood vs. Jake Arrieta).

Larry Walker to wear a Rockies cap on his Hall of Fame plaque

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I guess this came out the day he was elected but I missed it somehow: Larry Walker is going to have a Rockies cap on his Fall of Fame plaque.

While it was once solely the choice of the inductee, for the past couple of decades the Hall of Fame has had final say on the caps, though the request of the inductee is noted. This is done to prevent a situation in which a cap truly misrepresents history. This issue arose around the time Wade Boggs was inducted, as he reportedly had a deal with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to pick their cap on his plaque which, to say the least, would’ve been unrepresentative.

There have been some mildly controversial picks in the past, and some guys who would seem to have a clear choice have gone with blank caps to avoid upsetting the fan base of one of his other teams, but Walker’s doesn’t seem all that controversial to me.

Walker played ten years in Colorado to six years in Montreal and two years in St. Louis. His numbers in Colorado were substantial better than in Montreal. His MVP Award, most of his Gold Gloves, most of his All-Star appearances, and all of his black ink with the exception of the NL doubles title in 1994 came with the Rockies too. Walker requested the Rockies cap, noting correctly that he “did more damage” in a Rockies uniform than anyplace else. And, of course, that damage is what got him elected to the Hall of Fame.

Still, I imagine fans of the old Expos will take at least some issue here. Those folks tend to be pretty possessive of their team’s old stars. It’s understandable, I suppose, given that they’ve not gotten any new ones in a decade or two. Add in the fact that Walker played for the 1994 Expos team onto which people love to project things both reasonable and unreasonable, and you can expect that the Expos dead-enders might feel a bit slighted.

Welp, sorry. A Rockies cap is the right choice.  And that’s Walker’s cap will feature.