Cubs shut down Dodgers to take series

by - Senior Writer -
The Chicago Cubs stormed to victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, dominating them in every aspect of the ballgame. (Photo Credit: Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports)
The Chicago Cubs stormed to victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, dominating them in every aspect of the ballgame. (Photo Credit: Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — Playing for the third time in a little over 24 hours, the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers capped off a three-game affair at the Friendly Confines with a fairly one-sided contest. Shutting out the Dodgers 4-0, the Cubs took a lead in the opening inning and did not look back. A well-balanced offensive attack and a solid pitching performance culminated in the Cubs taking game three and winning the series.

Great base running by Jason Heyward led to the Cubs taking a 1-0 lead. After reaching first base on a fielder's choice, Heyward took off running on a full-count pitch to Ben Zobrist, who proceeded to hit a single to left-center. Heyward motored to third base on the play and was subsequently able to score on a soft grounder off the bat of Anthony Rizzo.

The good luck experienced in the base-running department switched to bad luck for the Cubs in the next inning, though. Chicago infielder Javier Baez, who experienced a successful 3-4 day at the plate, smacked a double to deep left and then stole third. With two outs in the inning, Cubs pitcher Jon Lester struck out on a questionable checked swing. The ball got away from Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal, allowing Baez to come home easily, but Lester, who was surprised by the third-base umpire's call on the checked swing, was thrown out at first base to end the inning with no runs coming across.

Heyward helped assuage the frustration of that play by creating frustration for the Dodgers on a play at the dish in the third frame. Lester found himself in a jam after Chris Taylor hit a ground-rule double, which was followed by a single to deep left from Enrique Hernandez that put runners on the corners with one out. The threat of Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber's cannon of a throwing arm prevented Taylor from coming home on the Hernandez hit, but Taylor did opt to test Heyward's arm soon afterward. Going all out to hurl the ball to home plate after catching a flyout, Heyward gunned down Taylor from right field as part of an amazing play. Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was able to swing around and apply the tag, colliding with Taylor in the process and having his nose bloodied.

The Cubs took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning on a solo home run by Schwarber. Hitting his second long ball in as many games, Schwarber moved into a tie with Baez for the team lead in home runs at 14. The 429-foot round-tripper into the center-field seats was one of three runs given up by Dodgers starting pitcher Ross Stripling on the day. Despite displaying great command by not issuing any walks and striking out seven, Stripling was taken for eight hits in six innings pitched and picked up the loss for his first losing decision since April. He is now 6-2 overall.

Lester, on the other hand, avoided giving up costly hits in his seven-inning stint. He was taken for five hits and three walks and struck out just one opposing batter, but Lester put together a quality start, nonetheless. Lester saw his ERA drop to 2.10 on the afternoon, which is the third-best ERA in the National League. He has a stellar 1.67 ERA in his last 12 starts. With the win, Lester improved to 9-2. His nine wins are just one off the National League lead.

At the dish, Chicago failed to fully capitalize on an auspicious fifth inning but mustered one run to go up by three. Baez led off with a double to deep left, and, after a sacrifice bunt from Lester, he scored on an RBI single to left by Kris Bryant. After that, Heyward clubbed a double off the wall in left that put runners on second and third with one out. Bryant and Heyward both went 2-4 at the top of the batting order on the day. Two consecutive outs prevented either of them from scoring in the fifth, though. First, Zobrist batted a grounder to second base, and Bryant was thrown out at home while attempting to score on it. Then, Rizzo flied out to center to end the inning.

Baez helped to make up for it in the seventh. He led off with a triple to left and scored on an ensuing single to right by pinch hitter Tommy La Stella. With the triple, Baez became the first Cub since Billy Williams in 1967 to accrue six triples and 14 home runs before the All-Star break. Baez also showed out on the defensive end. After Lester's departure, Cubs reliever Anthony Bass, who pitched two shutout innings, gave up a double to Hernandez in the first at-bat of the eighth. Thereafter, Baez provided Bass with some breathing room by doubling off Hernandez at second base. Catching a hard-hit liner from Justin Turner, Baez then made the heads-up play of diving toward the bag and smacking it with his glove to out Hernandez before he could dive back safely. The Hernandez double proved to be the sole hit allowed by Bass.

Winning 4-0, the Cubs took two out of three at home against the Dodgers in the lone trip to Wrigley Field for Los Angeles this season. Outhitting the Dodgers (38-35) 12-6, the Cubs (42-29) made the most of their scoring opportunities in the series finale. The Cubs and the Dodgers will renew their rivalry rather soon, as a four-game set between the 2016 and 2017 NLCS foes is scheduled to take place at Dodger Stadium next week.

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