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NLCS Game 1: Montero’s Grand Slam Rocks Wrigley in Cubs 8-4 Win

Veteran catcher Miguel Montero sat out most of Saturday night’s NLCS opener at Wrigley Field. Cubs starter Jon Lester worked with his personal catcher, 39-year-old David Ross. Montero played the hero’s role off the bench, pinch-hitting for Aroldis Chapman in the eighth with bases loaded, two outs, tied 3-3. The left-handed hitter crushed a two-strike delivery from righty reliever Joe Blanton, sending it halfway up the right field bleachers. Yes, a pinch-hit grand slam with the pitcher one strike away from escape. A manager’s and reliever’s worst nightmare.

Montero’s heavy blow and Dexter Fowler‘s solo shot that immediately followed put the Cubs ahead 8-3 going to the ninth inning. Hector Rondon surrendered a run on an Andrew Toles double to make it 8-4 with one out but the Cubs killed a rally on a game-ending line drive 6-3 twin killing, a “bang-bang” play that seemed to sum up the Dodgers’ night.

Cubs Hot, Then Cool, Then Explosive; Dodgers Unlucky

The Cubs five-run eighth inning was a momentum shift of grand proportions. The Cubs had jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first two innings of the game, then seemed stymied by Dodgers starter Kenta Maeda followed by relievers Pedro Baez and Ross Stripling through the middle innings. The Dodgers meanwhile hit Jon Lester hard but could not seem to buy a hit, with line drives finding fielders all night to keep them off the board. When the drives found the gaps, there was Fowler to make two specular sliding grabs, and Ben Zobrist to gun down Adrian Gonzalez from left field on a hard Maeda single.

The Dodgers came scratching back nonetheless, getting on the board with an Andre Ethier pinch-hit home run off Lester in the fifth inning and adding two more in the top of the eighth off the Cubs bullpen. Adrian Gonzalez‘ two-out single tied the game 3-3. Justin Turner loaded the bases with an infield hit – a grounder that saw Kris Bryant lose a footrace to Andrew Toles on a bid for a force out at third. Chapman struck out two with bases loaded but couldn’t put away Gonzalez. Going into the Cubs half of the frame, it looked as if the Dodgers had the advantage – they had achieved a comeback tie, the Cubs had used Chapman, and the Dodgers still had their own closer Kenley Jansen in reserve.

Montero shifted the momentum in a single stroke of the bat.

during game one of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 15, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.

Javier Baez steals home during game one of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 15, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.

A Night of Baseball Rarities

Before the pinch-hit grand slam, Javier Baez‘ steal of home in the second inning sent media researchers scrambling to check Elias Sports Bureau for post-season precedents. The Cubs second baseman flat out manufactured a run. He began by following a Jason Heyward triple with a lob-wedge pop fly that found the seam between infielders and outfielders, increasing the Cubs lead to 2-0. Baez slid into second, seemingly seconds after the ball parachuted to the turf. He then advanced to third on a wild pitch by Maeda. From third he committed himself to run home on Jon Lester’s missed squeeze bunt. When Carlos Ruiz fired the ball past him, Baez dashed home and just barely beat Justin Turner‘s peg to the plate.  The Cubs played a game of “Pickle” in the early going; small ball before the late-inning long-ball.

Top Performers

Fowler, 2-5, 2R, HR

Bryant, 2-4, 1BB, 1RBI

Baez, 2-4, 1R (stole home), 1RBI

Montero, grand slam HR off the bench

Ethier, HR

Gonzalez, 2-4, 2RBI

Toles, 2-2, 1 R, 1RBI off the bench


Maeda, 4IP, 3R, 4H, 3BB, 2K

Lester, 6IP, 1R, 4H, 1BB, 3K

Chapman (W), 1IP, 1H, 2K

Blanton (L), 0.2IP, 5R, 4H, 2BB, 0K

This was a game that was closer than the line score would indicate. Both teams are hungry and want this series, bad. The Dodgers attempt to even the series with Clayton Kershaw tonight; surprise Cy Young candidate Kyle Hendricks is slated to start for the North-siders.

Game 2: Sunday, 7:00 P.M. CT, Wrigley Field, Chicago. 

Tim is a lifelong baseball (especially Cubs) fan, member of SABR, and player of Out of the Park Baseball. Recently he caught the genealogy bug and is researching his family history. He is originally from Chicago, but now lives in Columbia, MO, with his wife, two daughters, and two dogs.

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