Rozner: Chicago Cubs' bullpen implodes again in Game 1 defeat

  • Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, right, celebrates with teammates after his home run against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning of Game 1 of baseball's National League Championship Series in Los Angeles, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017.

    Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, right, celebrates with teammates after his home run against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning of Game 1 of baseball's National League Championship Series in Los Angeles, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017.

 
 
Updated 10/15/2017 8:06 AM

If you're going to win even one World Series, let alone two in a row, you need a bit of good fortune along the way.

Through three very difficult series, the Chicago Cubs got their share of breaks last fall, and they definitely got some in a brutal series with Washington.

 

But after a grueling travel day Friday to the West Coast, it sure didn't feel like the Cubs had the upper hand in any way heading into their third consecutive NLCS.

Everything was against them, including starter Jose Quintana forced to stay behind in Albuquerque on Friday when the charter was diverted to New Mexico because of his wife's irregular heartbeat, but Michelle is fine and they joined the Cubs in Southern California on Friday night.

Everything was against the Cubs … until the home team arrived Saturday at Dodger Stadium to the news that their best player, shortstop Corey Seager, would not even be on the roster for this series -- at least for the first few games.

Imagine finding out at the ballpark that Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant would be unavailable.

That's how it had to feel for the Dodgers, who were under extraordinary pressure to get the jump on the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLCS with Clayton Kershaw on the mound and the Cubs' bullpen in tatters.

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They failed to move on Quintana early, but once they got to him for a pair of runs, Cubs manager Joe Maddon unwisely yanked his starter in a 2-2 game at 89 pitches after 5 innings.

And that was all she wrote.

The Cubs' bullpen set fire to the rest of the contest, and Los Angeles sailed home with a 5-2 victory at Dodger Stadium.

Chris Taylor greeted the newly rostered Hector Rondon with a home run in the bottom of the sixth and the Dodgers had the lead for keeps, as the Los Angeles bullpen -- rested and effective -- pitched 4 perfect innings.

It was the expected outcome given the Cubs' past few days and the state of their bullpen, but oddly the Cubs were in the Dodgers' heads before Game 1 even began.

Manager Dave Roberts claimed "gamesmanship" regarding the Cubs' delayed announcement of a starter for Saturday and posting a lineup for the first game.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This was news to Maddon, who couldn't name a starter until he spoke to Quintana and made certain that, among other minor concerns, the pitcher was actually in town for the game.

Seems rather reasonable.

As for the lineup, the Cubs passed it along within minutes of the team bus arriving at Dodger Stadium.

So what was the big problem?

"I have no concerns about sending lineups over early," Maddon said with a smirk. "Once the game begins, if your players play better than their players, your team wins."

Still, Maddon appeared to enjoy the fact that Dodgers were irritated, adding sarcastically, "I apologize for being so late with the lineup today."

It was a good moment for Maddon, who had a rough one when he was thrown out in the seventh for arguing an absurd home-plate rule that was judged correctly and handed the Dodgers a big insurance run.

But the Cubs only needed 1 victory in Los Angeles to return to Chicago feeling good, and in Game 2 they have Jon Lester, who was brilliant against the Dodgers in a pair of NLCS starts a year ago.

The Cubs desperately need him to go deep and do it again.

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