Dodgers 9, Cubs 4: Dodgers sweep Cubs; dingers abound as aces off

On paper, Clayton Kershaw versus Jon Lester was the premier matchup of this series. Because baseball is weird, though, both aces had their two worst starts of the season. Fortunately for Kershaw, his team backed him up with nine runs coming on four home runs.

The Cubs were aggressive against Kershaw to start, with Javier Báez and Kris Bryant each swinging at the first pitch, and each reaching on bloop singles. Kershaw managed to escape that inning unscathed on a total of 16 pitches, but the less-than-clean inning was a sign of things to come.

Franklin Gutiérrez, who started the game in left field, exited early due to an unspecified illnessYasiel Puig batted instead when Guti’s spot came up in the first inning, and afterwards remained in the game playing right field, while Brett Eibner moved to left.

Willson Contreras led off the second inning with valiant 12-pitch at bat that ended with him hitting his fifth home run of the season. It was the first run the Cubs had scored all series, and the first run Dodger pitching had allowed in 27 innings.

The Dodgers quickly regained the lead in the bottom half of that inning. Enrique Hernández drew a walk, Austin Barnes singled softly to right, and Cody Bellinger did this:

The Dodgers added to their lead the following inning with another three-run home run. This time, it was Corey Seager and Puig who singled ahead of Kiké:

Hernández now has 25 hits this season, 19 of which have been for extra bases (four home runs, a triple and 14 doubles).

The Cubs got those runs back in a hurry, though, as Kershaw struggled through the fourth inning. With one out, he gave up a solo shot to Báez. He proceeded to walk Bryant, who came in to score on an Anthony Rizzo blast that made it a two-run game.

Despite the fact that he was at 99 pitches through four innings, Kershaw stayed in to bat when his spot came up in the bottom of the fourth. He singled, but ended up stranded at second base.

Kershaw faced three batters in the fifth inning. Addison Russell hit a soft single, and Albert Almora Jr. recorded a base hit on a ball that Kershaw deflected. Mike Montgomery, who’d entered in relief of Lester the previous inning, laid down a successful sacrifice bunt. With that, Kershaw’s day came to a close. He’d given up a total of four runs on 11 hits (three home runs) and two walks while striking out six. It was his shortest outing since September 2016, when he pitched just three innings in his return from the disabled list.

With Kershaw out, Josh Fields entered the game, and struck out both Báez and Bryant to escape his inherited jam.

Barnes gave the Dodgers some insurance in the bottom half of that inning with the team’s third dinger of the day:

Fields pitched a clean top of the sixth, the first 1-2-3 inning for either team on the day. Sergio Romo got a shot in the seventh, and retired the two righties he faced before Adam Liberatore came in to face left-handed pinch hitter Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber grounded out to first on the ninth pitch of the at bat.

With a three-run lead, it turns out that the Dodgers weren’t quite done scoring. In the bottom of the seventh, Chris Taylor singled off of Hector Rondón, and Puig did not miss a hanging slider:

Liberatore pitched a scoreless eighth inning, and Kenley Jansen, who hadn’t pitched in five days, handled the ninth, picking up a strikeout en route to sealing the victory and the sweep. The Dodger bullpen currently has an 18 inning scoreless streak going.

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The Dodgers (31-20) last saw the Cardinals (24-23) a mere three days ago, but will face them once again tomorrow, this time in St. Louis. Rich Hill (4.76 ERA, 5.60 FIP, 1.706 WHIP) will get a rematch with Mike Leake (1.91 ERA, 2.98 FIP, 0.929 WHIP). The Memorial Day matchup has an early start time of 11:15 AM Pacific.

About Sarah Wexler

Sarah Wexler
Sarah Wexler is a native Angeleno and longtime Dodger fan. She began blogging about baseball in 2012 on her Tumblr, New Grass On The Field, where she covered an array of topics but especially enjoyed exploring baseball history. She now writes for The Hardball Times and FanGraphs. She recently earned her master's degree in Sports Management from Cal State Long Beach. She graduated from New York University in 2014 with a bachelor's in History and a minor in American Studies. She's an avid Springsteen fan, which is a big boost to her baseball writer cred.