LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers competed in Saturday’s game minus the services of three core players -- A.J. Ellis, Adrian Gonzalez and, especially important, Yasiel Puig, all of whom are nursing minor injuries.
And no disrespect to Drew Butera, Scott Van Slyke and Justin Turner -- who was making his 2014 first-base debut -- but their presence in the starting lineup makes the Dodgers closer to a JV squad than a World Series contender.
Well, the Chicago Cubs are a JV squad at full strength, meaning the Blue were essentially on even ground on their turf in a quest to be even the series before Sunday’s final.
They took their sweet time, but L.A.’s mission was eventually accomplished with a 5-2 victory in the 12th inning.
How it happened: Matt Kemp recently switched his walk-up music to Lionel Richie’s 1983 classic "All Night Long," among the all-time great party-starter songs that nobody wants to admit they like but everybody does. After three innings' worth of dormant bats, Kemp, like Richie, got the party started and crushed a home run to center to put the Dodgers up 2-1. His teammates, however, had seemingly no interest in a fiesta, forever, because their bats went largely and collectively cold from that point forward.
The Cubs eventually tied the game 2-2 in the seventh, and the score held until the 12th inning, when Dee Gordon slipped a two-out line drive up the middle, then stole second to put himself in scoring position. Turner then drew a full-count walk. And Hanley Ramirez said enough is enough.
His three-run jack to left resulted in the first walk-off homer of his career. Game over.
Hits: "Hits" is actually an appropriate way to describe Hyun-Jin Ryu’s performance. On one hand, he surrendered just two runs and struck out six over seven innings. By any standard, that’s getting the job done. But along the way, he was hit with regularity and quite hard. This tone was set in the first inning, when Chris Coghlan scorched a one-out double into right that initially appeared to be going yard. At least once or twice per inning from that point on, a Cub made brutal contact with a pitch from Ryu. It tempted one to wonder when the floodgates would finally burst open.
But the damage was never bad, thanks to a mix of timely strikeouts and quality fielding. Gordon saved a second-inning base hit by laying out for a hard-hit grounder in the gap, then making the play at first. Carl Crawford backpedaled deep into left field to snare two long flies, then made a crucial ninth-inning catch despite losing his footing. Kemp got a nice jump on a deep single to right to prevent an extra-base hit. Ramirez -- often reviled for his leather -- made a sweet, backhanded grab deep in the gap, then rifled the ball to first for the out. Turner saved a run with a slick grab on a sharp one-hopper. Even Ryu aided his own cause by snaring a comebacker from Coughlan to put a double play into motion.
Misses: As mentioned previously, the Dodgers didn’t do a whole heckuva lot with the bats between the dingers from Kemp and Ramirez. Heading into the 11th inning, the Dodgers were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. (There was one positive "miss," however: Turner’s bat slipped out of his hands during a first-inning swing and flew into the stands but managed to miss any fans.)
Pinch-hitting for Ryu in the seventh, Puig overcame an 0-2 count to lace a single to center. Unfortunately, that clutch piece of hitting was cancelled out by getting picked off -- in quite preventable fashion -- at first.
Stat of the game: 53,354. The game’s attendance made this the second-biggest MLB crowd this season. The biggest? Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. It’s a tribute to this fan base’s loyalty and a presumably high number of Chicago transplants living in L.A.
Up next: With a series win in the balance, former Dodger Edwin Jackson (5-11, 5.79 ERA) takes the hill for Chicago, and he’ll match up against struggling righty Josh Beckett (6-5, 2.74 ERA) for Sunday afternoon’s 1:10 PT start.