Clayton Kershaw allowed two of the five home runs hit on Monday night at Wrigley Field, and the Cubs turned the lights out on the Dodgers offense, taking the opener of a the four-game series 4-2 in a cloudy, rainy night on the north side of Chicago.
I'm not sure what annoyed Kershaw more, the two home runs allowed or the 10-minute delay after some lights went out in the bottom of the sixth inning at the stubbornly decrepit stadium. Cubs manager argued with umpires multiple times after the stadium got darker, ultimately playing the game under protest, presumably because the Cubs had to bat in a darker environment in the bottom of the inning than did the Dodgers in the top half.
Maddon's gamesmanship aside, the umpiring crew let the shenanigans last too long, with an increasingly angrier Kershaw waiting on the mound, letting the crew know of his displeasure quite clearly.
More ire was deserved for the Dodgers offense, managing just five hits and four walks on the night.
The bottom of the third featured a couple close plays that nearly went the Dodgers' way, but didn't. After a single by Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo flew to center field but the play was intriguing because Joc Pederson first slipped and fell before getting up to run the ball down. Pederson's throw back to first was almost enough to get Fowler in a double play, but it hit Fowler and bounced a few feet away.
Then with two outs and two strikes on Kris Bryant, Kershaw fired a fastball just outside the strike zone, maybe by a millimeter. Kershaw started to walk off the mound and catcher A.J. Ellis flinched, thinking that was the final pitch of the inning, but it was called a ball by home plate umpire Jordan Baker.
Kershaw's next pitch was a cement mixer curveball that Bryant waited on then drove into the right field bleachers for a 2-1 Cubs lead.
Fowler would leave two innings later with a sprained left ankle injured on his scramble back to first, joining starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada in early Cub exits. Wada pitched two two batters in the third inning before leaving with a cramp in his left deltoid.
One of the two batters Wada faced in the third was Kiké Hernandez, who homered to left for the first run of the game.
But the Dodgers couldn't do anything against lefties Travis Wood and James Russell, who got the Cubs through six innings with a 2-1 advantage.
Matt Szczur added a solo shot in the seventh to widen the Cubs' advantage to two runs.
Kershaw has allowed 11 home runs on the season in his 15 starts, two more home runs than he allowed in 27 starts in 2014, and matching his total in 33 starts in 2013.
Bryant added a second home run in the eighth inning, the first home run allowed this year by rookie Adam Liberatore.
Joc Pederson took Jason Motte deep in the ninth inning to cut the deficit to 4-2. It was the 19th home run of the season for Pederson, setting a new Dodgers rookie record for home runs before the All-Star break, one more than Mike Piazza in 1993.
Technically, neither team recorded an at-bat with a runner in scoring position. The Dodgers came close in the third inning with Yasiel Puig on second and Pederson on first, with the red-hot Justin Turner at the plate. But during the at-bat, Puig was caught way too far off second base by catcher David Ross, another in a long line of baserunning miscues this season by the Dodgers, who entered Monday 27th among 30 MLB teams in baserunning runs, at -7.9 runs below average when on the basepaths, per Baseball Prospectus.
A failed hit-and-run later gave the Dodgers a second caught stealing on the night. On the season, the club has 14 steals and has been caught 19 times, an abysmal 42.4-percent success rate.
Zack Greinke gets the start on Tuesday night for the Dodgers, another 5:05 p.m. PT start. The Cubs will have right-hander Jason Hammel on the mound.
Home runs: Kiké Hernandez (3), Joc Pederson (19); Kris Bryant 2 (10), Matt Szczur (1)
WP - Travis Wood (4-3): 3⅓ IP, 1 hit, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts
LP - Clayton Kershaw (5-5): 7 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
Sv - Jason Motte (2): 1 IP, 2 hits, 1 run