LOS ANGELES — Trailing by two runs in the middle of the game, the Dodgers’ began their comeback with a pair of walks against Cubs starter Jose Quintana.
With one out in the fifth inning, Logan Forsythe drew a five-pitch walk, one of two he had on the night. Austin Barnes followed with a seven-pitch walk. It’s no surprise those two reached base via the free pass; Forsythe (15.7%) and Barnes (14.9%) had the two highest walk rates on the team among Dodgers with at least 10 plate appearances.
Both would score. The 30-pitch fifth inning saw the Dodgers tie the game, and ended Quintana’s night.
“I thought he had it,” Joe Maddon explained. “Emotionally he was pretty much drained at that point. The couple walks were indicators of that.”
Forsythe and Barnes weren’t alone. Justin Turner was 0-for-2 against Quintana, but saw 18 pitches in those two at-bats.
“Even from the beginning, from the first pitch I thought our at-bat quality was very good. Yeah, those walks got him in the end. But you look at what J.T. did his first two at-bats against him,” Dave Roberts said. “We just kind of continued to grind those at-bats and fortunately we broke through.”
It continued a pattern for the Dodgers this postseason. They saw a total of 158 pitches in eight innings in Game 1 of the NLCS, their lowest total in four playoff games so far. They have seen 688 total pitches in those four games, an average of 20.8 per inning.
Dodgers pitchers threw 127 pitches on Saturday night, in nine innings.
Opposing starting pitchers have recorded 46 outs against the Dodgers in these playoffs. Relievers have recorded 53.
Once Quintana was out of the game, the Dodgers scored three runs off Chicago relievers, including home runs by Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig.
“We have to get our bullpen in order. That’s probably the biggest difference between both seasons,” Maddon said “We have to be able to hold small deficits or small leads in the middle and then hopefully get to Wade Davis in a positive situation.
“I think standing out right now, their bullpen is pretty firm, and we have to really get our feet back on the ground.”
The Dodgers bullpen has indeed been firm, retiring all 12 batters they faced in Game 1, including four strikeouts in four batters faced by Kenley Jansen.
In four playoff games, LA relievers have a 1.72 ERA with 15 strikeouts and one walk in 14⅔ innings. Kenta Maeda has retired all nine batters he faced in his three relief appearances, with four strikeouts.
“The credit goes to Kenta as far as buying in and understanding that every out in the postseason is important,” Roberts said. “So when he gets his opportunity, he’s been light’s out.”
In the Dodgers’ previous 16 postseason series, how their Game 1 result goes, so goes the series.
Saturday was the Dodgers’ first Game 1 victory in the NLCS since 1985. They lost their last five such games — 1988, 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2016.
The Dodgers have won four consecutive postseason games since winning the final four games of the 1981 World Series. The franchise record is five straight postseason wins — the final game ofthe 1959 World Series, followed by a sweep of the 1963 World Series.
Quote of the night
Puig was asked if this was the most fun he has had playing baseball.
“No, when I was five years old, I played better,” he deadpanned.
Rich Hill gets the ball for the Dodgers in Game 2 on Sunday night, a 4:38 p.m. PT start. The Cubs will turn to Jon Lester, four days after he pitched 3⅔ innings and threw 55 pitches in relief in Game 4 of the NLDS.
“It’s kind of just work in between [starts]. You just got to do it in the game as opposed to on the side,” Lester said Saturday. “I don’t think it’s a problem. This time of year you have to adjust and figure it out.”