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James Outman’s 9th-inning grand slam lifts Dodgers over Cubs

James Outman is here, and he is here to stay

Los Angeles Dodgers v Chicago Cubs Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

With short starts on both sides, the bullpens played a game of who would blink first. James Outman made the answer clear with a game-winning grand slam, part of a two-homer night for the Dodgers rookie outfielder in a 6-2 win over the Cubs on Thursday at Wrigley Field.

oing back to the series in Los Angeles, in which the Dodgers scored a mere two runs in each game, the Cubs’ bullpen has been giving them fits, and it continued Thursday in Chicago. Albert Alzolay, Brandon Hughes, Michael Rucker, and Brad Boxberger combined for five scoreless frames with seven punchouts.

However, the Cubs’ relievers could only hold up for so long, as the Dodgers loaded the bases in the against Michael Fulmer in the ninth inning, setting the stage for Outman to do this, with zero assistance from the wind.

Early in this ball game, the expectations were that we might see a wind-assisted slugfest, as it aggressively blew out to center field, as evidenced by the opening run of the game, on a Max Muncy leadoff home run in the second, completely assisted by the weather, as it had a ridiculous 43-degree launch angle, and just kept carrying.

This long ball tied Muncy for the league lead in homers with eight on the year, and the Cubs wasted no time in responding, as Cody Bellinger led off the bottom of that inning with a homer of his own, to tie up the game, his second against the Dodgers in 2023.

In the following inning, it was Outman’s turn to ride the wind into a 420-foot shot into center-fielder, give the Dodgers back the lead, 2-1.

With three early homers, you felt like a high-scoring game was on its way, but that never came to fruition as both bullpens worked well to keep the ball in the ground and limit hard contact in general, keeping the offenses at bay

Javier Assad, the starter for the Cubs who took the ball in place of Jameson Taillon, originally the scheduled starter for this game, as the veteran went on the IL, only pitched three full innings as the Dodgers’ hitters worked up his pitch count.

Grove left the game early, but the bullpen picked up the slack

One of the biggest issues for the Dodgers in 2023 has been the bullpen inconsistency, and tonight, the unit had to step up, as starter Michael Grove left the game in the middle of the fourth inning, with a right groin strain.

Phil Bickford came in a very tough situation, with runners on second and third, and kept the damage at a single run, with a little help from Outman, the star of the night, who threw out the runner from second on a single with one out, to prevent the Cubs from going up 3-2.

Bickford tossed two solid innings and was followed by Justin Bruihl, Yency Almonte, and Caleb Ferguson, all with an inning each, holding down the fort until the offense could pounce in the eighth inning.

Brusdar Graterol finished off the Cubs with a perfect ninth, striking out two. Over his last four appearances, Graterol struck out eight of his 14 batters faced, tossing 4⅓ scoreless innings.

Mookie’s debut at shortstop

Mookie Betts didn’t get settled quite in time to start tonight’s game, but Dave Roberts called his name in the middle innings as a pinch-hitter for Luke Williams, and Mookie remained in the game as the Dodgers’ shortstop.

It didn’t take long for the ball to find him, and as the Cubs threatened to break the 2-2 tie in the eighth inning with runners at first and second, and nobody out, Patrick Wisdom grounded a ball to short, that Betts took it himself, to the bag, and made a jump throw to first, to get the double-play.

Welcome back.

Thursday particulars

Home runs: Max Muncy (8), James Outman 2 (5); Cody Bellinger (4)

WP — Caleb Ferguson (1-0): 1 IP, zeroes

LP — Michael Fulmer (0-2): ⅓ IP, 3 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk

Up next

It’s all day games the rest of the series in Chicago. Julio Urías starts on Friday (11:20 a.m. PT; SportsNet LA, MLB Network), with left-hander Drew Smyly starting for the Cubs.