LOS ANGELES – Breaking down Game 3 of the National League Championship Series between the Cubs and Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
Dodgers 6, Cubs 0: Dodgers take 2-1 lead in series.
The game: Left-hander Rich Hill toyed with the Cubs over six innings and was supported by home runs from Yasmani Grandal and Justin Turner as the Dodgers threw their second consecutive shutout in assuming control of the series.
Hill came in with a 6.43 ERA in the playoffs but was nearly untouchable, yielding two hits and allowing just one runner past second base. The bullpen took over from the seventh on, with closer Kenley Jansen entering with a runner on second and two outs in the eighth and striking out Kris Bryant to extinguish any chance of a Chicago comeback.
The Dodgers drew first blood on Corey Seager’s RBI single in the third inning. Grandal, who was 2-for-20 in the playoffs, cracked a two-run homer with two outs in the fourth off starter Jake Arrieta to expand L.A.’s lead to 3-0 and stoke the crowd of 54,269.
Turner ended Arrieta’s night with a leadoff homer in the sixth, his eighth hit in eight playoff games. The Dodgers capped the rout with two runs in the eighth.
Man of the moment: Hill. After going 12-5 with a 2.12 ERA in 20 starts in the 2016 regular season, the lefty struggled in his first two postseason outings, allowing four runs over 4 1/3 innings and taking the loss in Game 1 of the NLDS then leaving after only 2 2/3 innings in the Dodgers' Game 5 win in that series.
But the former Cubs draft pick showed the form that made him a hot commodity in July, using his curveball in all counts to generate weak contact and plenty of swinging strikes from Chicago hitters.
Pivot point: Grandal’s home run turned what was looming as a pitchers’ duel into a fairly comfortable Dodgers margin.
Grandal tied for the team lead with 27 homers during the season but batted just .228 and did not have an extra-base hit in the playoffs until belting an Arrieta fastball over the right-center field fence with Josh Reddick at third.
Manager's special: After batting first baseman Anthony Rizzo in the No. 3 spot of his order for the entirety of the postseason to date, Cubs manager Joe Maddon moved the struggling Rizzo down to the cleanup spot. Before the game, Maddon said he hoped the switch would "give them a different outlook, a different mindset." If it did that, it didn't show in the box score: Rizzo went 1-for-3 with a walk in the game and the Cubs mustered only four hits overall.
Needing a mulligan: Arrieta. The reigning Cy Young Award winner doesn’t inspire fear in the hearts of hitters the way he did last season, and he was again vulnerable in Game 3, coughing up four runs in five-plus innings.
Arrieta, who had a 4.74 ERA in his last eight starts of the regular season, was making his first trip back to Dodger Stadium since Aug. 30, 2015, when he threw the first of his two career no-hitters and struck out 12. He wasn’t nearly as sharp Tuesday, requiring 82 pitches to navigate the first five innings and leaving after serving up Turner’s homer.
Rizzo is now 2-for-26 with four walks on the postseason. Rizzo hit .292/.385/.544 on the regular season and seems far too good a hitter to struggle for much longer.
State of the series: With a 2-1 lead, the Dodgers will send 20-year-old lefty Julio Urias to the mound for Game 4 to face 37-year-old veteran John Lackey.
The win on Tuesday gives Los Angeles some flexibility in when to next start ace Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a gem in the Dodgers' Game 2 win and would be pitching on short rest if Dodgers manager Dave Roberts turned to him on Thursday for Game 5. Since there is now no chance Roberts' club will face elimination on Thursday night, he can hold back Kershaw for a potential Game 6 outing in Chicago on extra rest on Saturday.
What you missed on TV: Actor Dennis Haysbert, best known for playing President David Palmer on the show 24, smiling for the scoreboard cameras to an appreciative applause. In the 1989 baseball classic Major League, Haysbert played power hitter Pedro Cerrano, notorious for his inability to hit a curveball. Cerrano would have been especially useless against Rich Hill.
Also, Dodger Stadium workers on a shuttle from the parking lot discussing how they get paid at two times the usual rate during the playoffs, but at time-and-a-half during the World Series. A policeman riding along wondered whether it would make more sense the other way around. “No,’’ came the reply, “because we never make it.’’ The Dodgers’ last trip to the World Series was in 1988.