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Chicago Cubs

Bullpen breakdowns, offense woes continue to plague Cubs

Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, right, watches his home run against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning of Game 1 of baseball's National League Championship Series in Los Angeles, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, right, watches his home run against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning of Game 1 of baseball's National League Championship Series in Los Angeles, Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

LOS ANGELES – We can rule out fatigue as the cause of the Cubs’ demise in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.

Instead, we round up the usual suspects: bases on balls and home runs given up by relief pitchers at bad times.

The end result was a 5-2 victory for the Dodgers before 54,289 fans at Dodger Stadium.

The Cubs came into this game physically and emotionally drained after more than 4½ hours to beat the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the division series Thursday.

They then traveled across the country, only to be diverted to Albuquerque for several hours because of an illness suffered by the wife of Cubs pitcher Jose Quintana, the starting pitcher in Game 1.

Quintana came out looking OK as he faced the minimum through 41/3 innings, giving up a hit in the second, with a double play ending the inning.

Albert Almora Jr. gave Quintana a 2-0 lead in the fourth with a line-drive homer to left after Willson Contreras opened with a single.

Trouble for Quintana came in the fifth, when he issued back-to-back one-out walks to Logan Forsythe and Austin Barnes. Yasiel Puig tattooed the wall in left-center for a double, and Charlie Culberson hit a sacrifice fly.

Reliever Hector Rondon gave up a tiebreaking homer to Chris Taylor to start the sixth. Mike Montgomery allowed a leadoff homer to Puig in the seventh to start a 2-run inning.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon addressed the fatigue and emotional factors before the game.

“I think having the experience of going through this in the past helps,” he said. “I do think it helps. I think our guys know what to expect going out there today. It’s not your first time. It’s not your first rodeo. You’re not intimidated by the venue. You’ve done well here before. All that stuff helps. The physical and emotional fatigue, we’re going to find out. We’ll find that out pretty quickly.”

The Cubs debated over starting Quintana or John Lackey in Game 1. Lackey did not pitch in the NLDS, and Quintana made a 12-pitch relief appearance in Game 5.

As it turned out, Lackey got into Saturday’s game, coming on in relief of Montgomery and giving up an RBI single to Justin Turner.

That led to Maddon being tossed from the game.

On Turner’s single, baserunner Culberson was originally ruled out at the plate. Replay overturned the decision, saying catcher Contreras violated the home-plate collision rule by being in the path of the runner before the ball arrived. Maddon argued the call and was tossed by home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale.

Maddon is no fan of the rule in the first place, and he did not hesitate to voice his displeasure, yelling at all of the infield umpires.

The Cubs offense was not overwhelmed by Dodgers starter and ace Clayton Kershaw. He lasted five innings, giving up four hits and two runs.

Maddon put left-handed hitter Kyle Schwarber in the lineup in left field and right-handed batter Almora in center. Left-handed batters do slightly better off Kershaw.

“Take a chance,” he said. “Just take a chance right there. Take a chance with Schwarbs. I thought the at-bat was good the other day. Of course, we grab a lead, whatever happens, we’ll look to move the defense around. But Albert’s got to play with what Albert’s done against lefties.

“Jon Jay’s done well wherever we’ve put him. Jon Jay as a leadoff hitter right now is very important to use. His numbers have not been good against Kershaw, but it’s a new day. I’m good with all that.”

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