Yasiel Puig had his first showdown with the Cubs’ answer to him on Thursday night, and what a show both men put on.
Junior Lake’s minor league statistics seem to indicate that his hot MLB start may be a bit of an anomaly, but with the way the kid plays the game, even if he has some regression to the mean and his average and power numbers come down a bit, he’s still exciting to watch. The Cubs’ young phenom actually batted a little higher in terms of batting average than Puig over his first 7 games in the league, while Puig put up slightly better power numbers, but nobody’s going to complain about kids coming up and making immediate huge impacts on their teams the way that these two players have, and Chicago’s north siders have to be thrilled with what they’ve seen out of Lake in a Cubs’ uniform so far.
This night, Lake in some ways bested Puig, at least as far as individual accomplishments. He outhomered Puig 2-1 for his first career two homer game and it was Lake, not Puig, who had a bone-rattling crash-into-the-wall catch. Puig arguably got the last laugh, though, with his solo homer in the ninth giving the Dodgers an important insurance run. As a display of the amount of popularity Puig has right now, the guy who got the ball failed to contribute to the Wrigley Field bleacher tradition of throwing the ball back, instead electing to hold onto the ball for dear life.
But as far as the two teams were concerned, the Dodgers got the better of the Cubs on this night, the first of a four game set in a thrilling game at Wrigley Field that featured the hot-as-fire boys from Los Angeles and the gritty-and-determined boys from the north side of Chicago, and when Kenley Jansen came onto the mound under the lights in the bottom of the ninth at an electric Wrigley Field, there was just a little something extra on his pitches that enabled him to shut down the Cubs like a team of Little Leaguers, which is not a testament of the Cubs’ futility this season or an insult against a team that has come together and scrapped some good games of their own lately so much as just how good Kenley Jansen can be when he’s on his game.
On an historical note, the win was the Dodgers’ 11th consecutive road win. They’ll try to take a franchise record 12th straight road win in today’s game, a record that has stood since 1924, when the team was in Brooklyn.
Let’s take a look at how the two teams fared.
The Cubs drew first blood. First inning home runs by Lake and Anthony Rizzo gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead on Ricky Nolasco. The shot by Lake was particularly noteworthy, leaving the yard down the left field line.
The Dodgers tied the score in the top of the third. A Yasiel Puig walk and an Adrian Gonzalez single brought up Hanley Ramirez, who laced a one out double down the left field line, scoring both men and allowing Ramirez to take third on the throw while making the game a 2-2 tie.
Junior Lake would quickly answer, hitting his second home run off Ricky Nolasco in the bottom half of the third. The blast gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead and had Ricky Nolasco looking shaky.
After that, Nolasco settled in through five, and the Dodgers wouldn’t give up another run until the eighth inning, while Cubs’ pitcher Chris Rusin would have the wheels come off a bit in the top of the sixth. Scott Van Slyke singled to left, Mark Ellis walked, then Tim Federowicz sacrificed the runners to second and third. Jerry Hairston, Jr., who was having a homecoming of sorts having grown up in Chicago, pinch-hit for Nolasco and singled to center field, scoring both Van Slyke and Ellis and giving the Dodgers a 4-3 lead. After Carl Crawford lined out, Yasiel Puig doubled, moving Hairston to third, then Adrian Gonzalez singled to center to plate Hairston. Yasiel Puig attempted to score from second base, but was thrown out at the plate.
Ricky Nolasco pitched five innings, giving up three runs on four hits, striking out six and walking one. Three of the four hits allowed by Nolasco were solo home runs, and after the game Nolasco expressed some frustration about not being able to pitch deeper into the game. Chris Rusin on the other hand worked 5 strong innings before having to come out with no outs in the sixth. The Cubs’ hurler gave up 4 runs on 7 hits when all was said and done, striking out 4 and walking 3.
The Cubs got back within 5-4 in the bottom of the eigth, when Rizzo took an offering from Dodgers’ reliever Paco Rodriguez and deposited it in the left-center field bleachers.
Puig would strike again in the top of the ninth, however, getting an 81 MPH slider from Hector Rondon that hung up just a little too long and blasting the ball into the left-center field bleachers for an important insurance run and a 6-4 Dodger lead.
Kenley Jansen, who has dominated opponents since taking over the closer’s role in early June, struck out the side in a dominant 1-2-3 ninth, silencing the Cubs’ bats on just twelve pitches in what may have been his best outing to date this season.
Nolasco picks up the win, improving to 2-1 in Los Angeles and 7-9 on the season. Chris Rusin takes the loss, he falls to 1-1. Kenley Jansen picks up his 15th save of the season.
Game two of the four game set is at Wrigley Field today at 1:05 p.m. Pacific Time, with Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-3, 3.14 ERA) facing off against the Cubs’ Travis Wood (7-7, 2.79 ERA.)
- Puig leads Dodgers past Cubs 6-4 (timesleader.com)
- Puig goes deep, scores twice as Dodgers take down Cubs (cbssports.com)
- Cubs Can’t Hold Early Lead Against Dodgers (chicago.cbslocal.com)
- Cubs get 4 homers in 6-4 loss to Dodgers (miamiherald.com)
- Dodgers’ Road Win Streak Extends To 11 Games After 6-4 Win Over Cubs (losangeles.cbslocal.com)