Last season, the Dodgers spoke almost boastfully of how well they scouted Ryan Dempster, using advanced reports to help beat the Cubs 7-2 in Game 1 of the NLDS. Apparently, they've lost the playbook, as Dempster and the Cubs bullpen combined on a five-hit, 7-0 shutout of the Dodgers on Saturday afternoon.
Look, there are a lot of reason why one might say that the Cubs won this game, and frankly, why they looked so completely different than we've seen them over the last month.
You can definitely start with Dempster, who threw strikes early and often in his seven innings of work. Ryan was featuring a really good slider, but what you had to like was that he kept pounding the Dodgers with a crisp fastball, that they were often behind on. He fanned five, but more importantly, walked one, and kept those base-stealing 1-3 hitters for the Dodgers off the base paths.
You could say the ineffectiveness of Dodgers starting pitcher Eric Stults, who had extremely sub-par stuff, was the reason the Cubs won. Stults was supposedly nursing a bruised thumb for this start, and it really showed the second time through the Cubs lineup. The Cubs would score runs in three of the first four innings against him, and frankly, it looked like BP out there by the fourth inning.
Let's not forget Mike Fontenot, who's fourth-inning triple would score Bobby Scales, and chase Stults for good. Both his hits were against the lefty, a real good sign if he's going to continue to man third for the foreseeable future.
I think the real reason is that as the 3-4-5 hitters go, so goes your ballclub, and they went very well today. Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley, and Reed Johnson went a combined 7-10, with two walks. Johnson would actually put the cap on the day, when he sent a solo homer into the left field bleachers, for the game's final run in the seventh.
Look who's getting dialed in.
After a Mendoza-esque .627 OPS to start the season, Bradley has now gone 9-24 over the last week, and is showing some serious signs of reverting to form. I'll give credit where it's due, and I expect to see a much sharper Milton in June.
Aaron Heilman would create his usual drama, allowing the first two runners to reach in the ninth, before James Loney grounded into a double play to remove the threat, but this was just not the day for the Dodgers. Hopefully, neither will tomorrow, as the Cubs hope to take the series with a win on ESPN.
Sigh. Maybe Joe Morgan will call in sick, or even better, find himself lost on Banks Boulevard.