Dodgers draw first blood in Cubs rematch

Rebecca BRYAN, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 16 2017 09:32 AM

Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) reacts after hitting a solo home run against the Chicago Cubs in the seventh inning during game one of the 2017 NLCS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig homered and drove in another as the Los Angeles Dodgers rallied to beat the World Series champion Chicago Cubs 5-2 to open their Major League Baseball playoff series.

The Dodgers, sent packing by the Cubs in last year's National League Championship Series, took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven NLCS with game two set for Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

The winner of the series will play either the Houston Astros or the New York Yankees for the major league crown.

The Astros took a 2-0 lead in the American League Championship Series with a 2-1 win over the Yankees in Houston on Saturday.

The Dodgers received a pre-game blow when a back injury to Corey Seager forced the All-Star shortstop off the NLCS roster.

But they managed fine without him, with homers from Puig and Chris Taylor.

Puig homered to lead off the bottom of the seventh, sending the Dodger Stadium crowd in to a frenzy.

"He loves the big stage, and his only focus is helping us continue to win baseball games," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the mercurial Cuban. "So right now he's playing at a high level, and not only the fans, but his teammates are feeding off of it."

Charlie Culberson followed with a double, and after Taylor singled, raced home on a single from Justin Turner.

Culberson was ruled out at home plate, but that call was overturned on review, with major league officials saying Contreras violated the home plate collision rule by illegally blocking his path to the plate.

Incensed Cubs manager Joe Maddon burst from the dugout to argue and was promptly ejected.

Maddon said Wilson had no choice but to move toward the baseline to catch the ball.

"His technique was absolutely 100 percent perfect," Maddon said. "I could not disagree more with the interpretation of that."

Taylor, who started the season in the minor leagues, had put the Dodgers up 3-2 in the sixth with a homer off Cubs relief pitcher Hector Rondon.

Albert Almora's two-run homer off Clayton Kershaw in the fourth inning had staked the Cubs to a 2-0 lead.

The Dodgers responded in the fifth. After Cubs starter Jose Quintana gave up back-to-back walks to Logan Forsythe and Austin Barnes, Puig doubled to score one run and Culberson's fly scored Barnes.

Kershaw lasted five innings, giving up four hits with four strikeouts. He retired the last six batters he faced before the Dodgers went to their bullpen.

Kenley Jansen recorded the last four outs for the save.

In Houston, Carlos Correa followed a homer with a walk-off double for the Astros.

Correa's ninth-inning effort ensured the Astros capitalized on a stellar performance from starting pitcher Justin Verlander.

Correa smacked a 3-ball, 2-strike fastball from Aroldis Chapman into the right center-field gap to score Jose Altuve from first base.

Altuve raced around the bases, scoring when Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge made his relay throw toward the middle of the infield and catcher Gary Sanchez couldn't grab the subsequent throw to home.

- Verlander 'exceptional' -

Verlander worked nine innings, allowing one run on five hits with one walk and 13 strikeouts.

He threw 124 pitches -- 93 of them for strikes -- and held off the Yankees to give the Astros a chance to rally.

"He was exceptional in every way," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Verlander. "He put us on his back today with his pitching."

In the fourth inning, Correa turned a 99-mph (159.33 Km/h) fastball from Luis Severino for a home run to right.

The ball barely eluded Judge, and a young fan in the first row of seats deflected it into the stands.

"I love that kid," Hinch said, "I want to leave that kid tickets.

An official review offered no grounds for overturning the play, and even Yankees manager Joe Girardi acknowledged there was no camera angle that confirmed fan interference.

The Yankees answered with an even stranger play.

With two outs in the fifth, Verlander gave up back-to-back doubles to Aaron Hicks and Todd Frazier.

Frazier's caught in a fence in left-centerfield and Hicks scored on a ground-rule double.

But Verlander regrouped, and the Yankees could make no more inroads against him.

"It's definitely one of the most satisfying starts I've had in my career," Verlander said.

They Yankees will try to bounce back when they host game three on Monday.

© Agence France-Presse

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