The Chicago Cubs have made a habit of delivering the timely late-inning hit this season, but on Sunday it never arrived as they suffered a rare offensive shortcoming in a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Chicago's dynamic hitters were stunted by ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw who shut them down in a 1-0 loss that tied the best-of-seven National League Championship Series 1-1.
"That's why he's the best left-hander in the game for the last five or six years," catcher Miguel Montero told reporters of Kershaw, who held Chicago to just two hits.
The Cubs will travel to Los Angeles for Game Three on Tuesday looking to recapture the magic that helped them win a Major League-best 103 regular season wins and become World Series favorites.
Chicago's journey has been filled with heroics at the plate that had carried over into the post-season.
Relax, Fenway is definitely an amazing place to watch a game. But sitting directly behind a pole and/or facing the left-center field wall just isn’t always appealing.
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They opened the playoffs with a dramatic 1-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants in the National League Divisional Series, where infielder Javier Baez struck a game-winning home run in the eighth inning.
Then there was Kris Bryant's game-tying home run in the ninth inning of Game Three against the Giants and the four-run ninth-inning rally in Game Four that ultimately eliminated San Francisco.
In the NLCS opener against the Dodgers on Saturday, Montero snapped a 3-3 tie with a crushing grand slam in the eighth inning that gave the Cubs a familiar ending.
But the script was flipped against Kershaw as Chicago struck out 10 times.
The Cubs are known for their patience at the plate, having led the Majors in walks during the season, but knowing they were up against a stingy pitcher, they swung early and often at Kershaw.
Chicago appeared to have finally seized the dramatic moment against the ace in the seventh where Baez cracked a pitch deep to center field that dropped into the glove of Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson just before it reached the wall. It was the final pitch of the night for Kershaw, and as it turned out, the Cubs' last chance.
"We had some balls that were hit in the gaps, and they ran them down," said Chicago pitcher Jake Arrieta. "Tip your hat. We were one swing away."