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NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers strike first in NLCS, win 5-2 vs. Chicago Cubs

By Doug Padilla, The Sports Xchange
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NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers strike first in NLCS, win 5-2 vs. Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) celebrates win over the Chicago Cubs with teammate Cody Bellinger in Game 1 of the NLCS Saturday at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES -- Chris Taylor hit a go-ahead home run Saturday night and Charlie Culberson added an RBI and a run scored as the Los Angeles Dodgers opened the National League Championship Series with a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Kenley Jansen came on to get the final four outs for the save as the Dodgers used five relievers in support of starter Clayton Kershaw, who lasted five innings.

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Kershaw gave up a two-run homer to Albert Almora Jr. in the fourth inning but nothing else despite some hard-hit balls by the Cubs. The left-hander, in his second start this postseason, gave up four hits with four strikeouts.

Taylor's breakout regular season has continued on into the playoffs. He had three runs scored in a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks during the National League Division Series and added his first postseason home run after hitting 21 in the regular season. He entered the season with just one major league home run in 120 career games.

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Culberson's contributions were even more unlikely. He started at shortstop in Game 1 only after Corey Seager was not placed on the active roster for the series because of a sore back suffered in Game 3 of the NLDS.

Culberson's sacrifice fly in the fifth inning tied the score 2-2. He then followed a Yasiel Puig home run in the seventh inning with a double to left. He sprinted home on a Justin Turner single but appeared to get thrown out at home when catcher Willson Contreras applied the tag in time.

But on a replay challenge, Culberson was called safe. The official ruing from MLB offices in New York was that Contreras was in violation of the "home plate collision rule." Cubs manager Joe Maddon was ejected for arguing the replay reversal.

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Cubs starter Jose Quintana, who had experienced an emotional few days, might have needed 22 pitches in a perfect first inning but was locked in early. Through four innings, Quintana had given up just one hit but had faced the minimum thanks to a double-play grounder from Austin Barnes.

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The Cubs revealed the reason their family charter flight to Los Angeles was diverted to Albuquerque, N.M., early Friday morning was because of a medical condition with Quintana's wife. The flight continued after a five-hour delay and Maddon waited to officially name Quintana his Game 1 starter until Saturday morning.

Quintana did not start showing cracks until the fifth inning when he issued back-to-back walks to Logan Forsythe and Austin Barnes. Puig followed with an RBI single to cut the early Cubs lead to 2-1.

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One batter later, Culberson tied the score with a sacrifice fly to left field that brought home Barnes.

Kershaw was nowhere near as efficient as Quintana in the early going. He had a runner on base in three of the first four innings, running into trouble in the fourth when he gave up a line-drive single to Contreras and a two-run homer to Almora.

Almora got the call in the outfield for Game 1 after going 38-for-111 (.354) against lefties during the regular season. He batted .433 with four doubles, a triple, two home runs and 11 RBIs against all pitchers over his final 16 games of the regular season.

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Kershaw gave up two runs and four hits with a walk and four strikeouts. It was the third time in the last two years a Kershaw start in the postseason lasted just five innings. Two of the outings were against the Cubs, including the deciding game in the NLCS last year.

NOTES: Dodgers SS Corey Seager said his injured back is somewhat improved after receiving an epidural injection this week, but he was not deemed healthy enough to be added to the active roster. ... Dodgers SS Charlie Culberson had just 13 major league at-bats this season before he delivered an run-scoring sacrifice fly to tie it and scored an insurance run on a Justin Turner single. ... The Cubs officially named LHP Jon Lester their Game 2 starter, scheduling him to pitch on three days' rest after throwing 51 pitches in a relief outing Wednesday against the Washington Nationals. ... The Cubs added RHP Hector Rondon to the active roster and his second pitch of the NLCS was greeted with a home run by Chris Taylor.

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