CHICAGO -- In the last game of the regular season against the Reds, the Cubs rallied for a win. In Game 4 of the National League Division Series, they scored four runs in the ninth to clinch the series against the Giants. On Saturday night at Wrigley Field, they found another late-inning spark from Miguel Montero, who smacked a grand slam with two outs in the eighth inning to power the Cubs to an 8-4 victory over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series.
Game 2 of the best of seven NLCS will be Sunday (8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT/5 p.m. PT, FS1) at Wrigley.
"We don't quit -- that's what the boys yell all the time," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It's something that you have to nurture. Better teams have that; you have to have that in order to win as many games as we did."
The Cubs led 3-1 after seven innings and called on Aroldis Chapman with the bases loaded and nobody out in the Dodgers' eighth. Chapman had struggled with runners on in Game 3 of the NL Division Series and blew a save opportunity, but he struck out Corey Seager on a 101-mph fastball and got Yasiel Puig swinging at a 103-mph pitch. Adrian Gonzalez was unfazed, lining a 101-mph pitch up the middle to drive in a pair and tie the score at 3.
But the Cubs answered in their half. Ben Zobrist doubled off Joe Blanton, and one out later, Jason Heyward was intentionally walked. Blanton got Javier Baez to fly out, and Chris Coghlan was intentionally walked to load the bases. Montero then drove an 0-2 slider into the right-field bleachers for a 7-3 lead and his first career postseason home run. Dexter Fowler followed with his blast.
"I never thought they were going let the right-hander stay and I don't think Joe did either," Montero said. "But, I kind of looked in a couple times and I didn't see the manager come out and I'm like, 'Yeah, awesome,' because I was ready to hit."
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained his thinking in the decisive rally, specifically the unconventional intentional walk of Coghlan (8-for-17 against Blanton) that advanced the tie-breaking run from second base to third and brought up Montero (2-for-11 against Blanton).
"I know Joe's going to throw strikes," said Roberts, "and so to then walk Coghlan, to then bring up Montero, if I go to a left-hander [Grant Dayton was warming up], they bring in [right-handed hitter Willson] Contreras. So, right there there's really no matchup advantage. It's more of I trust Joe.
"I've trusted him all year long, he's been great for us, and he got ahead 0-2 and left a pitch up. So, again, at that point in time you know they've got to bring in [Hector] Rondon. And so I felt good for us to win the game if we could get out of that inning. And it just didn't work out."
The Dodgers were trying to win without having to call on Clayton Kershaw. He'll start in Game 2.
The Dodgers, who ranked last in the Majors in batting against left-handed pitchers, were able to square up some balls off Chicago starter Jon Lester, who needs to treat his teammates for their defensive efforts.
The hero in the NL Division Series, Baez had a few more razzle-dazzle moves. He hustled to stretch a single into a double in the second and also swiped home that inning, the first Cubs player to do so in the postseason since Jimmy Slagle in Game 4 of the 1907 World Series.
It was a game where one left fielder couldn't make a play as the Dodgers' Howie Kendrick misplayed Kris Bryant's RBI double in the first, and another, Zobrist, threw out Gonzalez at home as he tried to score on starting pitcher Kenta Maeda's single in the second.
Maeda, the losing pitcher in Game 3 of the NL Division Series, has a 9.88 ERA over his past four starts, including two at the end of the regular season.
"The last two outings in the regular season I don't think too deeply into it ... especially since we clinched the season," said Maeda. "The reason why I haven't been doing well the last two games, it's not really because of mechanics per se, it's just I'm not executing my game plan, and that's what I have to do."
This is the first time the Cubs and Dodgers have met in the postseason since the 2008 NLDS, which Los Angeles swept.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Dodgers' Baez does well, too:Pedro Baez, one-time setup man now pitching middle relief, kept the game close by following Maeda with two scoreless innings. He pitched around a leadoff walk to Bryant in the fifth and a one-out double to the other Baez in the sixth, and he struck out three.
Bad text: Left fielder Kendrick mistimed his jump on Bryant's RBI double that sailed over his glove and caromed off the brick wall. The liner had a hang time of 4.6 seconds and landed 67 feet from where Kendrick started, according to Statcast™. That ball is caught 90 percent of the time. Kendrick was sent a text earlier in the day from Roberts asking whether he'd rather start in left field or second base, and Kendrick chose left field.
Magic man: The second inning was all Javier Baez. Heyward, who hit one triple all season, opened the inning with a triple down the right-field line and then scored on Baez's bloop double in shallow center. One out later, Baez advanced on a wild pitch. On a 2-1 pitch, Lester squared to bunt and Baez sprinted home to score. He's the first Cubs player to steal home in a postseason game since Slagle did so in Game 4 of the 1907 World Series. Elvis Andrus was the last in the Majors, doing so in Game 2 of the 2010 American League Championship Series.
"It was a safety squeeze," Baez said of the steal. "I went a little bit too early and [Lester] missed the bunt. But I saw [catcher Carlos Ruiz] ready to throw the ball, and I didn't want to get in a rundown, so I just kept going home. It was a bad throw to third, so he had to take some time to set his feet."
Did Maddon say anything to Baez?
"Nothing," Baez said. "I'm sure he's not surprised." More >
Glove work: The Cubs' defense shined. The Dodgers had runners at first and second with two outs in the second when Maeda singled to left. Zobrist, moved to the outfield to make room for Baez, fired an 87.3-mph strike home (per Statcast™) to throw out Gonzalez. Zobrist was playing shallow because Maeda was hitting, and it paid off. Fowler robbed Justin Turner and Ruiz of potential extra-base hits in the third and fourth, respectively, and all it cost him was a belt. Fowler needed a new one after the Ruiz catch. More >
"The defense was spectacular," Maddon said. "It was unbelievably good. And that's probably the main reason why we won that game. Of course Miggy's grand slam played into it, but we caught the ball tonight. We caught the ball. And there was several balls hit well against Jon that we did catch also. Give our defense credit, man. They showed up. And that's the part that really normally does show up on a nightly basis, is our defense. Love to watch it. It was fabulous. What could I say? I loved it."
"I thought the roof was coming down from the fans jumping. I don't think anybody saw Dexter Fowler homer because they were still jumping." -- Baez, on how excited the Cubs were after Montero's pinch-hit grand slam
With one out and a runner at first in the Chicago third, Addison Russell hit a grounder to third baseman Turner, who threw to Enrique Hernandez for the force at second. Hernandez threw to Gonzalez at first, and Russell was called out, but the Cubs challenged the ruling. After a review, it was overturned.
WHAT'S NEXT Dodgers: Thursday night closer Kershaw goes back to starting for Game 2 on Sunday. Kershaw said he has no restrictions five days after starting on short rest and three days after his unforgettable seven-pitch save. But Roberts said he is mindful of the heavy workload asked of Kershaw.
Cubs:Kyle Hendricks, who had to leave his Game 2 NL Division Series start after 3 2/3 innings when he was struck in his right arm by a line drive, will try to go deeper in the second game of the NLCS on Sunday. The right-hander beat the Dodgers on June 2 at Wrigley, giving up three hits over eight innings. He finished the regular season leading the Majors with a 1.32 ERA at home.