Montero's PH slam lifts Cubs over Dodgers 8-4 in NLCS opener
ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 16, 2016 01:27 PM
Chicago Cubs' Miguel Montero (47) hits a grand slam during the eighth inning of Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
JAY COHEN, AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Miguel Montero delivered one memorable swing, Javier Baez stole home with a daring dash down the line and Jon Lester turned in another steady performance.
Business as usual this year for the Chicago Cubs, who are off and running in the Major League Baseball NL Championship Series.
Montero snapped an eighth-inning tie with the third pinch-hit grand slam in postseason history, and Chicago beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 in Game 1 on Saturday night, moving the Cubs a step closer to their first National League championship in 71 years.
Game 2 is Sunday night, with the Dodgers once again in need of a clutch performance from ace Clayton Kershaw. Major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks pitches for the Cubs, chasing their first World Series title since 1908.
LA's Japanese starter Kenta Maeda lasted just four innings in his fourth straight shaky outing dating to the regular season. The Cubs jumped on him for three runs in the first two innings.
Lester pitched six effective innings, and Dexter Fowler homered after making two diving catches in center field — breaking his belt on the second grab. Left fielder Ben Zobrist threw out Adrian Gonzalez at the plate, helping Chicago win its first NLCS game in 13 years. The Cubs were swept in four games by the New York Mets in last year's NLCS.
In a crazy eighth inning, Gonzalez tied it 3-all in the top half with a two-out, two-run single off Aroldis Chapman.
Zobrist hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the eighth before pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan was intentionally walked with runners at first and second and two outs, bringing up Chapman's spot in the batting order.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon sent up Montero, who drove an 0-2 slider from loser Joe Blanton halfway up the right-field bleachers for his first hit of the playoffs.
"I trust Joe. I've trusted him all year long, he's been great for us," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "Left a pitch up. ... It just didn't work out."
The crowd of 42,376 at Wrigley Field roared as Montero rounded the bases and kept cheering until the veteran catcher popped out of the dugout for a curtain call.
On the next pitch, Fowler hit another homer as the Cubs rebounded quickly from a shaky bullpen performance. Hector Rondon allowed Andrew Toles' RBI double in the ninth before Chase Utley lined into a game-ending double play.
Chapman retired Yasmani Grandal on an inning-ending groundout and was credited with the win.
Lester and Baez had helped Chicago to a 3-1 lead after seven.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap