Call him the “Cub Killer.”
Enrique Hernandez hit a solo shot in the second inning, and Chris Taylor hit a pinch-hit home run in the eighth, as the Los Angeles Dodgers held on to defeat the Chicago Cubs, 2-1, on Monday night at Dodger Stadium.
Hernandez homered twice on Sunday afternoon in Flushing Meadows as the Dodgers completed a three-game weekend sweep of the New York Mets thanks to a record seven solo shots by the Boys in Blue.
Following their series loss at Wrigley Field last week—their first series loss since May17—the Dodgers and Cubs ignited their National League Championship Series rematch as both teams have taken turns winning the NL pennant in the past two seasons.
“These two clubs are very similar,” said Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts. “The margin of error is very small and these are very evenly matched clubs.”
Many will remember the heroics of Hernandez in Game 5 of the NLCS as Wrigley Field last year when the super utility player hit three home runs and recorded seven RBI.
He picked up where he left off on Monday as the Puerto Rican slugged his career-high 13th home run of the season in the bottom of the second inning.
“Last year I was hitting a lot of doubles,” said Hernandez. “I took the offseason pretty seriously and wanted to get stronger and in better shape. This year those doubles have turned into homers.”
Hernandez has been scorching hot over his last 13 games, hitting .341 with 11 runs, one double, six homers and nine RBI.
“It’s going well right now and I’m not trying to think too much about it,” continued Hernandez. “I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and I’m happy I can help my team win.”
Cubs’ rookie Duane Underwood Jr. surrendered the home run, but was otherwise sensational in his Major League debut, allowing just the one run on two hits with three walks and three strikeouts in four innings.
Underwood Jr. (0-1) was a second round selection by Chicago in the 2012 MOB Draft and he became the ninth Cubs pitcher to start a game this season, and the second pitcher to make his MLB debut for the Windy City in 2018.
Chris Taylor hit a pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the eighth off Justin Wilson to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
The longball was Taylor’s first pinch-hit home run of the season and the second of his career (April 21, 2017 in Arizona).
“Obviously, we haven’t started him for five days,” said Roberts of Taylor. “To have his bat off the bench, and trust him against a righ-hander or left-hander in any spot, obviously its paid dividends for our club. He’s getting better, but certainly better for him to hit a home run than to have to pinch-hit run for him.”
In his second regular season start against the Cubs (first was last week at Wrigley Field), Kenta Maeda (5-4) was masterful, scattering just three hits with one walk and nine strikeouts over seven shutout innings.
“He was considerably more synced up with his delivery than in Chicago [last week] where it looked like he was fighting himself,” said Roberts of Maeda. “He was executing pitches all night long. He attacked the way that he needs to with his fastball and the changeup was really good and the slider was where he needed it.”
Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth, and allowed a sacrifice fly to Javier Baez that scored Ben Zobrist before recording his 20th save of the season.
The Cubs lost their season-high tying fifth consecutive game and have dropped eight of their last 10 games away from Wrigley Field.
The Dodgers improved to an MLB-best 16-5 in the month of June and currently hold the best record in baseball pre All-Star break for a team that fell 10 games below .500 at 42-35.
One week after shutting out the Dodgers at Wrigley Field, LHP Jon Lester will take the mound for a rematch with RHP Ross Stripling.
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