Dodgers scratch for late run to upend Cubs

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[August 29, 2016]  LOS ANGELES -- Minor events can shift tides in a major way in an intense pennant race, as the Los Angeles Dodgers demonstrated Sunday.

Adrian Gonzalez hit a fielder's choice that brought home Andrew Toles with the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Dodgers a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs in front of 44,745 at Dodger Stadium.

"That's been the best team in baseball by record all year," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said of the Cubs. "For us to respond the way we did at home and to win a series against them is a good thing going forward."

When the teams last met, the Cubs won three of four games at Wrigley Field between May 30 and June 2. Yet Roberts believes the difference between that Dodgers squad and the team that won this weekend's series against Chicago cannot be measured by months.

"It's a completely different club," Roberts said. "The way our guys have come together, the focus, the attention to detail are completely different."

Right-hander Joe Blanton (5-2) received the victory in relief. In his lone inning of work, Blanton conceded just one hit while facing four batters.

Closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth inning with one strikeout for this 39th save, ensuring that the Dodgers would remain two games ahead of the second-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

Los Angeles right-hander Brock Stewart amassed a career-high eight strikeouts, six of them in succession, and scattered two hits and two walks during five shutout innings in just his third major-league start. The 24-year old, who was recalled Friday from Triple-A Oklahoma City, threw 80 pitches, including a fastball that reached 95 mph.

"That's normally what I do, pound the strike zone," Stewart said. "The fastball felt good coming out of my hand and I was able to command it. I threw some really good change-ups and a few good sliders. It was a lot of fun."

Los Angeles kept left-hander Jon Lester from getting his 15th victory. Lester pitched six shutout innings, conceded just three hits and two walks and collected six strikeouts in recording his sixth consecutive quality start and 21st of the season.

"Our pitching was fabulous," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Their pitching was outstanding, also. But we made the mistake. We blinked and they win."

The Dodgers combined a hit batsman, a throwing error, an intentional walk and a fielder's choice to score the winning run in the bottom of the eighth against relievers Trevor Cahill (3-4) and Carl Edwards Jr. With one out, Cahill hit pinch-hitter Toles. Howie Kendrick followed with a ground ball off a checked swing in front of the plate.

Cahill picked up the ball and threw it three feet to the right of first baseman Anthony Rizzo into right field. Toles took third base on the play, with Kendrick going to second. Then, after Cahill walked Corey Seager intentionally and was replaced by Edwards, came the key play of the game.

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Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (23) hits a single in the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With two out, Gonzalez hit a ground ball to third baseman Javier Baez, who threw to second baseman Ben Zobrist in an attempt to retire Seager. But Seager slid safely before Zobrist could touch second base, and Toles scored. Maddon requested a video review but it confirmed second-base umpire Alfonzo Marquez's call.

"That's something that needs to be communicated before the ball is hit," Maddon said about Baez's decision to throw to second base instead of to first. "Zobrist was way over. He can't get there in time. Seager made a great hustle play on his part."

Chicago did not put a runner on second base against Stewart until the fifth, when the Cubs put two in scoring position with two out. Jason Heyward lined a lead-off single to right and moved to second one out later when David Ross walked. Both moved into scoring position on Lester's sacrifice bunt. But Heyward and Ross stayed put when Dexter Fowler hit a pop fly to Enrique Hernandez in center field.

The Cubs had another chance in the sixth to end the scoreless drought. Kris Bryant began the inning with a double to right-center field and moved to third on Rizzo's ground out before Zobrist walked. Then with two out, Heyward hit a low line drive that first baseman Gonzalez lunged to his right to catch.

NOTES: Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins and Milt Pappas were the last pair of Cubs pitchers to win 15 games before the end of August when they accomplished the feat in 1971. A victory would have given Chicago LHP Jon Lester his 15th, joining RHP Jake Arrieta, who has 16. ... The Cubs will miss facing Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw for the first time since 2009. Kershaw has been on the disabled list since June 30 because of a herniated disc. ... Los Angeles SS Corey Seager has a chance to become the first rookie since Hall of Famer Ross Barnes in 1876 to finish the season leading or sharing first place in the National League in hits and doubles, according to STATS, LLC. Seager shares first place in each category with 162 hits and 37 doubles entering Sunday. ... Dodgers RHP Kenta Maeda will be recalled from the Arizona Rookie League to make his start Monday against the Colorado Rockies. The Dodgers demoted Maeda to make room for RHP Brock Stewart, who started Sunday.

[ 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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