By HAL McCOY
Any questions why the Los Angeles Dodgers are wiling to pay pitcher Clayton Kershaw $34 million a year to work every fifth day?
If the Chicago Cubs questioned the high investment they have no doubts now why the Dodgers pay the scraggily-haired left hander more money than the Costa Rican gross national product.
Kershaw and his hinky delivery rendered the Cubs’ bat as unlethal weapons Sunday night in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series in Wrigley Field.
KERSHAW EXPERIENCED ONLY two uncomfortable moments over seven innings and pitched the Dodgers to an excruciatingly dramatic 1-0 victory, knotting the series at one game apiece.
He retired the first 14 Cubs without a sniff of a base runner before Javier Baez lined a single to center. Willson Contreras followed with a ground single to left, a squirmy situation.
It was no problem for Kershaw because he was facing left hander Jayson Heyward, an automatic out most of the season and even more of an automatic out during the postseason.
IT WAS A GOOD TIME for Cubs manager Joe Maddon to pinch-hit, send up a right hander. But he permitted Heyward to hit and he didn’t hit. Kershaw retired him on a weak pop to third, ending the only real threat Kershaw endured.
Kershaw was so dominant that he didn’t even go to a three-ball count until he went to 3-and-2 on Dexter Fowler with two outs in the sixth. That put Wrigley Field into a frenzy, the first time they had anything to cheer about. Kershaw calmly retired Fowler on a foul pop.
Kershaw walked only 11 hitters all year and hadn’t walked anybody this night until he threw four straight balls to Anthony Rizzo leading off the seventh.
He struck out Ben Zobrist and retired Addison Russell on a shallow fly to left. For some strange reason, LA manager Dave Roberts came to the mound. Closer Kenley Jansen was warmed up in the bullpen.
THERE WAS A CONFERENCE on the mound and Kershaw said something like, “If you take me out I’ll unscrew your head and spit down your neck.”
Roberts permitted him to stay and Javier Baez put a catch in the breaths of both Kershaw and Roberts. Baez crushed one to dead center. Joc Pederson caught it with his back scraping the ivy on the brick wall and the inning was over.
After the game, Kershaw said, “I thought it was out of the park for sure. He (Roberts) isn’t going to trust me any more. I missed my spot badly there. But both (catcher) Yasmani Grandal and I thought we could get him out.”
They did. Barely.
When the eighth inning arrived, Kershaw was done — seven innings, no runs, two hits, one walk, six strikeouts, 84 pitches, 55 strikes and one massive victory for the Dodgers.
LA SCORED ITS ONLY run off Cubs starter Kyle Hendrick when first baseman Adrian Gonzalez reached the first row of the left center bleachers for a home run leading off the second inning.
It is the only mistake Kendricks (salary $600,000) made, but against Kershaw one mistake is deadly.
Kendricks pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up one run, three hits, walked four and struck out five. And lost.
Kenley Jansen came in an did a magnificent right handed imitation of Kershaw. He went one-two-three in the eighth, striking out two, and one-two-three in the ninth, striking out two more.
And here’s a good one. The last time the Cubs were shut out at home in the postseason was done by a Boston Red Sox pitcher named Babe Ruth.
So they pack up the gear and head for Los Angeles, resuming the series in Dodger Stadium Tuesday.