By Bernie Wilson
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES — Joe Maddon went to his bullpen, and two pitches later, it all began to implode for the Chicago Cubs.
Jose Quintana gave Chicago five strong innings, but relievers Hector Rondon and Mike Montgomery couldn’t make it count in a 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the opener of the NL Championship Series on Saturday night.
Quintana dominated early a day after his wife, Michel, was taken off the team plane during an emergency stop with a medical ailment. Los Angeles got to him for two runs in the fifth, though, and Maddon called on Rondon to start the sixth in a 2-2 game.
That’s when it began to fall apart.
Chris Taylor homered on Rondon’s 1-0 pitch to lead off, and Rondon faced only one more batter before handing off to Montgomery.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 15, 2017
“When you miss the pitch, they make you pay, especially in the playoffs,” Rondon said. “They were ready for a mistake and I threw it a little bit in the zone and he got me.”
Montgomery got out of the sixth unscathed, but then allowed a leadoff homer to Yasiel Puig in the seventh, followed by a double to Charlie Culberson and an infield single to Taylor.
Maddon then called for starter John Lackey — his last decision before being sent home early by the umpires.
Justin Turner singled off Lackey, and Culberson was initially called out at the plate trying to score. That ruling was overturned after a video review because of the way catcher Willson Contreras blocked home plate, and Maddon was ejected for arguing the replay decision.
It capped yet another disappointing October show for Chicago’s relievers.
Carl Edwards Jr. blew a save in Game 2 of the Cubs’ NL Division Series against Washington — a game in which Montgomery also let in two runs in 2/3 of an inning. Edwards and closer Wade Davis also had a tough time in a Game 4 loss to the Nationals, and the bullpen gave up four runs over five innings in a 9-8 Game 5 win to advance.
This was Rondon’s first appearance this postseason — he was added to the roster earlier Saturday, while left-handed reliever Justin Wilson was removed.
It was just the latest letdown for Montgomery, a long reliever who’s had a trio of abrupt outings in the playoffs. He’s been charged with five runs over two innings.
Contreras said the problem with the bullpen was “lot of missed locations, a lot of walks. That’s one thing that cannot happen.”
Jon Lester and Rich Hill face off tonight in Game Two of the #NLCS.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) October 15, 2017
Game 2 of the NLCS is Sunday night, 6:38 p.m. on TBS.