LOS ANGELES — Corey Seager has become an NL MVP Award candidate as a rookie with timely homers and a big batting average.
He made himself the difference in a game Sunday just by running hard to second base.
Brock Stewart and four relievers combined on a four-hitter and Andrew Toles scored on a fielder’s choice in the eighth inning thanks to Seager’s hustle, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers over Jon Lester and the Chicago Cubs 1-0.
With one out in the eighth, pinch-hitter Toles was hit by a pitch, and then Trevor Cahill (3-4) threw away Howie Kendrick’s short roller, allowing Toles to reach third.
After an intentional walk to Seager and a strikeout, Adrian Gonzalez hit a soft grounder to the left side, away from the shifted Cubs’ defense. Javier Baez stumbled backward to field it and made a casual throw to late-arriving second baseman Ben Zobrist. Umpires ruled a sliding Seager beat Zobrist to the bag, allowing Toles to score, and a review upheld the call.
“As soon as I saw him (Baez) throw to second I knew I had a chance of being safe,” Seager said. “Fortunately, it worked out for us.”
Seager’s right foot slid into the base with Zobrist’s left foot barely inches from coming down on the bag.
“I didn’t expect to be late on the play, but we didn’t communicate on the play,” Baez said. “(Seager) beat the throw. Next time, I will be better and will be in my spot.”
“We made a mental mistake at second and it costs us,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “(Javier Baez is) a young player but he has as much instinct for this game as anyone I’ve ever seen. I’m not going to beat up my guys.”
The Dodgers took two of three from the Cubs over the weekend and maintained a two-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
Stewart struck out eight over five innings of two-hit ball, and then Jesse Chavez, Grant Dayton, Joe Blanton and Kenley Jansen closed up shop. Blanton (5-2) got the win and Jansen got three outs for his 39th save.
“We’re very excited for Brock,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We believe in Brock. He was throwing his fastball, slider and change pitches with conviction.”
Stewart began the season with Class A Rancho Cucamonga and was making just this third big league start. He struck out eight of the first 12 batters to set a career high and struck out six in a row during one stretch.
He also got his first major league hit with a single in the third off Lester. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth after throwing 80 pitches.
“I could have thrown more, but it is not my decision,” he said. “And we got the win and that is all that matters.”
Lester struck out six and pitched three-hit ball over six innings, and the Cubs also four-hit the Dodgers.
“I felt efficient early in the game but in the fifth and sixth innings they ran deep counts and made me work,” Lester.
Kendrick walked to lead off the first and reached third on an errant pickoff attempt by catcher David Ross, but Lester struck out Seager, Justin Turner and Gonzalez successively to end the threat.
Seager and second baseman Charlie Culberson bumped into each other and nearly dropped a pop-up by Addison Russell in the eighth inning. Both players called for the ball beyond second base, and Seager got his glove on it first but was brushed by Culberson. The ball popped out of Seager’s glove and hit off Culberson’s mitt before Seager barehanded it for the third out.
Cubs: RHP John Lackey (right shoulder strain) will throw a bullpen session Monday at home, and manager Joe Maddon said Lackey is scheduled to throw a second bullpen session during Chicago’s homestand before a decision is made about when he will be activated.
Dodgers: OF Andre Ethier (broken right tibia) went 0 for 3 and played four innings in right field for Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday night in his second rehab game. He’s been out since spring training. … Louis Coleman (right shoulder fatigue) is on rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City and has tossed scoreless innings in three rehab games there and with the rookie-level Arizona League Dodgers.
Entering this game, the Cubs (37-27) were one of two NL teams at least 10 games over .500 on the road. The St. Louis Cardinals were the other (38-24).
Cubs: RHP Jake Arrieta (16-5, 2.62) will open a seven-game homestand Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last time out, Arrieta gave up two hits in eight scoreless innings to earn his league-leading 16th victory against the San Diego Padres.
Dodgers: RHP Kenta Maeda (13-7, 3.37) will start at Colorado on Monday. He has gone 5-0 in his last six starts and has limited opposing hitters to a .226 average.