LOS ANGELES — A playoff baseball game, to Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts, is a maze that must be navigated, even as the correct turns morph as the innings progress. He is the mouse sniffing the cheese, armed before with a map that details exactly how to make each choice in each moment. It might seem unconventional. It should be convention.

Moves Roberts made Saturday night, as the Dodgers opened the National League Championship Series with a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs: He lifted all-world left-hander Clayton Kershaw for a pinch hitter after just five innings. He played with platoon matchups so early and with such conviction that he brought in a reliever for a single batter in the sixth inning. He had erstwhile starter Kenta Maeda get two outs in the sixth and throw one pitch in the seventh – also an out – before lifting him, though he had done nothing wrong. He allowed reliever Brandon Morrow to hit for himself in the seventh inning of a two-run game.

Roberts’ motivation: set up the entire affair so that he could hand the ball to his behemoth of a closer, Kenley Jansen, to retire the Cubs’ best hitters, whenever they might come up for the last time. Roberts cared not that Jansen would open this series by having to record the final four outs. He cared not that lefty Tony Watson faced two hitters in the eighth and retired each without issue. He wanted Jansen, so he went and got Jansen.

And Jansen struck out the only four men he faced – including Kris Bryant to close the eighth and Anthony Rizzo to open the ninth – to punctuate a night when five Dodger relievers overwhelmed the Cubs, retiring all 12 men they faced.

“We know who he’s going to match us up with,” said Jansen, who struck out all four batters he faced – including Kris Bryant to end the eighth and Anthony Rizzo to open the ninth. “We know we have the lefties for the lefties, and the righties for the righties, and we know the way ‘Doc’s using us.”

Like a surgeon, it turns out. Saturday night will be remembered more for one manager, Chicago’s Joe Maddon, than for Roberts. And that’s not even because Maddon got out-managed, which he did. Maddon, rather, was tossed from the game in the eighth inning because he argued a play at the plate in which Dodgers base runner Charlie Culberson was initially ruled out, but which was overturned after a video review determined Cubs catcher Willson Contreras had violated the home-plate collision rule.

Maddon – how to put this? – disagreed.

“I saw a great baseball play,” Maddon said. “. . . The ball kind of took Willson towards the line, towards foul territory. He catches the ball, and his technique was absolutely, 100 percent perfect. I could not disagree more with the interpretation of that.”

The play gave the Dodgers their fifth and final run. And in the context of what Roberts was doing in the opposite dugout, it didn’t matter. Roberts had Maddon beat whether Culberson was safe or out.

Consider his decision on Kershaw, whose postseason struggles as he moves deeper into games have defined the Dodgers’ exits from four consecutive Octobers. Through five innings, Kershaw had been touched only for Albert Almora Jr.’s two-run homer. Yet in the fifth, the Dodgers tied the score on Yasiel Puig’s double and a sacrifice fly from Culberson.

Culberson was only in the game – and on the roster – because the Dodgers will be without all-star shortstop Corey Seager for the entirety of the NLCS. Seager suffered a sprained back when he slid into second base in Game 3 of the Dodgers’ division series sweep of Arizona, and though he progressed over the course of the week, Los Angeles left him off the roster for this round – and put Saturday’s start in the hands of Culberson, a 28-year-old journeyman who had been the starting shortstop for Class AAA Oklahoma City and played just 15 big-league games this year.

“There’s like an anxious feeling,” Culberson said. “You want to go out there and do well. A lot of people. Big stage.”

Leave it to Roberts to turn a drifter into an advantage. Culberson’s sacrifice fly not only tied the game, but it brought up Kershaw’s spot. Consider how Roberts evaluated when to lift his ace.

“Each out is so important,” Kershaw said, and he knew the Cubs’ first hitter in the top of the sixth would be Rizzo, a dangerous left-handed hitter.

“He was around up near 90 pitches, and I probably had him going out there for Rizzo,” Roberts said, “and then going to have Kenta get the three righties after that.”

Except he needed to try to get another run. And even if rookie Kyle Farmer failed to drive one in – which he did, grounding out – Roberts had a plan to go around the next corner in the maze: Lefty Tony Cingrani would play the role of Kershaw vs. Rizzo.

“When I came here, they told me I was getting Harper, Rizzo, Murphy,” Cingrani said, citing three of the best left-handed hitters in the National League. “I’m ready for whenever that is.”

With that, Cingrani recorded the first of those 12 outs from the Dodger bullpen, and his night was over. And off it went, Maeda to get three right-handed hitters, including Addison Russell on one pitch to open the seventh. Morrow, a right-hander, then came on to face lefty slugger Kyle Schwarber – the matchup Roberts wanted, because Morrow held left-handed hitters to a .183 average this year.

Watson got the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist and the left-handed Jon Jay to start the eighth – and then the game was Jansen’s. Go through the whole game. Roberts never had a matchup he didn’t want. Maddon allowed Puig to face the lefty Quintana the first time, then didn’t remove lefty Mike Montgomery when Puig led off. Result: Home run to left.

Maddon is one who feels comfortable with each choice he makes. Afterward, he acknowledged one way this series seems to tip toward the Dodgers. With three runs in three innings pitched Saturday – the difference in the game – Cubs relievers now have a 7.08 ERA over their first six games of the postseason.

“I think, standing out right now, their bullpen is pretty firm,” Maddon said, “and we have to really get our feet back on the ground.”

Roberts’ feet are on the ground, trudging through the maze. Watch the course of the series. Follow along with the GPS Roberts provides. Saturday night, it led him through six pitchers and 11 position players. It showed the road to Jansen in the eighth for the final four outs. And it plowed the path to an early advantage in this series, and the notion that the strategic advantage resides in the Dodger dugout.