Chicago Cubs 8, LA Dodgers 4
When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, October 20, 2016
Where: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
LOS ANGELES – (Wire Service Report) – With the Chicago Cubs one win away from their first World Series in 71 years, Dexter Fowler waved off the big-picture narrative.
“We’ve heard the history, but at the same time, we’re trying to make history,” Fowler said.
Addison Russell homered for the second night in a row, and Javier Baez added three RBIs as the Cubs blew past the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium. Cubs starter Jon Lester allowed one run in seven innings as the Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Chicago can clinch a trip to its first World Series since 1945 with a win in Game 6 on Saturday at Wrigley Field. They will have their work cut out as Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (1-0 in the series) returns to the mound to face Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks (0-1).
Lester (1-0) struck out six, walked one and allowed only five hits.
“Obviously, we all know what we have in front of us with Kershaw going in Game 6,” said Lester, who improved to 3-0 with 1.80 ERA in Game 5 starts. “And we’re going to do the same thing we’ve done all year. Show up on Saturday and be ready to play and give it our best. Hopefully, he’s not the good (Kershaw) and we get the kind of mediocre guy that gives up a few runs and we’re able to hold them where they’re at.”
Russell, who was 2-for-5 with two runs, cranked a tiebreaking, two-run homer off reliever Joe Blanton (0-2) with one out in the fifth to break up a 1-1 tie. Blanton, who surrendered two runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings, hung an 0-1 slider that Russell smoked out of the park.
“That’s been my go-to pitch for the past year-and-half or so,” Blanton said. “Sometimes you get lucky, and when you hang it, sometimes you don’t. My goal is not to hang it, especially in those counts.”
Said Russell, “I was just trying to find some gaps. I was looking for something up in the zone to drive. First pitch slider, a little bit low. Second pitch was a slider, but it was elevated and I put the barrel on it, and it kind of went.
“But rounding the bases, it was pretty exciting. Pumped up. Not only for myself, but for the team and that little cushion that (Lester) had to go forward from that, and I felt really good.”
Baez’s bases-clearing double highlighted a five-run eighth as the Cubs pulled away. Baez went 3-for-5, while Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Fowler had two hits and an RBI apiece. After being blanked in Games 2 and 3, the Cubs outscored the Dodgers 18-6 in Games 4 and 5.
LOS ANGELES – (Wire Service Report) – The Los Angeles Dodgers will turn to Kenta Maeda to start Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday. Maeda (0-1), and not ace Clayton Kershaw, will get the baseball in a crucial contest of the series, which is tied at two games apiece. Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) will be at Wrigley Field this weekend.
Maeda gets the call despite his inability to deliver so far in the postseason. Although the 28-year-rookie from Japan received a no-decision in Game 1 of the NLCS, he allowed three runs on four hits in four innings, walking three and striking out two. Maeda lost his other playoff start in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals, serving up four runs on five hits in three innings in his second-shortest start of the season.
It’s one reason some in the media speculated Roberts might go to Kershaw again on three days’ rest.
“Well, I think that (Thursday) isn’t a deciding game,” Roberts said, insisting he’s sticking with Maeda.
Roberts also said Kershaw wasn’t available for Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals. However, Roberts surprised many in the baseball world by bringing in Kershaw to close the series clincher and record the final two outs after closer Kenley Jansen worked the previous 2 1/3 innings.
“It’s not an elimination game,” Roberts continued. “And I think the accumulation of (Kershaw’s) usage over the last 10 days plays a factor in our decision. So, I think that for us thinking through it, the best thing for us is to have him pitch Game 6 and have Kenta go Thursday.”
Maeda realizes he needs to deliver.
“I’m not going to be too careful even though I haven’t been pitching well in the postseason,” Maeda said of his approach for the game. “What I’m going to be really focused on is just pitching well (Thursday) and not worry too much about what I have done in the past.”
Jon Lester (1-0, 0.64), who didn’t factor into the decision in Game 1 against the Dodgers, will get the nod for the Cubs. Lester allowed a run on four hits with three strikeouts and a walk in six innings in the series opener. However, manager Joe Maddon lifted him for a pinch-hitter despite Lester throwing only 77 pitches (47 strikes). Lester wasn’t pleased with Maddon’s decision initially but said he calmed down once he got in the dugout.
“I knew it was a grind, even though the pitch count wasn’t as high as it could have been with how I was throwing the ball,” said Lester, who served up a pinch-hit home run to Andre Ethier in what turned out to be an 8-4 win by the Cubs. “But like I said then, I don’t get paid to make decisions. I pitch as long as he tells me to pitch.”
Said Maddon, “The other day at home, he wasn’t the sharpest but still gave us a strong opportunity to win that game, and we eventually did. So, I like his mound demeanor right now.”
In his last start at Dodger Stadium, Lester, who finished the regular season 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA in 32 starts, threw six scoreless innings in a 1-0 win by Los Angeles.
Chicago Cubs 10, LA Dodgers 2
When: 8:00 PM ET, Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Where: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
LOS ANGELES – (Wire Service Report) – A bunt got the Chicago Cubs off and running as they ended a major slump in a rout of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night. Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell broke out of their skips by hitting home runs, and the Cubs pounded the Dodgers 10-2 at Dodger Stadium to even the National League Championship Series at two games apiece. The Cubs, who were shut out the previous two games, broke a scoreless tie with a four-run fourth inning before pulling away.
“You knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of about when,” said Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler, who went 2-for-5 with an RBI.
Game 5 is Thursday at Dodger Stadium.
Rizzo and Russell each had three hits, and Rizzo drove in three runs. Rizzo was 1-for-11 in the series before Wednesday, and Russell was 0-for-9.
“To even up the series, now we have a chance to take another one here (Thursday) and go home with a 3-2 lead,” said Rizzo, who recorded his first RBIs of the postseason. “In a way, this is just one game. And we know that it’s going to be a quick turnaround to be ready (Thursday), but this was definitely a big game for us.”
Ben Zobrist also had two hits for Chicago. Reliever Mike Montgomery (1-0) struck out two and allowed two hits in two innings for the win. Montgomery, who became the third reliever to earn a win and record a hit in an NLCS contest, relieved starter John Lackey, who went four-plus innings and allowed two runs on three hits with three strikeouts and three walks.
Dodgers rookie pitcher Julio Urias (0-1) gave up four runs on four hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 3 2/3 innings. The 20-year-old became the youngest pitcher in major league history to start a playoff game.
“I came out with a positive mentality,” said Urias, who at 20 years and 68 days surpassed Bret Saberhagen, the previous youngest at 20 years and 175 days when he started the 1984 American League Championship Series for the Kansas City Royals against the Detroit Tigers. “I came out to fight for the team. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a favorable result.”
A five-run sixth, highlighted by an RBI single by Fowler and a two-run base hit by Rizzo, blew the game open for Chicago. The Dodgers believed they scored in the second inning. After Andrew Toles singled to right with two outs, Adrian Gonzalez was called out at the plate by umpire Angel Hernandez on throw by right fielder Jason Heyward to catcher Willson Contreras. A replay review failed to overturn the call.
“I knew I was safe. I was safe, and we’ve got plenty of still frames to prove that I was safe,” Gonzalez said. “Unfortunately, this turned into a trial, and there was not enough evidence.”
Cleveland 3, Toronto 0
When: 4:00 PM ET, Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Where: Rogers Centre, Toronto, Ontario
TORONTO – (Wire Service Report) – The Cleveland Indians tried somebody new Wednesday, but in the end, a couple of old reliables put them in the World Series after they defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 to win the American League Championship Series in five games. The newcomer was Ryan Merritt, who was making his postseason debut in his fifth appearance and second start in the major leagues. He pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
The familiar dependables were relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, who took care of the final 3 2/3 innings. Allen pitched the ninth to earn his fifth save of the postseason. Miller was named Most Valuable Player of the ALCS, recording 14 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings while allowing two hits, no walks and no runs.
“At this point in the year, you just find a way, that’s all that matters,” Miller said. “It’s about winning. As I said earlier, I would have given up 100 runs if we won 101-100.”
Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp provided solo home runs for the Indians, who will play either the Chicago Cubs or the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series starting Tuesday at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
“We just got beat in this series, plain and simple,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Merritt allowed two hits and no walks while striking out three before being replaced by Bryan Shaw (2-0) in the fifth.
“He did a great job,” Gibbons said of Merritt, a 24-year-old left-hander. “He came out there, I thought from the get-go, and looked comfortable, confident. He picked the play apart pretty good. I thought he was pretty much living on the edges, from my angle.”
Indians manager Terry Francona said, “I’d be lying if I didn’t say that watching Ryan Merritt go out and do what he did, the only person that really got in his way was me. And I thought that he had gotten us to a point where the bullpen could take over. But what he did was above and beyond his years.”
Toronto starter Marco Estrada (0-2) allowed five hits, including the two solo home runs, and three runs (two earned) in six innings. The right-hander struck out seven. It was the second consecutive year that Toronto lost in the ALCS.
“To stay on top or get close to the top, I mean, it takes a lot,” Gibbons said.
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two-out single by Francisco Lindor, who had three hits in the game, and a double by Mike Napoli. Left fielder Ezequiel Carrera was charged with an error when he mishandled Napoli’s hit on the carom off the wall.
Santana belted his second homer of the postseason with one out in the third. Meanwhile, Merritt needed only 31 pitches in setting down nine straight hitters over the first three innings. Overall, he threw 49 pitches — 33 for strikes.
“I was definitely nervous the first inning, but I definitely got confidence after getting through the first inning,” Merritt said.