Cubs comeback sinks Giants as Dodgers level series
The Chicago Cubs moved a step closer to ending their century-old World Series drought by taking a dramatic 6-5 comefrom-behind victory at San Francisco on Tuesday, sealing a 3-1 win in their National League Division Series.
The identity of the Cubs’ opponent in the NL Championship Series will be decided Thursday when Washington hosts the Los Angeles Dodgers in the winner-takes-all Game 5 of that series. The Dodgers forced the decider by beating the Nationals by that same 6-5 scoreline on Tuesday.
Chicago trailed 5-2 entering the ninth inning, but scored four runs in that final frame to stun the Giants, whose symmetrical run of World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 will not be repeated in 2016.
Giants starter Matt Moore held the Cubs to just two hits over the first eight innings but the San Francisco bullpen unraveled quickly in the ninth Kris Bryant singled off Derek Law, who was replaced on the mound by Javier Lopez who walked Anthony Rizzo to put runners on first and second. Another pitching change saw Sergio Romo come in, but he gave up a doubled to Ben Zobrist which drove it Bryant to make it 5-3. Yet another pitching change saw Will Smith pitch to pinch-hitter Willson Contreras, who drove a hit up the middle to bring in two runs and tie the game. Jason Heyward then ground into what looked like being double play, but after Contreras was forced out at second, Brandon Crawford’s throw to first sailed past, allowing Heyward to advance to second. Javier Baez then got a hit that brought home Heyward for the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the ninth, hard-throwing Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman retired the Giants in order to cap a stunning victory.
Chasing their first World Series title since 1908, the Cubs will open the NL Championship Series at home on Saturday. They made the NLCS last year but were swept in four games by the New York Mets.
The defeat ended a remarkable run by the Giants in playoff games that would have meant elimination if they lost; they had won their previous ten. Los Angeles’ Chase Utley drove in the tiebreaking run with two outs in the eighth inning to lift the Dodgers to a 6-5 victory over Washington on Tuesday, squaring their National League Division Series at 2-2 and forcing a decisive Game 5.
The score was tied with two outs in the eighth when Andrew Toles got hit by a pitch from Blake Treinen. Andre Ethier followed with a single to left and Utley got a hit into right field, scoring Toles from second base for the winning run. Desperate to avoid another early playoff exit, the Dodgers turned to pitching ace Clayton Kershaw on three days’ rest.
Like his performance in Game 1, he was below his best but still ended on the winning side. He gave up five runs in 6-2/3 inning, striking out 11. Kershaw opened the game by giving up a leadoff single and a walk, and Daniel Murphy drove in the game’s first run.
The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning on Adrian Gonzalez’s two-run homer that scored Justin Turner, who was on base after being hit by a pitch from Joe Ross.
The Nationals drew level in the top of the third as Jayson Werth drove in a run. Los Angeles again replied immediately in the bottom of the inning. Kershaw got the rally going with a double, clenching his fists in a rare show of emotion.
Kershaw scored on Turner’s single with two outs. Joc Pederson got hit by a pitch from Ross with the bases loaded, forcing in Turner and making it 4-2 to the hosts.
Ross made his postseason debut for the Nationals, giving up four runs and being pulled after just 2-2/3 innings.
Trailing 5-2 in the seventh, the Nats had runners on first and second against Kershaw with two outs. The crowd chanted Kershaw’s name before Bryce Harper drew an eight-pitch walk to load the bases and end the day for Kershaw, who walked off with his head down.
That’s when the Dodgers bullpen nearly gave the game away.
Pedro Baez came in and hit Jayson Werth with his only pitch, forcing in a run to make it 53. Baez got booed off the field. Murphy’s single off Luis Avilan dropped safely in left-center field, scoring two runs to tie it at 5-5. Avilan also heard boos. Joe Blanton retired Anthony Rendon on a swinging strikeout to finally end the inning.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen worked a scoreless ninth for a save, one day after giving up four late runs in a Game 3 loss. Game 5 is Thursday in Washington, with 20-game winner Max Scherzer expected to pitch for the Nationals. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he will use left-hander Rich Hill and rookie Julio Urias, but did not announce which one will start. — AP