CHICAGO -- The Dodgers are one win away from their first trip to the Fall Classic since 1988. The defending world champion Cubs need a miracle to avoid an early exit.Chris Taylor and Andre Ethier homered to back a gem from Yu Darvish Tuesday night at Wrigley Field as the
CHICAGO -- The Dodgers are one win away from their first trip to the Fall Classic since 1988. The defending world champion Cubs need a miracle to avoid an early exit.
Chris Taylor and Andre Ethier homered to back a gem from Yu Darvish Tuesday night at Wrigley Field as the Dodgers rolled to a 6-1 victory over the Cubs to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series presented by Camping World.
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"Tomorrow is a Game 7," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We have three or four Game 7's in a row coming up right now."
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Teams with 3-0 leads in the best-of-seven postseason series have gone 35-1 -- 11-1 in the LCS, with the lone exception being the Red Sox's comeback against the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series.
"I think that, right now, we're just laser-focused on trying to win baseball games," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "So that obviously, if [a sweep] presents itself, obviously it will be great. But right now our focus is [Cubs Game 4 starter Jake] Arrieta and trying to figure out a way to win a baseball game tomorrow night."
The Dodgers, who swept the D-backs in the NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile, have now won a franchise-record six straight postseason games. Darvish, acquired at the Trade Deadline to be a difference-maker in October, was the winning pitcher in the NLDS clincher against Arizona.
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"When you're talking about trying to win 11 games in October, you need that front-end pitching," Roberts said after Darvish's second win this postseason. "That start against Arizona and tonight, this is why you trade for guys like that."
"This is as close as we've been in the 12 years I've been here," said Ethier, who homered to lead off the second inning. "But we know what we're capable of doing and what type of team we have. We know what each guy's responsibility is when their name is called that night. We just go up there and do our job, keep our heads down."
Taylor, playing in his first postseason, hit a solo homer with one out in the third and added an RBI triple in the fifth. All of those runs came off Kyle Hendricks, who had started Games 1 and 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals.
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The Cubs needed an offensive spark, and Kyle Schwarber provided that with a solo homer in the first. But Darvish spoiled the mood in Wrigleyville, holding the Cubs otherwise scoreless while striking out seven over 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander now has given up three earned runs over his last 30 2/3 innings, going 4-0 in five starts.
"The home run I gave up to Schwarber, after he hit it, the stadium got really excited and all that stuff," said Darvish, whose only other Wrigley Field start was a loss last year with Texas, "but I was able to focus just to pitch after that."
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The Dodgers' bullpen didn't skip a beat after Darvish's exit, extending its scoreless streak to 16 2/3 innings.
"I just think winning teams have good bullpens," said Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "The confidence that they have right now has shined through, and it's been a big lift for our team."
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Last season, the Cubs boasted the best record in the Major Leagues, and they beat the Dodgers in the NLCS in six games to reach the World Series. Los Angeles has reversed the script this year.
"I don't think there's any need to change anything," Chicago's Kristopher Bryant said of the club's approach on Wednesday. "I think we can play even more loose, because what have we got to lose? No one's expecting us to come back except the guys in this room. I don't know if it's a comforting feeling, but I guess it takes a lot of pressure off us because no one's expecting us to win."
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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
It started so well: Maddon wanted as many left-handed bats in the lineup as possible against Darvish, so he started Schwarber in left. The slugger got the Cubs on the board with one out in the first, launching the first pitch he saw from Darvish into the left-field bleachers. Schwarber now has four postseason home runs at Wrigley Field, the most of any Cubs player. His six career postseason blasts overall are tied with Anthony Rizzo for the most on the team.
"Whenever you can jump out to an early lead, you want that to be the momentum," Schwarber said. "Any way you can get the crowd into it, the players enjoy it, I'm enjoying it. You want that momentum."
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Yu must be kidding:Yasiel Puig reached on a fielding error by third baseman Kristopher Bryant and Ethier singled to chase Hendricks in the sixth. C.J. Edwards took over and got Chase Utley to ground out. But Edwards walked Austin Barnes to load the bases. One out later, Curtis Granderson was on deck to bat for Darvish, but the pitcher hit for himself and showed bunt on every pitch, stepping back at the last second. Edwards couldn't find the zone, and Darvish drew a four-pitch walk to force in a run. No starting pitcher has recorded an out in the sixth inning against the Dodgers this postseason.
"It was weird," Edwards said of the at-bat. "I looked over and saw the pinch-hitter and then [Darvish] comes up. Do I wish I threw three straight pitches down the middle? Of course. But it didn't happen."
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Cubbie occurrence:Alex Avila singled to lead off the ninth, the first Cubs hit against the Dodgers' bullpen in the series. Pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr. then lined a double to left that Enrique Hernandez chased into the ivy. Hernandez raised his left arm, a signal that the ball was lodged. Almora was watching Hernandez, not Avila, and both runners ended up at third base after Hernandez pulled the ball out of the vines and threw it back in. However, the umpires had already called a dead ball and Almora returned to second with Avila remaining at third. The ruling was reviewed and confirmed. Almora was credited with a ground-rule double. Kenley Jansen took over and retired the final three batters.
"We're taught, in that situation, if [the outfielder] puts his hands up, you keep going just in case," Almora said. "Obviously, I didn't look forward. I messed up there. I was going to tell the umpire [Hernandez] put his hands up, but he told me, 'Hey, hands up.' It would've been really embarrassing and kind of a letdown, too [if Almora was out]. It could've started a great inning. It worked out in our favor, and I can laugh about it now."
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"We've got to find a way to win tomorrow. That's the bottom line. Win, you keep playing. Lose, you go home." -- Rizzo
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SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Darvish's bases-loaded walk was the first by a pitcher in the postseason since 1977. That year, the Dodgers' Burt Hooton walked the Phillies' Larry Christenson in Game 3 of the NLCS. Tuesday marked the seventh time it's happened in the postseason overall.
According to Statcast™, Taylor's 444-foot home run was the longest by any player so far this postseason.
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Dodgers:Alex Wood starts Game 4 against the Cubs on Wednesday at Wrigley Field. The lefty hasn't started a game since Sept. 26 (22 days) and has never started a postseason game, although he was scheduled to start Game 4 of the NLDS had it gone that far. In two starts against the Cubs this year, Wood allowed one earned run in 8 2/3 innings with 12 strikeouts. He pitched two scoreless innings of relief against the Cubs in Game 4 of last year's NLCS.
Cubs:Jacob Arrieta will make his second postseason start on Wednesday in Game 4. The right-hander gave up one unearned run over four innings in Game 4 of the NLDS. He's 4-3 with a 3.33 ERA in eight career postseason starts.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.