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MLB: Nationals’ Scherzer, Boston’s Porcello win Cy Young Awards

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NEW YORK (AP) — Max Scherzer celebrated aboard a boat off the British Virgin Islands, doused by college pals on a floating party.

Rick Porcello enjoyed the moment at his parents’ home in New Jersey, surrounded by family, friends and a few bottles of wine.

As for Justin Verlander, well, fuming supermodel Kate Upton brought the heat for her fiance.

Rotation mates for five seasons in Detroit, the three right-handers topped the Cy Young Award talk Wednesday: Scherzer easily won the NL prize, Porcello edged out Verlander for the AL honor.

“That’s just the weird thing about these,” said Scherzer, who ruled the majors with 284 strikeouts and topped the NL with 20 wins for Washington. “It’s the voting.”

Porcello led baseball with 22 wins for Boston, and had a 3.15 ERA.

Porcello won despite getting just eight of the 30 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America — this was the first time the AL Cy winner didn’t get the most firsts.

Verlander went 16-9 with a 2.40 ERA while leading the AL in strikeouts and other categories. He got 14 first-place votes, but didn’t draw as much support across the board — he was left off two ballots, too.

Overall, Porcello won 137-132 in the second-closest vote since 1970 (Verlander lost by four points to David Price in 2012).

Voters list their five picks in order. A first-place vote is worth seven points, four for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth. Verlander needed to pick up five more points to match Porcello.

Upton fired off three tweets, one of them rather saucy, telling Porcello “you didn’t win.”

Asked whether he was bothered by the brouhaha, Porcello simply said, “No, I honestly don’t care.”

“I’m not the one who made the decision,” he said on a conference call.

Porcello got a $100,000 bonus for winning the Cy. Verlander, who won the 2011 award, would’ve gotten $500,000 for this win.

Porcello bounced back from going 9-15 in his first season with the Red Sox, finishing 22-4 for the AL East champs.

He shared this last win of 2016 with those who “never wavered” in their support, admitting, “It was hard not to start bawling and crying.”

Cleveland’s Corey Kluber was third and got three first-place votes. Baltimore reliever Zach Britton, who went 47 for 47 on save chances with a 0.54 ERA, had five first-place votes and was fourth.

Scherzer breezed, drawing 25 first-place votes to beat out Chicago Cubs teammates Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks.

Scherzer became the sixth pitcher to earn the Cy Young in both leagues. After earning the AL honor in 2013 with the Tigers, Scherzer joined Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gaylord Perry and Roy Halladay as winners in both leagues.

This award, Scherzer said, meant even more than the first one.

“It just verifies everything I try to achieve,” he said.

Scherzer posted a record-tying 20-strikeout performance for the NL East champion Nationals, a year after he threw two no-hitters in his first season with Washington.

“I want to find a way to be better,” he said.

Scherzer is the first pitcher from a Washington franchise to win a Cy Young. The award was first presented in 1956.

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw got three first-place votes and finished fifth. Jose Fernandez, the Miami star killed in a boating accident in September, was seventh.

The final major postseason awards will be presented Thursday when the MVP honors are announced.

Cubs slugger Kris Bryant, Washington’s Daniel Murphy and newly presented Rookie of the Year Corey Seager of the Dodgers are up for the NL award. Mike Trout of the Angels, Mookie Betts of the Red Sox and Jose Altuve of the Astros are the AL contestants.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Long before they were honored for guiding teams with depleted rosters to first-place finishes, Dave Roberts and Terry Francona were forever linked.

Fans in Boston and beyond will always remember that signature stolen base.

It was Roberts’ daring swipe as a pinch-runner in the bottom of the ninth inning that helped the Red Sox — managed by Francona — rally from the brink of being swept in the 2004 AL Championship Series and sped them toward ending their 86-year World Series curse.

Francona went on to win two titles with Boston, and on Tuesday he earned his second AL Manager of the Year award with Cleveland.

But what if Roberts had been thrown out, could that have altered a path that might someday land Francona in the Hall of Fame?

“The truth of it is, it probably would’ve been completely different,” Francona said on a conference call.

“There’s always a Dave Roberts-being-out from being the other way,” he said.

The 44-year-old Roberts won the NL Manager of the Year honor in his first season as a skipper, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to the NL West crown.

Roberts and Francona each won handily. The voting figures to be much closer Wednesday for the Cy Young awards.

Boston’s Rick Porcello (majors-leading 22 wins), Detroit’s Justin Verlander (league-high 254 strikeouts, best wins above replacement for pitchers by baseballreference.com) and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber (second among pitchers in WAR) are up for the AL prize.

Chicago Cubs teammates Kyle Hendricks (majors-best 2.13 ERA, 16-8) and Jon Lester (2.44, 19-5) and Washington’s Max Scherzer (20-7, majors-most 284 strikeouts) are competing for the NL honor.

Roberts didn’t bat in the 2004 postseason and didn’t even play in the World Series sweep over St. Louis. But to just “play a small part” in his only season in Boston was rewarding, and he still retains lessons taught by Francona.

Being unselfish and playing “for the right reasons … the game honors you,” he said.

Known for that one slide into second base, Roberts certainly had to scramble this season.

The Dodgers put 28 different players on the disabled list, more than any team in the last 30 years. An injury to ace Clayton Kershaw was among the reasons they employed a franchise record-tying 55 players, including 31 pitchers.

Among the Dodgers who managed to stay healthy: shortstop Corey Seager, chosen NL Rookie of the Year on Monday.

Roberts said he was particularly proud of “the way our guys battled adversity all year.”

Roberts made a record 606 pitching changes while going 91-71. Twice, he pulled pitchers in the late innings when they were throwing no-hitters, trying to protect their arms from overuse.

In the postseason, Roberts took a creative approach to his bullpen. He used Kershaw against Washington in the deciding Game 5 of the Division Series, then brought in closer Kenley Jansen early while taking a 2-1 lead over the Cubs in the NLCS.

Members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted at the end of the regular season.

Roberts got 16 first-place votes to top Joe Maddon, whose Cubs won the World Series. Maddon, who earned the award last year, was picked first on eight ballots.

Washington’s Dusty Baker was third and got four firsts. Terry Collins of the New York Mets had the other two firsts.

Roberts was the lone NL manager chosen on every ballot. This marked the third straight year a first-time manager has been honored, following Texas’ Jeff Banister and Washington’s Matt Williams.

The 57-year-old Francona guided the Indians to the AL Central title at 94-67. They overtook the defending champion Royals and high-spending Tigers despite losing starters Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley and catcher Yan Gomes to injuries and outfielders Marlon Byrd and Abraham Almonte to drug suspensions.

Cleveland came close to winning its first World Series title since 1948, but the Cubs rallied from a 3-1 deficit.

“It was an unbelievably satisfying year,” Francona said.

It’s already been a busy offseason for him, too. The Indians picked up options for his contract in 2019 and 2020, then he had a right hip replacement operation.

Francona drew 22 first-place votes and was the only manager chosen on all 30 ballots.

Banister was second and got four firsts. Baltimore’s Buck Showalter, who was third, and Boston’s John Farrell both drew a pair of firsts.

2016 World Series: Zobrist’s big hit gives Cubs newcomer World Series MVP

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CLEVELAND (AP) — This is why Ben Zobrist came back home. And this is why manager Joe Maddon wanted him so badly.

The Cubs needed a veteran in the clubhouse to teach their seemingly endless supply of budding young stars, someone who’d been there. Who’d done that. Who cared little about curses or droughts. Who knew what Maddon wanted and how to translate it.

Zobrist, fresh off a World Series title with the Kansas City Royals, was searching for a place to spend the final years of a consistently fine career. What better place to do it than a 2-hour drive from where he grew up in central Illinois?

And there he was early Thursday morning, standing in the batter’s box in the top of the 10th inning in Game 7, facing a two-strike count with two runners on. Then the 35-year-old switch-hitter did something that may have encapsulated everything Maddon loves about him.

Zobrist shortened his swing. He fouled off one pitch to stay alive. The next provided the biggest blow in Chicago’s season-long bout with the weight of its own history, a double inside third base that scored pinch-runner Albert Almora Jr. with the go-ahead run in an 8-7 win that gave the Cubs their first championship since 1908 and earned Zobrist the World Series MVP award.

“It’s a team game and I can’t believe I get the opportunity to hold this trophy,” he said.

Cleveland reliever Bryan Shaw intentionally walked Chicago slugger Anthony Rizzo to get to Zobrist, who entered the game hitting .391 in the Series but had gone hitless in four at-bats. Shaw quickly got ahead 1-2 before Zobrist — batting left-handed — poked a foul ball down the third base line past a diving Jose Ramirez. The next pitch was more of the same. In a situation where some of his teammates would have swung for the outer reaches of Progressive Field, Zobrist settled for making contact.

The normally understated Zobrist pointed toward the sky after his 10th and final hit of the series as the blue-clad fans who spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars to turn portions of the Indians’ home field into an eastern suburb of Wrigleyville roared once more.

“I know he threw a pretty hard cutter,” Zobrist said. “I just barely hung in there and fortunately he put one just close enough to the plate where I could slap it down the line.”

By the time Zobrist went to the dugout to fetch his glove and ran back out to his spot in left field, the lead was two. Barely 10 minutes later, Zobrist was sprinting to join the dogpile in the infield after Kris Bryant threw to good friend Anthony Rizzo at first for the final out, the second time in as many years Zobrist found himself awash in the joy.

Last fall he helped the Kansas City Royals beat the New York Mets in five Series games. When he went looking for a job, there was really only one place to go: Chicago.

“Ben is a winning baseball player,” Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said the day Zobrist signed a four-year, $56 million deal last December. “His offense, his defense, his baserunning. He’s been one of the more valuable players in the game for a long time.”

One who also came to Wrigley Field without an ego. Maddon moved the player he cultivated a close relationship with while the two were in Tampa Bay around like a kid with a new toy. Zobrist played primarily at second base but also spent time in left and right field. Always without complaint. Always with the greater goal in mind.

A goal that was realized after Cleveland’s Rajai Davis tied the score with a stunning two-run homer off Chicago closer Aroldis Chapman in the eighth. After the ninth inning ended, there was a 17-minute rain delay. And then the Indians dared Zobrist to be the difference.

Just as he has whenever the Cubs called on him this season, he was.

Cubs win 1st Series title since 1908, beat Indians in Game 7

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Kris Bryant started to smile even before he fielded the ball. And with his throw to first for the final out, the agonizing wait ’til next year was over at last.

No more Billy Goat, no more Bartman, no more black-cat curses.

For a legion of fans who waited a lifetime, fly that W: Your Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

Ending more than a century of flops, futility and frustration, the Cubs won their first title since 1908, outlasting the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in 10 innings of a Game 7 thriller early Thursday.

They even had to endure an extra-inning rain delay to end the drought.

“It happened. It happened. Chicago, it happened,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said after gloving the ball for the final out. “We did it. We’re world champions. I tell ya, we’re world champions. I can’t believe it.”

Rizzo put that final ball in his pocket as the Cubs piled up in the middle of the diamond, David Ross got carried off the field by his teammates and Bill Murray partied in the clubhouse.

And the whole time, blue-clad fans who traveled from Wrigley Field filled nearly the entire lower deck behind the Chicago dugout at Progressive Field, singing “Go, Cubs, Go!” in rain. They held up those white flags with the large blue “W” on a night many of their forebears had waited for in vain.

Lovable losers for generations, the Cubs nearly let this one get away, too. All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman blew a 6-3 lead with two outs in the eighth when Rajai Davis hit a tying, two-run homer.

But the Cubs, after tormenting their fans one more time, came right back after a 17-minute rain delay before the top of the 10th.

Series MVP Ben Zobrist hit an RBI double and Miguel Montero singled home a run to make it 8-6. Davis delivered an RBI single with two outs in the bottom half, but Mike Montgomery closed it out at 12:47 a.m., and the celebration was on.

“I think about so many millions of people giving so much love and support to this team for so many years,” said owner Tom Ricketts, whose family bought the team in 2009.

Manager Joe Maddon’s team halted the longest stretch without a title in baseball, becoming the first club to overcome a 3-1 Series deficit since the 1985 Kansas City Royals.

“This is an epic game. It’s epic. I can’t believe we were able to do it — 108 years in the making,” Zobrist said. “We did it.”

“They never quit, either,” Zobrist said. “They kept coming at us.”

Cleveland was trying to win its first crown since 1948, but manager Terry Francona’s club lost the last two games at home.

World Series favorites since spring training, Chicago led the majors with 103 wins this season.

The Cubs then ended more than a century of misery for their loyal fans — barely. Bryant, one of Chicago’s young stars, began to celebrate even before fielding a grounder by Michael Martinez to third base and throwing it across to Rizzo for the last out.

“It’s the best rain delay of all-time,” Rizzo said.

Zobrist got a Series-high 10 hits, a year after he helped the Royals win the championship. Zobrist was among the players brought to the Cubs by Theo Epstein, the baseball guru who added another crown to his collection. He also assembled the Red Sox team that broke Boston’s 86-year drought by winning in 2004.

From Curse of the Bambino to the Billy Goat Curse, he ended another jinx.

“We don’t need a plane to fly home,” Epstein said. “It’s fitting it’s got to be done with one of the best games of all time.”

Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward had called a meeting during the rain delay, talking to his teammates in the weight room.

“I just had to remind everybody who we are, what we’ve overcome to get here,” he said.

While Cubs fans hugged with delight, there was only despair for the Indians, who now have gone longer than anyone without a crown. In the Indians’ previous World Series appearance, they were a double-play grounder from winning the 1997 title before losing Game 7 in 11 innings to the Marlins.

“It’s going to hurt. It hurts because we care, but they need to walk with their head held high because they left nothing on the field,” Francona said.

Earlier this year, LeBron James and the Cavaliers ended Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought by overcoming a 3-1 deficit to beat Golden State for the NBA title. James and teammates were in a suite, rooting hard, as the Indians absorbed the same blow as the Warriors.

After defeating San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the playoffs, Chicago became the first team to earn a title by winning Games 6 and 7 on the road since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Dexter Fowler homered on Corey Kluber’s fourth pitch of the game, and 23-year-old Javier Baez and the 39-year-old Ross — set to now retire — also went deep for the Cubs, who led 5-1 in the fifth inning and 6-3 in the eighth.

Chapman wound up with the win, and Montgomery got one out for his first save in the majors.

Bryan Shaw, who gave up a leadoff single to Kyle Schwarber in the 10th, took the loss in just the fourth Game 7 that went to extra innings.

Albert Almora Jr., pinch-running for Schwarber, alertly took second on Bryant’s long fly to center. Rizzo was intentionally walked, and Zobrist slapped an opposite-field double past diving third baseman Jose Ramirez. Montero singled to make it a two-run lead.

Then in the bottom half, Carl Edwards Jr. struck out Mike Napoli, Ramirez grounded out, Brandon Guyer walked and Davis hit an RBI single. Montgomery took over, and helped set off a wild celebration on Chicago’s North Side.

Even a dedicated White Sox fan could appreciate the victory.

“It happened: @Cubs win World Series. That’s change even this South Sider can believe in. Want to come to the White House before I leave?” President Barack Obama tweeted.

Twenty-one other teams had won the World Series since the Cubs last were champions. They reached the top again on the 39,466th day after Orval Overall’s three-hit shutout won the 1908 finale at Detroit in a game that took 1 hour, 24 minutes — this latest Game 7 lasted 4:24, not including the rain delay.

Back then, Theodore Roosevelt was president, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states, and the first Ford Model T car was two weeks old.

The Cubs were last champions when Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance won consecutive titles in 1907-08, until now the only ones in team history. The Cubbies had not even reached the Series since 1945.

This one was for Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo and Billy Williams, who never reached the postseason.

For Gabby Hartnett, Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux, whose October runs fell short.

For Lee Elia and the “nickle-dime people” who spent so many wind-swept afternoons in the Friendly Confines watching loss after loss.

For Bill Veeck, who planted ivy vines against Wrigley Field’s outfield walls.

For William Sianis, the Billy Goat Tavern owner said to have proclaimed when he was asked to leave Wrigley with his pet during the ’45 Series: “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”

For Steve Bartman, whose life was upended when he tried to catch a foul ball as the Cubs came apart in the 2003 playoffs.

And for Harry Caray, who promised viewers after the 1991 finale that “sure as God made green apples, someday the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series.”

Maddon, hired before the 2015 season, won his first Series title after establishing a loose clubhouse that featured at times Warren the pink flamingo, Simon the magician and the motto: “Try not to suck.”

“It was just an epic battle,” Zobrist said. “Just blow for blow, everybody playing their heart out. The Indians never gave up, either, and I can’t believe we’re finally standing, after 108 years, finally able to hoist the trophy.”

PEN PALS

This was the first World Series in which no starting pitcher got at least one out in the seventh inning, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The only other in which no starter finished at least seven innings was in 2002, when San Francisco’s Russ Ortiz threw 6 1/3 innings in Game 6.

UP NEXT

Cleveland’s spring training opener is scheduled for Feb. 26 against the Cubs in Mesa, Arizona.

2016 World Series: Cubs beat Indians, force Series to deciding Game 7

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CLEVELAND (AP) — One more game. For everything.

Either a 108-year World Series championship drought will come to an end, or another that’s lasted 68 years.

Hysteria for one fan base, more heartbreak for the other.

Cubs vs. Indians in a winner-take-all Game 7.

As it should be.

“It’s just correct and apt that we’d go seven games,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said.

Addison Russell hit a grand slam and tied a Series record with six RBIs, and Chicago took advantage of a huge early misplay in Cleveland’s outfield as the Cubs, their offense finally revving, throttled the Indians 9-3 on Tuesday night in Game 6 to push this tense tug-of-war between baseball’s two longest title drought holders to the limit.

The biggest, most nerve-wracking day lies ahead.

“This is kind of fitting for these two franchises. This is storybook,” Cubs catcher David Ross said. “They’ll make movies about this one day.”

Indians ace Corey Kluber, dominant while winning Games 1 and 4, starts again on short rest Wednesday night at home against big league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.

Cleveland’s hopes will rest with their best pitcher, the one guy they’ve been able to count on all season.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Jason Kipnis, who homered and had three hits. “We knew they’ve got a great ballclub over there. They were lined up with their three-headed monster of a pitching staff. We’re still very confident.”

Kris Bryant homered to spark a three-run first inning, Russell hit the first Series slam in 11 years and Jake Arrieta worked into the sixth as the Cubs, down 3-1 back at Wrigley Field, are now rolling. One more win at Progressive Field would bring their first championship since 1908.

The Indians, trying for their first title since 1948, missed a second shot at closing out the Cubs. Cleveland is now forced to play another Game 7 after losing in 11 innings to the Florida Marlins in 1997 in its last trip to the Series.

Not wanting to take any chances despite a comfortable late lead, Maddon used atomic-armed Aroldis Chapman for one out in the seventh, the eighth and one batter in the ninth. The lefty, who got the final eight outs in Game 5, threw just 20 pitches and will be on call for the season’s final game when both managers won’t hesitate to use any arm they’ve got.

The Cubbies, shut out twice earlier in this Series, brought their clubbies to Cleveland. Bryant had four hits and Anthony Rizzo added three, including a two-run homer.

They hammered Josh Tomlin, who couldn’t get out of the third inning and didn’t get any help from his outfield in the first. The right-hander, who was so effective in Game 3 at Wrigley Field, pitched on short rest for the second time in his career but wasn’t the problem as much as his location.

Everything seemed to be lined up for a massive downtown street party in Cleveland.

On a 71-degree November night, fans came hoping to witness the first championship win at home by a Cleveland team since the Browns took the NFL title in 1964 by shutting out the Baltimore Colts.

With Eddie Robinson — the last living member from that ’48 title team — in attendance, and LeBron James and the NBA champion Cavaliers coming over from Quicken Loans Arena after they beat Houston, Cleveland was poised to have a night to remember like the one just 134 days ago in June when the Cavs ended the city’s 52-year championship dry spell.

The Cubs blew through those plans like a wicked wind off Lake Michigan.

Arrieta wasn’t dominant, but he didn’t have to be. Staked to the early lead, he held the Indians without a hit until the fourth when Kipnis doubled leading off and scored on Mike Napoli’s single.

Arrieta worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth, and gave up a homer to Kipnis in the fifth but struck out nine.

Maddon came to get him in the sixth, the right-hander got several pats on the back from Chicago’s infielders and Cubs fans saluted him with a standing ovation.

Tomlin was one strike from getting out of the first unscathed when everything fell apart.

He had Bryant down 0-2 when he hung a waist-high curveball that Chicago’s third baseman, who came in just 2 for 17 in the Series but had homered in Game 5, cracked nearly halfway up the bleachers in left field, a 433-foot shot that sent a shockwave through standing-room-only Progressive Field.

There was a bigger one to come.

Rizzo and Ben Zobrist followed with singles before Tomlin got Russell to hit what appeared to be a routine out. However, right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall and rookie center fielder Tyler Naquin, unable to hear each other over the roaring crowd, looked at each other and let the ball drop onto the grass for a double.

While they scrambled to recover it, Rizzo scored easily and Zobrist beat a relay throw to the plate, bowling over Indians catcher Roberto Perez as a sizeable contingent of Cubs screamed with delight.

“It was just loud at there,” Naquin said. “It was kind of one of those in-betweeners. Lonnie got a good break, I got a break, it’s just one of those deals. In the moment, me being the center fielder, I need to take charge on that. That’s my mistake.”

Although it was early, with Arrieta on the mound, Chicago’s lead felt more like 30-0 than 3-0.

Russell, who dressed up like a Ninja turtle on Halloween, then put a fright into Indians fans with his shot to deep left-center.

With two on, Indians reliever Dan Otero placed a 2-0 pitch over the heart of the plate to Russell, who launched it over the wall spent much of his home-run trot howling.

The Cubs were loud all night, and with one more win they’ll be champions.

“I hope it’s not difficult to sleep. It’s every kid’s dream. It all comes down to Game 7,” Russell said.

FALL CLASSICS

Bryant and Rizzo became the first 3-4 hitters to combine for seven hits in a Series game. … Kipnis went 3 for 4 with a single, double and home run. He has two in this Series, joining Willie Stargell and Roy Campanella as the only players to accomplish that. … Cleveland’s pitchers have 59 strikeouts, tied for the fourth most in Series history. The 2001 Yankees had 70.

SEVENTH HEAVEN

The Cubs and Indians each have 0-2 records in Game 7. Chicago lost the 1945 World Series to Detroit and the 2003 NLCS to Florida, both at Wrigley. … Along with the ’97 Series loss, the Indians dropped the 2007 ALCS at Boston. . The Series has gone the distance three times in six years. San Francisco defeated Kansas City in the last seven-gamer in 2014. . Home teams are 18-19 all-time in Game 7.

ME AND THE MICK

At 22, Russell became the second-youngest player to hit a grand slam in the World Series. Yankees legend Mickey Mantle was 21 when he hit one on Oct. 4, 1953 against Brooklyn. Russell is the first Cubs to player to connect for a slam in the Series.

What to watch for in Game 6 of the World Series

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)   —-   What to watch for tonight in Game 6 of the World Series:

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SO CLOSE

The Cleveland Indians can win their first championship since 1948 with a victory over the visiting Chicago Cubs. The city is primed to party, too, after Cleveland fans missed out on hosting this year’s biggest sports events so far. LeBron James and the Cavaliers completed their NBA Finals comeback on the road, beating Golden State in Game 7 for Cleveland’s first major pro sports title in 52 years. The Indians clinched the AL Central crown at Detroit, won the Division Series in Boston and the AL Championship Series at Toronto. “It would be nice to actually do one in front of the home crowds,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said.

PITCHING IN

Trailing 3-2 in the Series, the Cubs need a win to force a decisive seventh game Wednesday night. They’ll turn to 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta in Game 6, while the Indians counter with Josh Tomlin, a back-end starter working on short rest.

Inconsistent throughout his postseason career, Arrieta took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning of his Game 2 win last Wednesday. He’ll have five days between starts, one more than normal.

Tomlin, meanwhile, will be on only three days’ rest since throwing 58 pitches over 4 2/3 smooth innings during Cleveland’s 1-0 victory in Game 3. After losing his rotation spot while slumping in August, the 32-year-old righty has stepped up in the absence of injured Indians starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar this postseason, going 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA in three starts.

GOING BATTY

Even with Kris Bryant hitting a home run in Game 5, the Cubs are still waiting for some of their big bats to break loose. They’ve totaled just 10 runs so far in the World Series — that’s their worst production for any five-game stretch this season.

Bryant, a leading contender for NL MVP, and Javier Baez, co-MVP of the NL Championship Series, are a combined 5 for 38 (.132) with 16 strikeouts and only one RBI.

COMFORT ZONE

Much has been made about Kyle Schwarber returning to Chicago’s lineup, but the switch back to American League rules in Cleveland also allows the Indians to start sharp-eyed slugger Carlos Santana in his regular role as designated hitter again. During the three games at Wrigley Field, Santana made one start at first base and two in left field, a position he had not played since 2012. “I was really proud of him,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “I’ll be glad that we can DH somebody, though.”

NOVEMBER NOVELTY

Derek Jeter became baseball’s first “Mr. November” when he hit a World Series home run in the 10th inning to win Game 4 at Yankee Stadium in 2001. He connected moments after the clock struck midnight in the majors’ first game that stretched into November.

This is the fifth season that’s going past October. Last year, the Royals clinched their crown by beating the Mets 7-2 in 12 innings in Game 5 on Nov. 1.

The latest action came on Nov. 4 — the Diamondbacks rallied past the Yankees in Game 7 in 2001, then the Yanks beat the Phillies in Game 6 in 2009.

2016 World Series: Chapman, Cubs stop Indians, cut World Series deficit to 3-2

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CHICAGO (AP) — They have waited 108 years for a championship. So with this World Series on the verge of slipping away, the Chicago Cubs could not wait any longer.

Manager Joe Maddon summoned closer Aroldis Chapman from the bullpen in the seventh inning for the first eight-out save of his big league career, a desperate move in a dire situation with the Cubs needing to hold off the Cleveland Indians in Game 5.

As nervous fans fretted at Wrigley Field, the big Cuban left-hander fired his 100 mph heat over and over, preserving a 3-2 win Sunday night that cut Cleveland’s Series lead to 3-2.

“I didn’t expect to come in so early, but I mentally prepared myself,” Chapman said through a translator. “I was ready to come in at a moment’s notice.”

The crowd of 41,711 erupted when Jose Ramirez, who had homered earlier, foul tipped a 101 mph offering at the outside corner into the glove of catcher Willson Contreras for the final out.

A white flag with a blue “W” was raised atop Wrigley Field after a Series win for the first time since Oct. 8, 1945, in Game 6 over Detroit. Fans stayed long after the final out and sang “Sweet Home Chicago” as Cubs returned to the field for media interviews.

“High anxiety,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “A lot of deep breaths. Every pitch gets bigger and bigger as the game goes on. It’s unbelievable. Great win here. We sent these fans off with a win. Now we have to go to Cleveland and win.”

Chicago, which led the majors this year with 103 regular-season wins, will try to extend its season again Tuesday night when Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta faces Josh Tomlin. The Cubs are trying to become the first club to overcome a 3-1 Series deficit since the 1985 Kansas City Royals and the first to do it by winning Games 6 and 7 on the road since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.

Seeking its first title since 1948, Cleveland is in search of its third-ever title and has won the championship at home just once, in 1920. Over 67,000 showed up at Progressive Field just to watch the three road games on the video board.

“It’s going to be crazy. It’s going to be nuts,” first baseman Mike Napoli said. “They’re going to be pretty fired up, and they’re going to get us going.”

Chapman, obtained from the Yankees in July, hadn’t pitched in the seventh inning since 2012. He took a chug of water from a plastic bottle on the left-field bullpen mound when Maddon called him in with a runner on.

“That was a big ask, and he answered,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “That was impressive.”

Of Chapman’s 42 pitches, 15 flew in at 100 mph or faster.

“It’s something you can’t normally do during the season without beating somebody up too badly,” Maddon said. . “But I talked to Chappy before the game. He was aware of being ready in the seventh inning. So we had that all in play.”

Chapman struck out four , raising his total to eight over five innings in three Series appearances.

“This guy’s used to just getting three outs,” Cubs starter Jon Lester said. “He was fired up. We were all fired up to get through that.”

With the crowd at the Friendly Confines desperate, Kris Bryant homered to start a three-run burst in the fourth off Trevor Bauer that gave Lester a 3-1 lead. The Indians nicked Lester for a run in the sixth, and Carl Edwards Jr. took over to begin the seventh with a 3-2 edge.

Chapman came in with a runner on second and one out and retired Roberto Perez on an inning-ending groundout with two on as fans screamed. After Rajai Davis stole second and third in the eighth, Francisco Lindor took a 101 mph pitch at the knees for an inning-ending called third strike , then stood in the batter’s box for nearly 20 seconds in anger and frustration.

Chapman finished with a 1-2-3 ninth. He threw 35 fastballs, six sliders and one changeup.

Lester, the Game 1 loser, improved to 4-1 in Series play by allowing two runs and six hits .

Ramirez homered in the second to put the Indians ahead, and Cleveland closed within a run in the sixth when Davis singled, stole second scored on a two-out single by Lindor , who is hitting .421 in the Series.

Bauer, his pinkie seemingly healed from a cut sustained while playing with a toy drone during the AL Championship Series, dropped to 0-2 in the Series, giving up three runs and six hits in four innings .

After a pair of relatively balmy autumn nights on the North Side, the temperature dropped to 50 degrees at game time and a 10 mph win added chill. Maddon wore a Cubs ski hat with a blue pompom rather than a baseball cap.

Bryant, in a 1-for-15 slide, led off the fourth by driving a fastball into the left-field bleachers , where a fan in the first row dropped it.

Rizzo sent the next pitch off the ivy on the right-field wall for a double, admiring its flight before hustling, took third on Ben Zobrist’s single and came home with the go-ahead run when Addison Russell reached out and topped a pitch down the third-base line for an infield single.

Jason Heyward took a called third strike, slumping Javier Baez dropped a bunt down the third-base line for a single that loaded the bases and Ross, a 39-year-old making perhaps his final big league start, hit a sacrifice fly for a 3-1 lead.

“We’re writing our own history. We’re making history. Why stop?” Russell said. “This is entertaining to us. It’s fun, and we live for this.”

CARBON COPY

Ross allowed Santana’s second-inning foul pop to glance off his glove and Rizzo batted the ball in the air with his bare hand, then gloved it . It was similar to Game 6 in 1980, when Philadelphia first baseman Pete Rose grabbed Frank White’s foul pop after it nicked off catcher Bob Boone.

WEB GEM

Heyward grabbed onto the brick wall in the right-field corner in the third, then reached back to catch Bauer’s wind-blown foul fl y.

MOVING ON

This was the last game with the bullpens in foul territory at Wrigley, where new pens under the bleachers are to open next season. Zobrist had to climb the mound to catch Kipnis’ seventh-inning fly.

2016 World Series: Kluber, Indians beat Cubs 7-2, now lead World Series 3-1

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CHICAGO (AP) — One more win and baseball fans everywhere might finally believe in these Cleveland Indians.

That’s all it will take for Corey Kluber & Co. to clinch this World Series.

Kluber pitched six sparkling innings on short rest for his second victory this week and the Indians beat the Chicago Cubs 7-2 Saturday night, taking a 3-1 lead and nearing their first championship since 1948.

Jason Kipnis hit a three-run homer in his hometown and Carlos Santana connected for the first of his three hits as manager Terry Francona’s team won for the second straight day at Wrigley Field.

Trevor Bauer gets the ball Sunday night when the visiting Indians try for the franchise’s third World Series title against Jon Lester and the faltering Cubs.

“I think we like the position we’re in, but the task isn’t done yet,” Kluber said. “We still have one more game to win, and we’re going to show up tomorrow and play with the same sense of urgency we’ve played with until this point. We don’t want to let them build up any momentum and let them get back in the series.”

Still, not bad for a team that seemed like an underdog all year long.

The Indians topped the defending champion Royals and star-studded Tigers for the AL Central title, then came the postseason. No one thought they would beat Big Papi and Boston, outslug Toronto or ever end their drought before the charmed Cubs, who led the majors with 103 wins.

Well, look who is on the brink of hoisting the hardware.

“We’ve got one more to get and it’s probably going to be the hardest victory of the year, but this is a special night for me and this team to take the first two here,” said Kipnis, who grew up a Cubs fan on the north side of Chicago.

Kipnis had three hits and scored two runs as Cleveland moved to 10-2 in this postseason. Francisco Lindor contributed an RBI single, helping Francona improve to 11-1 in the World Series.

The Indians now will try to bring another crown to Cleveland, adding to the one LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned earlier this year.

“We have a ways to go. We’re not done,” Francona said.

Dexter Fowler doubled and scored in the first for the Cubs, and then homered against Andrew Miller in the eighth. Fowler’s drive to left-center was the first homer for Chicago in the World Series since Phil Cavaretta connected in Game 1 in 1945 and the first run allowed by Miller during his dominant postseason.

In between Fowler’s two hits, the Cubs came up empty every time they had a chance to put any pressure on Cleveland.

“So we made mistakes. Absolutely, we made mistakes tonight,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That was part of it. But then again, we just have to do more offensively to give ourselves a chance.”

The Indians won for the second straight day at Wrigley — those two wins matched the Cubs’ entire total of World Series victories in more than a century of playing at their famed ballpark.

“They’re obviously doing something right, taking advantage of our mistakes and my mistakes,” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said.

Pitching on three days’ rest for the second time, Kluber allowed five hits, struck out six and walked one. The steady, stoic right-hander, who struck out nine in a dominant performance in Game 1, improved to 4-1 with a 0.89 ERA in five playoff starts this year.

Francona put Santana at first after starting him in left in Game 3, and Mike Napoli was out of the starting lineup for the time in the playoffs. And just like the rest of October, the decision worked out quite well for the Indians.

Santana led off the second with a drive to right against John Lackey, tying it at 1. Santana’s third homer of the playoffs silenced the crowd of 41,706, and the Indians seized the momentum from there.

Two throwing errors on Bryant, including one on Kluber’s infield single, led to an unearned run that put Cleveland ahead to stay. Kipnis connected for his second playoff homer in the seventh, pointing to his friends and family in the stands after powering the Indians to a 7-1 lead.

“We’re mortals. We’re baseball players. It’s what we live for,” Kipnis said. “At this kind of stage it’s what we all dream about.”

MORE ON KLUBER

Kluber’s 0.89 ERA is the second-lowest for a single postseason for pitchers with at least 30 innings. Burt Hooton allowed three earned runs in 33 playoff innings for the 1981 Dodgers. Kluber is tied with Orel Hershiser (1995) for the Indians record for most strikeouts in a single postseason with 35.

“Just an unreal job by Kluber on three days’ rest,” Lindor said.

STEPPING UP

Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward made his first start of the World Series and responded with two hits. The 27-year-old Heyward, who signed a $184 million, eight-year contract with Chicago last winter, was just 2 for 31 in 12 playoff games coming into the night.

UP NEXT

Indians: Bauer lasted just 3 2/3 innings in Game 2, allowing two runs and six hits. The right-hander had a career-best 12 wins during the regular season, but is 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA in three playoff starts.

Cubs: Lester dropped to 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA in four career World Series starts when he allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings in the opener Tuesday night. The left-hander was the co-MVP of the NL Championship Series, going 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

___

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

2016 World Series: Indians edge Cubs 1-0 at Wrigley Field for 2-1 Series lead

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CHICAGO (AP) — Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and the Cleveland Indians crashed a Wrigley Field party 71 years in the making.

Leave it to that sensational bullpen to silence the Chicago Cubs and their revved-up fans.

Allen escaped a ninth-inning jam and the Indians set a major league record with their fifth shutout this postseason, holding off the Cubs 1-0 Friday night for a 2-1 lead in the World Series.

“As fun of a game as it was to be a part of, that was agonizing because we used so many guys,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Pinch-hitter Coco Crisp delivered an RBI single in the seventh off Carl Edwards Jr. And that was all Cleveland needed to win the first Series game at Wrigley since 1945.

The crowd began forming beyond the ivy-covered walls in the early morning, all pumped for the big day. And fans, some who paid thousands of dollars to pack the seats and nearby rooftops, were roaring after a two-out error by first baseman Mike Napoli helped Chicago put runners on second and third in the ninth.

Allen quieted the neighborhood ballpark, striking out co-NL Championship Series MVP Javier Baez to end it.

“We know we’re going to have our hands full to beat these guys, and tonight was a good example,” Francona said. “I mean, that was as close a ballgame as you’re ever going to find, and we found a way to manage to win that game.”

Indians starter Josh Tomlin went 4 2/3 innings with his dad Jerry watching from the stands in a wheelchair just two months after circulatory malformation left him paralyzed from the chest down. Miller, Bryan Shaw and Allen took over.

The Cubs have been blanked four times in the last eight games this postseason. Their first 1-0 loss in the World Series since Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox beat them in 1918 came on a night when the wind was blowing out.

“I actually told Miller we were going to win 1-0 tonight,” Napoli said. “Everything you saw on the TV was the wind was blowing out and there’s going to be a bunch of runs scored. … I turned to him and was like, ‘We’re going to win 1-0 tonight.'”

Cleveland now has a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead with ace Corey Kluber starting Game 4 on short rest Saturday and coming off a dominant performance in the opener. John Lackey pitches for Chicago.

Not since they dropped Game 7 against Detroit in 1945 had the Cubs hosted a World Series game. The last time they won one? That was two days earlier when they beat the Tigers in 12 innings.

Decades of disappointment and curses gave way to a major league-leading 103 wins and hope for the Cubs that their first championship since 1908 is on the way.

But just as they did against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, they will have to rally from a 2-1 deficit if they are finally going to win it all.

“We have seen good pitching,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The one component of our team that’s going to blossom over the next couple years is the offensive side. I think what you’re seeing on defense and arm strengths and baserunning abilities, that’s going to be pretty much static. But the part that’s going to keep getting better is what we’re doing at the plate. So this is a great experience for us.”

Miller got the final out for Tomlin in the fifth, stranding a runner at second. The ALCS MVP then struck out Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the sixth.

Shaw worked the seventh and exited after Fowler singled with two out in the eighth. Allen fanned Bryant to end the inning.

Rizzo opened the ninth with a single and took second on a one-out grounder. Jason Heyward followed with a grounder that Napoli misplayed, but at least the big guy kept the ball in front of him and kept the tying run from scoring.

Heyward stole second without a throw before Allen fanned Baez for this sixth save this postseason.

Two more wins and the Indians will claim the first championship since 1948. The Cubs still need three more for the first crown in 108 years.

“It’s just good chemistry over here and our guys kept their poise,” Crisp said. “Our pitching did a great job, their pitching did a great job over there and that’s what type of series this is going to be, it seems like.”

It was quite a scene in and around the ballpark, one generations of long-suffering Cubs fans had never witnessed.

They started flooding the streets surrounding Wrigley hours before the gates opened. By mid-afternoon, the blocks outside the 102-year-old ballpark were a sea of blue.

Fans carried “W” signs and took selfies near the famed marquee and statues of the late Harry Caray, Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, cherished figures in Cubs lore who would have loved nothing more than to be part of this.

There were red roses near the feet of all three. There were also four green apples on Caray’s statue — three on top of the base and one in his left hand — in a fitting tribute. After all, the famed broadcaster promised after the final game in 1991: “Sure as God made green apples, someday, the Chicago Cubs are going to be in the World Series — and maybe sooner than we think.”

But this just wasn’t Chicago’s night.

The Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks, dominant in the clinching NLCS victory over Los Angeles, exited with the bases loaded in the fifth after he hit Chicago-area product Jason Kipnis.

Justin Grimm then got Francisco Lindor to ground into 4-6-3 double play and gave a huge pump of the right fist as the crowd roared.

LINING UP

Francona took a risk and had Carlos Santana start in left field with no designated hitter because he wanted to keep the switch-hitting slugger in the lineup.

Santana has played catcher, third and first base in his career. But he had only played one other time in left — and that was for four innings in 2012.

This made Santana the first player since 1931 to get his first career start at a position in a World Series game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

MURRAY ON THE MIC

Actor and comedian Bill Murray led the crowd in a rousing version of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.

Murray, a huge Cubs fan, reminded the crowd of 41,703 that it was the last chance to buy beer, and then said they were there to win games rather than drink. He then sang “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” as the cartoon character Daffy Duck.

UP NEXT

Indians: Kluber (3-1, 0.74 ERA) will be working on three days’ rest after pitching the Indians to a 6-0 win in Game 1. The 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner has thrown scoreless ball in three of his four starts this postseason.

Cubs: Lackey (0-0, 5.63) has not pitched since Game 4 of the NLCS and will be going on nine days’ rest.

2016 World Series: Arrieta deals, Cubs awaken, top Indians to even Series at 1

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Jake Arrieta made a teasing try at history, Kyle Schwarber drove in two runs and the Chicago Cubs brushed off a shutout to even the World Series with their first Fall Classic win in 71 years, 5-1 over the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 on Wednesday night.

Arrieta carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, briefly invoking Don Larsen’s name, before the Indians touched him for two hits and a run. However, the right-hander helped give Chicago just what it needed — a split at Progressive Field — before the Cubbies return to their Wrigley Field den for the next three games starting Friday night.

The Cubs hadn’t won in the Series since beating Detroit 8-7 in 1945 to force Game 7.

The free-swinging Schwarber, who made it back for Chicago’s long-awaited Series return after missing most of the season with an injured left knee, hit an RBI single in the third off Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer and had another in the Cubs’ three-run fifth — highlighted by Ben Zobrist’s run-scoring triple.

Even the presence of star LeBron James and the NBA champion Cavaliers, sporting their new rings, couldn’t stop the Indians from losing for the first time in six home games this postseason.

And Cleveland manager Terry Francona’s magical touch in October finally fizzled as he dropped to 9-1 in Series games.

With rain in the forecast, Major League Baseball moved the first pitch up an hour in hopes of avoiding delays or a postponement.

It turned out to be a good call as the game went on without a hitch and ended after more than four hours as light rain was beginning to fall.

Arrieta and the Cubs provided the only storm.

The bearded 30-year-old coasted through five innings without allowing a hit, the first pitcher to get that deep in a Series game with a no-hitter since David Cone of the New York Yankees in 1998.

For a brief period, Arrieta looked as if he might challenge Larsen’s gem — a perfect game — in 1956 before Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, a die-hard Cubs fan as a kid, doubled with one out in the sixth .

Before that, Cleveland hitters had a couple good swings, and drew three walks, but couldn’t mount a real threat. Arrieta has two career no-hitters, in fact, including the only one in the majors this year.

Cubs lefty Mike Montgomery replaced Arrieta and worked two scoreless innings before Aroldis Chapman came in and unleashed his 103 mph heat while getting the last four outs.

The teams will have an off day before the series resumes with Game 3 at Wrigley, which will host its first Series game since Oct. 6, 1945, when tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave with his pet goat, Murphy, and a curse was born.

Josh Tomlin will start for the Indians, who will lose the designated hitter in the NL ballpark, against Kyle Hendricks.

Schwarber might also wind up on the bench after two days as the DH.

With a gametime temperature of 43, the weather was more fitting for the Browns and Bears to bang heads than the boys of summer.

The Cubs were the ones who came up thumping after being blanked 6-0 in Game 1 by Corey Kluber and Cleveland’s shut-down bullpen.

Zobrist’s one-out triple triggered the fifth as the Cubs opened a 5-0 lead, not that Arrieta needed it.

After Anthony Rizzo walked following a 10-pitch at-bat, Zobrist laced a ball off Zach McAllister that was going to be a double until right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall slipped and fell. Rizzo was waved around and Zobrist hustled into third.

Schwarber followed with his second RBI and reliever Bryan Shawn later walked No. 9 hitter Addison Russell with the bases loaded.

Unlike his start in Toronto on Oct. 17, when his stitched cut opened up and Bauer was forced to make a bloody departure in the first inning, his finger held up fine.

The Cubs, though, put a few nicks in him in 3 2/3 innings.

The drone accident has brought attention to the quirky Bauer, and one Chicago fan tried to rattle the right-hander by sending a smaller version of the remote-controlled, flying object that cut him.

Bauer posted a photo of it on Twitter, saying “I see the @Cubs fans love me! How nice of them to send me a gift!”

The Cubs, who were off balance from the start against Kluber, scored their first run in a Series game since ’45 in the first on Rizzo’s RBI double .

Bauer needed 51 pitches to get through two innings, and he was one strike from getting out of the third unscathed when Chicago turned a walk and to singles into a 2-0 lead.

UP NEXT

Cubs: Hendricks is coming off his brilliant performance in Game 5 of the NLCS when he pitched two-hit ball for seven innings as the Cubs clinched their first pennant in 71 years. The right-hander went 16-8 during the regular season with a league-leading 2.13 ERA.

Indians: It will be an emotional night for Tomlin, who will pitch on 12 day’s rest with his ailing father, Jerry, in attendance. The elder Tomlin became stricken with a spinal condition in August, when Tomlin was struggling on the mound. The right-hander more than recovered and rescued Cleveland’s rotation in the postseason, winning both starts.

2016 World Series: Kluber, Perez, Indians beat Cubs 6-0 in World Series opener

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians are off to a pitch-perfect start in the World Series.

The Chicago Cubs, meanwhile, fell completely flat in their first appearance since 1945.

Kluber dominated into the seventh inning, Roberto Perez had four RBIs with a pair of home runs and the Indians beat the Cubs 6-0 in Tuesday night’s opener of a highly anticipated matchup between the teams with baseball’s longest championship droughts.

“It’s almost like you have that extra level of intensity,” said Kluber, who became the first Series pitcher to strike out eight batters in the first three innings.

AL Championship Series MVP Andrew Miller escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh and stranded runners at the corners the eighth, preserving a three-run lead and delighting the sellout crowd of 38,091 in Cleveland’s first-ever Series home opener.

“The atmosphere in the World Series is so great,” Miller said. “You can’t help but get caught up in it and enjoy it.”

The Indians pitched their fourth shutout in nine games this postseason. After stifling two dangerous lineups in Boston and Toronto during the AL playoffs, Cleveland shut down a hard-hitting Cubs team that scored 23 runs against the Dodgers in the final three games of the NLCS.

Back in the Series for the first time since 1997, the Indians scored twice in the first off October ace Jon Lester.

Perez hit a fourth-inning solo shot and added a three-run drive in the eighth against Hector Rondon, becoming the first Cleveland player and the only No. 9 batter to homer twice in a Series game.

“Oh, I don’t think I’ve ever had a night like that,” Perez said.

He has three home runs in 27 at-bats during the postseason after hitting three in 153 during the regular season.

“I’ve come a long ways,” Perez said,

Francisco Lindor added three hits as the Indians improved to 8-1 this postseason. Cleveland manager Terry Francona is 9-0 in the Series, including sweeps by his Boston teams in 2004 and ’07.

The Game 1 winner has taken the title in the last six Series and 17 of 19.

“I have no concerns,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s the first game. I’m fine. We’re fine.”

Trevor Bauer, trying to come back from a sliced pinkie caused by a freak drone accident, starts Game 2 for the Indians on Wednesday night against Jake Arrieta. Because the forecast called for an increased chance of rain later in the evening, Major League Baseball took the extraordinary step of moving up the first pitch by an hour to 7:08 p.m.

Kluber painted the corners, and 24 of his 59 strikes were called by plate umpire Larry Vanover. Twelve batters were caught looking, including seven Cubs.

“I think his ball was moving too much today,” said Perez, Cleveland’s catcher. “We got guys off balance the whole night.”

Kluber combined with Miller and Cody Allen to fan 15 — two shy of the Series record for a nine-inning game — and Chicago went 2 for 15 with 10 strikeouts with runners on base.

With the Indians hoping for their first title since 1948 and the Cubs seeking their first since 1908, Lester stumbled in the opening inning.

He entered 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in three Series starts and got his first two outs on five pitches before Cleveland loaded the bases with two outs. Jose Ramirez had a run-scoring swinging bunt single and Brandon Guyer was hit by a pitch — he led the majors with 31 during the regular season.

“There is an importance on small ball, but you can’t try to hit a swinging bunt. That’s a little bit of good fortune,” Francona said. “Then Guyer got hit, which he is really good at.”

Perez connected in the fourth for a 3-0 lead.

“When you’re going against a guy like Kluber who’s locked in from pitch one, to give up two in the first, that makes it tough,” Lester said.

Teams that combined for 174 seasons of futility, America’s biggest droughts since the Great Plains’ Dust Bowl of the 1930s, captivated even many non-baseball fans.

On a night of civic pride, LeBron James and the NBA’s Cavaliers received their championship rings next door prior to their season opener, and Cleveland hosted a World Series opener for the first time.

The Cubs had not played in the Series since five weeks after Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender ending World War II.

Kluber, whose win in the All-Star Game gave the AL home-field advantage in the Series, improved to 3-1 in the postseason and lowered his ERA to a sparkling 0.74.

He was pitching on six days’ rest, and his two-seam fastball darted through the strike zone. Kluber struck out nine in six innings and walked none.

Kyle Schwarber, making a surprise return in his first big league game since tearing knee ligaments on April 7, doubled off the right-field wall in the fourth — a drive kept in by a stiff wind on a 50-degree night. Kluber then got Javier Baez to fly out.

Zobrist’s leadoff double in the seventh finished Kluber, and Cleveland loaded the bases with no outs against Miller on Schwarber’s walk and Baez’s single. Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras flied to Rajai Davis in short center, and Davis threw home rather than double up Schwarber, who had strayed far off second.

Using his intimidating slider, Miller struck out Addison Russell and David Ross to escape the jam, stranded runners at the corners in the eighth by fanning Schwarber with his 46th pitch, his most in five years. Miller has thrown 20 scoreless innings in postseason play, including 13 2/3 innings with 24 strikeouts this year.

Allen worked the ninth to close it out.

Ramirez also had three hits each for the Indians, who beat Toronto in the ALCS despite hitting just .168. Zobrist had three hit for the Cubs.

Lester gave up three runs, six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. He was rattled by Vanover’s calls, barking at the umpire in the third, then stopping for a discussion at the inning’s end.

“I’m confident. I know our guys are, too,” Schwarber said. “We put up good at-bats against those guys today. We just didn’t come up with a knock when we needed to.”

UP NEXT

While Arrieta went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA during the regular season, he struggled to a 5.01 ERA in his final four starts. He allowed four runs over five innings in Game 3 of the NLCS.

Bauer lasted only two outs in his ALCS when his pinkie began bleeding.

THEY’RE BACK

Dexter Fowler took a called third strike from Kluber leading off the game, becoming the first Cubs player to bat in the Series since Don Johnson hit into a game-ending forceout against Detroit’s Hal Newhouser in Game 7 in 1945.

TAKE A SEAT

Chicago benched right fielder Jason Heyward, in a 2-for-28 postseason slump, and started Chris Coghlan.

NBA Roundup: James has triple-double as Cavs rout Knicks 117-88 in opener

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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James took time to reflect as the Cleveland Cavaliers raised their championship banner.

Then it was business as usual.

James had his 43rd career triple-double, Kyrie Irving scored 29 points and the Cavaliers beat the New York Knicks 117-88 on Tuesday night in the NBA season opener.

James scored 19 points and added 11 rebounds and 14 assists in front of a raucous home crowd that was on its feet from the pregame ceremony until late in the game, celebrating the city’s first championship in 52 years.

“It was great to have a moment like that,” he said. “It was difficult to focus on the game but we did a great job, especially in the second half.”

James, who got choked up while speaking to the crowd before the game, continued his perfect record on ring nights. He was 2-0 when the Miami Heat players were presented with their championship rings.

“There were so many emotions,” he said. “To see us win the finals and tonight being that last exclamation point to receive your ring in front of your fans was a great moment.”

Irving scored 19 points in the third quarter, when Cleveland used a 20-4 run to take a 74-53 lead. Kevin Love scored 23 for the Cavaliers.

Carmelo Anthony led New York with 19 points and Derrick Rose had 17.

Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert was taken to the locker room late in the third quarter with concussion-like symptoms after colliding with Kristaps Porzingis. Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said Shumpert was undergoing tests to determine the extent of the injury.

Cleveland’s players, coaching staff and front office personnel also received their championship rings in the pregame ceremony, and the sellout crowd chanted Lue’s last name.

“That was a really good feeling,” he said. “It was great to be a part of it.”

The basketball game was only part of a big night in town. The Cleveland Indians played Game 1 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs across the street at Progressive Field.

The Knicks, who missed the playoffs the last three seasons, are expecting major improvement after acquiring Rose from Chicago to run the offense and signing center Joakim Noah, who was scoreless in 21 minutes.

“We will improve, I guarantee it,” Anthony said. “There are just so many moving parts right now. We need to get better, but we’re not running from that fact.”

New York, playing its first game under new coach Jeff Hornacek, trailed by 13 in the second quarter but rallied to cut the lead to 45-43 at halftime. A pair of dunks by James and 3-pointers from Irving and Love pushed the lead to 61-49.

Cleveland’s spurt continued as Irving hit three 3-pointers for a 74-53 lead.

Porzingis scored 16 points for New York.

SPURS 129, WARRIORS 100

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs put on such a basketball show they sent the loyal Golden State fans to a rare early exit. What a strange sight at Oracle Arena for opening night and Kevin Durant’s long-awaited Warriors debut.

Leonard scored a career-high 35 points and the Spurs emphatically spoiled KD’s first game for Golden State in a 129-100 rout Tuesday that the Warriors could hardly believe had just happened.

“We got punched in the mouth,” Draymond Green said. “I don’t know if it was quite a bad thing for us.”

Durant had 27 points and 10 rebounds, but little looked in sync for MVP Stephen Curry and the reigning Western Conference champions in a forgettable first game — and quite a different one after the Warriors dominated at home and came out of the blocks last season with a record 24-0 start.

Leonard scored 31 points by the end of the third, LaMarcus Aldridge added 26 points and 14 rebounds and Gregg Popovich thoroughly outdid a couple of his close friends on the opposite bench in reigning NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr and top assistant Mike Brown.

Yes, San Antonio sent quite a message to the West.

“If there was an outcome I wasn’t expecting, it was this one,” San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili said. “A 29-point lead against a team like them? I truly didn’t expect it.”

Curry, last season’s first unanimous MVP, scored 26 points but was just 3 for 10 from 3-point range. Green had 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, while Klay Thompson was limited to 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

The star-studded Warriors were sloppy, committing 16 turnovers, and got outrebounded 55-35. They are clearly still finding themselves just as Kerr expected — though maybe not quite like this while.

“No, I didn’t see losing by 29 points,” Kerr said. “It’s going to be an ugly tape to watch. … I think our guys were embarrassed tonight. I know I was.”

San Antonio exhibited smooth, crisp ball movement and looked polished in a game that had a playoff feel on Day 1.

Two-time Defensive Player of the Year Leonard shot 10 for 21 and made all 15 of his free throws.

Jonathon Simmons came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points, including a 3 to beat the halftime buzzer for a 64-46 advantage. His status had been in doubt for the opener because of a calf injury.

Green dunked off a pass from Curry early in the third to get Golden State within 10, only to pound his chest and yell before being hit with a technical.

The Warriors had flurries of greatness trying to get back in it. San Antonio answered each time — like when Golden State pulled within 50-42 in the second quarter before the Spurs closed the half on a 14-4 run.

“It’s a nice little slap in the face,” Curry said. “First game you want to come out and protect your home court and have the energy of the home opener live throughout the game. We didn’t do anything to let that happen.”

Durant made a 14-footer 65 seconds into the game and hit his first four shots. But he didn’t have much help early.

San Antonio led 31-20 after the first, when the Warriors shot 7 for 20 with four baskets by Durant. Golden State’s other players were 3 for 15, and the Warriors got outrebounded 17-9.

Durant, whose former Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals, wants to make sure this result doesn’t start a trend.

“What we can’t do is let these games pile up,” he said. “We can’t panic. It’s Game 1 of 82.”

TRAILBLAZERS 113, JAZZ 104

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland’s NBA-record streak of home-opening wins provided the inspiration against the Utah Jazz.

The Trail Blazers rallied in the fourth quarter for a 113-104 victory on Tuesday night, extending their record to 16 straight wins in home openers.

“With a streak that long, longest in the NBA, we wanted to keep it going,” said Damian Lillard, who had 39 points. “I was proud that we were able to do that tonight.”

CJ McCollum added 25 points for the Blazers, who trailed 83-77 at the start of the fourth quarter. They were still down 102-99 with under 5 minutes left before McCollum made a pull-up jumper and 3-pointer to give Portland a 104-102 lead.

Lillard made a pair of free throws before nailing a 3-pointer that put Portland up 109-102 with 1:02 left and the Jazz couldn’t catch up.

“I wasn’t surprised. Were you surprised?” McCollum said about Lillard’s 3. “I saw the look in his eyes and I knew what time it was.”

Joe Johnson scored 29 points in his debut with the Jazz and Rodney Hood added 26, including a rim-rattling dunk in the third quarter.

The Jazz were without several key players. Gordon Hayward is out with a broken finger on his left hand, while Derrick Favors played in just one preseason game because of a sore knee. Alec Burks continues to rehab from arthroscopic surgery to his knee and ankle.

“Where we’re at now, everybody just needs to come together and do what’s needed,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said before the game.

Johnson signed a two-year deal with the team in the offseason. Boris Diaw, acquired in a trade with San Antonio, also started in his Jazz debut.

“I want to do what I can to help this team win,” Johnson said. “This loss hurts, because we were in a position to win, on the road, against a tough team. This was a tough loss but there are positives in this. We have got to grind and get better.”

Noah Vonleh gave the Blazers a spark off the bench and his 3-pointer put them ahead 34-28. Portland stretched the lead to as many as 13 points in the first half, paced by Lillard with 16 points.

Johnson’s short jumper tied the game at 68 midway through the third quarter. Hood hit consecutive jumpers to give the Jazz a 77-71 lead. Hood would go on to split a pair of defenders with his dunk and Utah outscored the Blazers 37-23 in the quarter.

Johnson scored 27 of his points in the second half.

Allen Crabbe’s 3-pointer tied the game at 85, but the Blazers couldn’t take the lead until Lillard’s 3 made it 97-96 with 5:50 left. Johnson answered with a 3-pointer on the other end to put the Jazz back in front.

“There were moments tonight where they had the momentum but I could hear the crowd just itching to get involved, just getting loud and cheering, and that’s what we needed,” Lillard said. “We needed that to pick us up.”

2016 World Series: Cubs’ Lester seeks more Series dominance

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —    A look at what’s happening all around the majors today:

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STAGE SET

Next year? It can wait. The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians play Game 1 of the World Series, each with hopes of ending a long championship drought. Chicago hasn’t been to the Series since 1945 and hasn’t won since 1908, and Cleveland earned its most recent title in 1948.

How long has it been for Chicago? Dexter Fowler will become the first black player to suit up for the Cubs in a World Series when he likely bats leadoff at Progressive Field.

Jon Lester gets the ball for Chicago, and at 32 years old, he’s already one of the best World Series pitchers ever. He’s won all three of his starts and has a 0.43 ERA, third-best among pitchers with at least 20 World Series innings, behind Madison Bumgarner and Jack Billingham. Lester is matched up against 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, a contender for the prize again this season.

The Indians hope to have Jason Kipnis in the lineup after the second baseman sprained his left ankle celebrating the final out of the ALCS.

HELP ON THE WAY?

The Cubs might get back young slugger Kyle Schwarber, out since tearing knee ligaments on April 8. A person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Monday that Schwarber was traveling to Cleveland, but the person did not know yet if the slugger would be on the roster. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the roster won’t be announced until Tuesday. Schwarber has played two games in the Arizona Fall League, going 1 for 6 with a double and two walks. He hit five homers in nine postseason games as a rookie last year.

THOUSANDS FOR TICKETS

Want to get into Wrigley Field for Game 3? It will cost you a couple thousand dollars at least, and at that price point, don’t expect a seat. Standing room tickets are going for more than $2,200, and fans have called ticket brokers willing to pay as much as $12,000 for a seat. Meanwhile, Cleveland figures to have some Wrigleyville vibes for Games 1 and 2 — ticket-selling site StubHub reported a quarter of all tickets purchased for Game 1 are being paid for with credit cards associated with Illinois ZIP codes.

SERIES UMPS

Umpire Larry Vanover will work his first World Series game and do it from behind home plate. John Hirshbeck will be the crew chief, joined by Series veterans Joe West and Sam Holbrook and first-timers Vanover, Chris Guccione, Marvin Hudson and Tony Randazzo. Holbrook, working his second Series, will be the replay official for the first two games, then will switch places with Vanover. This will be the sixth World Series for West and fifth for Hirschbeck.

STADIUM TWEAKS

Less than a decade after its opening, Yankee Stadium is being renovated. New York is adding seven new social gathering spaces, a move that will cut capacity by about 2,100 seats. The Yankees are adding a children’s zone in the right-field upper deck and replacing obstructed view bleacher seats with outdoor party decks.

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The last time the Cleveland Indians won the World Series, Dewey led Truman in the polls. The Chicago Cubs’ last title was 13 days after the first Ford Model T car was completed.

Lovable losers known for decades of defeat meet in this year’s championship, a combined 174 seasons of futility facing off starting Tuesday night at Progressive Field.

Cleveland’s last title was in 1948, when 16 teams from the East Coast to St. Louis competed in a just-integrated sport. The Cubs are trying to win for the first time since 1908 , a dead ball-era matchup at a time home runs were rarities along with telephones.

No player is alive from the last championship Cubs or even the last to make a Series appearance — Tuesday marks the 25,948th day since the Cubs’ Game 7 loss to Detroit in 1945. One player remains from the 1948 Indians, 95-year-old Eddie Robinson.

“It seems like it’s just forever,” Robinson said Monday from his home in Fort Worth, Texas. “When we got home from Boston, there was a monumental parade. It just looked like everybody in Cleveland came out on Euclid Avenue.”

One team’s fans will let loose with the celebration of a lifetime. But while history weighs on the supporters, Cubs manager Joe Maddon focuses his players with a now-centered battle cry of “Win the Inning!”

“Air conditioning is popular right now. So is color TV,” he said. “You’ve just got to change with the times.”

Both teams worked out under cloudy skies Monday as the new 59-by-221-foot scoreboard behind the left-field seats — the largest in the major leagues — trumpeted the Sisyphean matchup. While the Cubs play in Wrigley Field, the 102-year-old brick-and-ivy jewel on Chicago’s North Side, the Indians are in a 22-year-old throwback-style ballpark originally called Jacobs Field.

Led by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs led the major leagues with 103 wins during the regular season, then beat San Francisco and Los Angeles in the playoffs. But since the playoffs expanded in 1995, only four teams with the best regular-season record won the title: the 1998 and 2009 New York Yankees, and the 2007 and 2013 Boston Red Sox.

“I promise you, our guys are going to be in the present tense,” Maddon said. “I think we all have a tremendous amount of respect for history and what’s happened before us or not happened before us. But, you know, you go in that room right now, they’re very young. Really not impacted by a lot of the lore.”

Jon Lester, 7-1 in his career against Cleveland, starts for the Cubs and Corey Kluber opens for the Indians. Lester is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three postseason starts this year and 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in a trio of Series outings. He learned to prepare from watching Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett in Boston.

“They prepared the same way for this start as they would for a regular start during the season,” he said.

Kluber pitched shutout ball twice in the playoffs before allowing two runs in five innings in Game 4 at Toronto. His father, Jim, was born in Cleveland and rooted for the Indians growing up in suburban Highland Heights.

“I think every parent is excited if their kid has a chance to play in the World Series,” said the 30-year-old right-hander, who could win his second AL Cy Young Award in three years.

Both teams were dealing with injuries that caused changes in planning.

Chicago included outfielder Kyle Schwarber, out since tearing knee ligaments on April 7. He played a pair of games in the Arizona Fall League, going 1 for 6 with a double and two walks.

“Reports are good,” Maddon said. “He’s swinging the bat well. He’s running really well.”

Cleveland, juggling all year because of health mishaps, put on pitcher Danny Salazar, who could start Game 4. The All-Star right-hander has not pitched since Sept. 9 because of forearm tightness but threw a simulated game Sunday.

Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis was dealing with a sprained left ankle, hurt when he jumped and shortstop Francisco Lindor accidentally stepped on his foot while celebrating the last out of the ALCS.

“He might not be 100 percent, but I don’t think it’s going to get in the way,” Francona said.

Cleveland fell three outs short of the 1997 title when Jose Mesa blew a one-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 7 at Florida and an error by second baseman Tony Fernandez led to the Marlins’ winning run in the 11th.

The Series starts just after a ceremony across the street when LeBron James and the Cavaliers receive championship rings before their opener celebrating this year’s NBA title, the first for Cleveland’s big league teams since the NFL’s Browns in 1964.

“It’s a pretty neat set of circumstances,” said Indians reliever Andrew Miller, the ALCS MVP. “Obviously the fans wish they had won quite a bit previously, but I think the Cubs are even going to overshadow us in that history.”

While Chicago has many famous fans, among them actor Bill Murray and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Cleveland is rooted on by Tom Hanks and Drew Carey. And the Indians’ losing history received nationwide attention in the 1989 film “Major League,” featuring Charlie Sheen as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn.

Maddon prepared for the Series while watching some baseball movies, “42” — “we had to beat the Dodgers before I could watch it” — and “Field of Dreams.”

“I’m that guy,” he said. “I cry easily, so the connection to the past is very important, very important.”

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2016 World Series: How the Cubs and Indians match up

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-   A position-by-position look at the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians going into the World Series, starting Tuesday night at Progressive Field:

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First Base:

Cubs: Anthony Rizzo. A cancer survivor and top contender for NL MVP this season, Rizzo was the first member of Chicago’s current young core to arrive, in a January 2012 trade with San Diego. Now, he’s a power-hitting staple with a patient eye in the middle of a loaded lineup. Rizzo busted out of a 2-for-26 slump by going 7 of 14 with two homers and five RBIs over the last three games of the NL Championship Series.

Indians: Mike Napoli. Pasted on T-shirts all over town, “Party at Napoli’s” has been the popular cry in Cleveland this year. And it’s no wonder. With 34 homers and 101 RBIs, the veteran slugger has been perhaps baseball’s biggest free-agent bargain after signing a $7 million, one-year contract. Napoli is a proven winner, appearing in the playoffs eight of the past 10 years.

Edge: Cubs.

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Second Base:

Cubs: Javier Baez. Slick and flashy in the field, the 23-year-old Baez has become a breakout star this postseason and was co-MVP of the NLCS. Blessed with rare bat speed, he’s cut down on his big swing and strikeout rate, helping him deliver several clutch hits. Supremely confident, excellent instincts — he even stole home in the NLCS opener. Power to all fields and perhaps a future Gold Glove winner, too.

Indians: Jason Kipnis. A two-time All-Star, Kipnis grew up a huge Cubs fan outside Chicago. He’s a leader in the clubhouse who provides left-handed pop and some speed. He hit two homers in the playoffs but went 1 for 19 (.053) during the ALCS. Kipnis sprained his left ankle while celebrating after the final out of the pennant clincher in Toronto, an injury that was still bothering him on the eve of the World Series.

Edge: Indians, on track record. Cubs, on pure talent.

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Shortstop:

Cubs: Addison Russell. Another impressive youngster, the 22-year-old Russell batted .238 with 21 homers and 95 RBIs this season, his second in the majors, and was elected to start the All-Star Game along with several Cubs teammates. Russell also snapped out of a postseason skid (1 for 24) in the final three NLCS games, going 6 for 13 with two homers and four RBIs. He was obtained from Oakland when Chicago traded pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in July 2014.

Indians: Francisco Lindor. Next in a bumper crop of gifted young infielders on display in this Series. The 22-year-old Lindor, runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year last season, can do it all — including light up a ballpark with his energy and smile. He batted .323 with two homers, two doubles and four RBIs in eight playoff games, also showing off his vast array of skills to the national audience. Cleveland drafted Lindor eighth overall in 2011 — one pick before the Cubs took Baez.

Edge: Indians.

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Third Base:

Cubs: Kris Bryant. Probably the favorite for NL MVP, the 24-year-old Bryant has delivered immediately on his promise of big power after he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2013. Last season’s NL Rookie of the Year and a two-time All-Star already, he had a .939 OPS with 39 homers and 102 RBIs this season. But he’s more than just a bopper. Also a versatile defender, Bryant runs pretty well and is a better all-around player than his profile might suggest.

Indians: Jose Ramirez. The unheralded Ramirez has been a pleasant surprise for Cleveland, filling a hole at third base with an excellent season. The switch-hitter batted .312 with 11 home runs, 46 doubles, 76 RBIs and an .825 OPS. Not to mention 22 stolen bases and his knack for clutch hits. Wow, right? Did anyone outside Ohio even notice? Ramirez was a mixed bag in the AL playoffs, going 5 for 10 with four runs against Boston but 1 for 17 vs. Toronto.

Edge: Cubs.

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Catcher:

Cubs: David Ross, Willson Contreras or Miguel Montero. Longtime batterymates going back to their days in Boston, Ross is the regular catcher for Game 1 starter Jon Lester. Set to retire after this season, the graying 39-year-old is a fan favorite in Chicago, where Ross is affectionately known as Grandpa Rossy. He hit 10 homers in only 166 at-bats during a quality year at the plate and then went deep against the Giants in the NL playoffs. Contreras is an advanced right-handed hitter at age 24, and the rookie can also play left field and first base. Montero is a two-time All-Star with left-handed pop. He batted just .216 this year but caught both of Jake Arrieta’s playoff starts and delivered the third pinch-hit grand slam in postseason history, a tiebreaking shot against the Dodgers in the eighth inning of the NLCS opener.

Indians: Roberto Perez. Subbing for injured starter Yan Gomes, Perez provides strong defense behind the plate. He threw out 46 percent of attempted base stealers this season, and the Indians went 33-20 when he started. Limited to 61 games by a broken thumb, Perez batted .183 with three homers this year.

Edge: Cubs.

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Left Field:

Cubs: Ben Zobrist. One of baseball’s most versatile players, Zobrist helped Kansas City win the World Series last season and then signed a $56 million, four-year contract with the Cubs. The productive switch-hitter is a three-time All-Star with a discerning eye who bats in the middle of the lineup to keep it balanced. He mostly played second base during the season but has been shifted to left field to make everyday room for Baez.

Indians: Rajai Davis or Coco Crisp. The speedy Davis was another free-agent pickup at a friendly price who played a significant role for the Indians. He hit 12 homers, scored 74 runs and led the AL with 43 steals but went hitless in 12 playoff at-bats. Crisp returned to his Cleveland roots when he was acquired from Oakland on Aug. 31, just in time to be eligible for the postseason. The 36-year-old switch-hitter finished the season with 13 homers and hit two more in the playoffs.

Edge: Cubs.

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Center Field:

Cubs: Dexter Fowler. An underrated leadoff hitter, Fowler re-signed with Chicago late last offseason for $13 million in a surprise move that paid off handsomely for the Cubs. The switch-hitter compiled a career-best .393 on-base percentage and scored 84 runs in 125 games. When he gets on, the Cubs really go.

Indians: Tyler Naquin. With 14 home runs and an .886 OPS in 116 games, the 25-year-old Naquin ranked among rookie leaders in several offensive categories. A first-round draft pick in 2012 out of Texas A&M, he is 3 for 16 (.188) in the postseason with a pair of doubles.

Edge: Cubs.

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Right Field:

Cubs: Jason Heyward. A major disappointment at the plate after signing with Chicago for $184 million over eight years, the three-time Gold Glove winner at least provides outstanding defense. He had a paltry .631 OPS this season and went 2 for 28 in the playoffs, dropping his career postseason batting average to .160 and occasionally leaving him on the bench.

Indians: Lonnie Chisenhall. The converted third baseman has found a home in right field, where Cleveland is happy with his defense. He batted .286 with eight homers and 57 RBIs this season, then connected for a big home run in the Division Series against Boston. Chisenhall is 10 for 30 (.333) in his postseason career.

Edge: Even.

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Designated Hitter:

Cubs: Kyle Schwarber. In an October shocker, the expectation is Schwarber will return from an early-season knee injury in Game 1 of the World Series. A prodigious young power hitter, Schwarber played two games in April before tearing a pair of ligaments in his left knee. He was ruled out for the year but made a rapid recovery from surgery and was cleared to play two games in the Arizona Fall League. Apparently, that was enough for the Cubs. One year removed from college, Schwarber hit 16 homers with an .842 OPS in 69 games last season. Then he hit five more home runs in the 2015 playoffs.

Indians: Carlos Santana. The unusual thing about Santana is that he’s a power hitter who bats leadoff, because of his patient approach at the plate. The switch-hitter walked 99 times this season to go with a career-high 34 homers and 87 RBIs. Santana was 5 for 29 (.172) in the playoffs but homered twice in the ALCS.

Edge: Indians.

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Starting Pitchers:

Cubs: Despite going seven decades without a pennant, Chicago has a pair of proven World Series arms in its deep rotation. Lester, co-MVP of the NLCS, won championship rings with Boston in 2007 and 2013. He is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in three World Series starts and will be on regular rest Tuesday night. The 32-year-old lefty went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA this season and 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three playoff outings. Right behind him is Kyle Hendricks (16-8), who led the majors with a 2.13 ERA and beat Clayton Kershaw 5-0 with 7 1/3 innings of two-hit ball in the NLCS clincher. Arrieta (18-8), last year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, has been inconsistent in the postseason. John Lackey (11-8), who just turned 38, won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as an Angels rookie and helped the Red Sox to their 2013 title.

Indians: Coming into the season, Cleveland had an enviable stable of young, power arms who made up one of baseball’s best rotations. That was before a string of injuries left the Indians piecing together their playoff pitching plans. Corey Kluber, the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, remains a workhorse at the top and will start the Series opener on two extra days of rest. He was 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA and 227 strikeouts this season. Josh Tomlin (13-9) was dropped from the rotation after going 0-5 in August but got another chance in October and delivered. He won both playoff starts with a 2.53 ERA in his first postseason. Trevor Bauer (12-8) expects to pitch after a bleeding right pinkie forced him out early in Game 3 of the ALCS. He sliced open the finger while repairing one of the drones he enjoys flying as a hobby. Rookie left-hander Ryan Merritt came through with 4 1/3 scoreless in the Game 5 clincher, his second major league start. Carlos Carrasco is out with a broken pinkie, but All-Star righty Danny Salazar, sidelined since Sept. 9 because of forearm tightness, will be on the World Series roster. It’s unclear if he will start or work out of the bullpen. So the rotation remains Cleveland’s biggest question mark.

Edge: Cubs.

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Bullpen:

Cubs: A midseason trade for hard-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman gave the Cubs an imposing arm in the ninth inning. He’s been summoned in the eighth on occasion during the postseason, but hasn’t exactly been lights out. Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Grimm offer live arms and good stuff from the right side, but aren’t always completely reliable. Left-handers Travis Wood and Mike Montgomery provide length and flexibility. There are options here. There is depth. But it’s not necessarily a dominant unit.

Indians: The team’s best weapon and biggest strength. The most powerful chess piece in this entire postseason has been Andrew Miller, the ALCS MVP acquired in July from the New York Yankees — where Chapman was his teammate. The 6-foot-7 lefty with the wipeout slider has struck out 21 over 11 2/3 scoreless innings after going 10-1 with a 1.45 ERA while striking out 14.9 batters per nine innings this year. The way Cleveland utilizes him, Miller starts looming by the middle innings and becomes an option in almost any high-leverage situation. He entered as early as the fifth during the AL playoffs. Not to be forgotten are closer Cody Allen (32 saves) and steady right-hander Bryan Shaw. And when Bauer was removed in the first inning, Dan Otero, Jeff Manship and Zach McAllister helped the relievers rack up 25 outs in a Game 3 win during the ALCS. With a 1.67 ERA in 32 1/3 playoff innings, the bullpen is a big reason Cleveland has thrown three shutouts this postseason. And if the Indians win the World Series, this group will likely rank among the greatest October bullpens in baseball history.

Edge: Indians.

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Bench:

Cubs: Plenty of options for a team that thrives on versatility, flexibility and depth. Montero and Contreras came through with huge pinch hits in the playoffs. Chris Coghlan is an experienced left-handed hitter who can play the infield and outfield. From the right side, Jorge Soler has power and Albert Almora Jr. brings fine defense. A healthy Schwarber would obviously add a very dangerous bat to the mix.

Indians: This unit would probably be deeper if not for an injury to All-Star Michael Brantley and drug suspensions for fellow outfielders Abraham Almonte and Marlon Byrd. Davis, Crisp or Naquin will likely be on the bench, offering speed and some pop. Davis and Crisp have plenty of experience, too. Brandon Guyer, obtained at the Aug. 1 trade deadline from Tampa Bay, can provide punch against left-handed pitching.

Edge: Cubs.

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Manager:

Cubs: Joe Maddon. A popular free spirit who led the Rays and Cubs out of the doldrums, Maddon is a three-time Manager of the Year with a philosophical approach. He wants his players to have fun and he thinks outside the box. He’s shown a quick hook with starting pitchers in October and has been accused of overmanaging. Maddon lost in his only previous trip to the World Series, in 2008 with Tampa Bay.

Indians: Terry Francona. After winning two World Series titles in Boston, ending an 86-year drought and overcoming a 3-0 ALCS deficit to the Yankees along the way, Francona is building a Hall of Fame resume. He has a deft touch — especially in October — and this year’s run with the injury-riddled Indians could become his masterpiece. Francona has an excellent feel for his players and knows how to take pressure off them. His aggressive, unconventional use of Miller and the rest of that brilliant bullpen is a huge reason the Indians are here.

Edge: Indians.

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Pick: Cubs in 6.

MLB Playoffs: Cubs beat Dodgers 5-0 to reach 1st World Series since 1945

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CHICAGO (AP) — Anthony Rizzo caught the ball for the final out and Wrigley Field erupted.

“I’m sleeping with this thing tonight,” the Chicago Cubs first baseman told the pulsating crowd moments later, kissing the prized souvenir. “Are you kidding me? We’re going to the World Series.”

Cubs … World Series? Yes, the Cubbies!

Next up, Game 1 in Cleveland.

With fans chanting, singing and waving those Ws, shaking the century-old ballpark and jamming the streets of Wrigleyville, the Cubs celebrated a moment many of their faithful wondered whether they would ever see.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton Kershaw, Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs took their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night to win the NL Championship Series in six games.

“Listen to them. Outside before the game was crazy. Inside the game was crazy,” Cubs pitcher Jon Lester said.

“These guys have done nothing but support us from Day One. It’s been unbelievable to be here and be part of this. Words can’t really describe where I’m at right now,” he said.

Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, those “Lovable Losers” now have a chance to win it all.

Trying to win their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon’s team opens the World Series against Cleveland on Tuesday night.

The Indians haven’t won it all since 1948 — Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

“This city deserves it so much,” Rizzo said. “We got four more big ones to go, but we’re going to enjoy this. We’re going to the World Series. I can’t even believe that.”

All-everything Javier Baez and Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

The drought ended when Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play , setting off a wild celebration. And if they bring home the elusive championship?

“I may make the ‘W’ a tattoo,” said chairman Tom Ricketts , who once lived across the street and met his wife in the bleachers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal “wait till next year” is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure — the future is now.

“We’re too young. We don’t care about it,” star slugger Kris Bryant said. “We don’t look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We’re enjoying it and our work’s just getting started.”

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings . Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The Dodgers sent the minimum 27 batters to the plate and no one got past first base.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In the 1945 Series, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn’t allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first . Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer.Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game’s first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

“This day is never fun, the ending of a season,” Kershaw said.

The Dodgers haven’t been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days’ rest, Kershaw needed 30 pitches to get through the first. Fowler led off with a double against the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, and Bryant’s single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

Fans had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo’s fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.

LINEUP SHUFFLE

Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

“Kershaw’s pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don’t feel like we’re losing anything on defense,” Maddon said. “I know Jason’s a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too.”

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs — 1 for 16 in the NLCS.

SEEN

Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the “Play Ball!” call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.

Cubs fans celebrate team’s 1st World Series berth since 1945

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CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Cubs fans waited 71 years to celebrate a return to the World Series.

Overjoyed fans streamed out of Wrigley Field and into the streets Saturday night after the Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series to earn their first trip to the World Series since 1945.

Many people donned Cubbie blue and held “W” flags. Two people climbed a traffic pole, with one man shimmying all the way to the end. Police said he was later arrested, as were a couple of fans who lit fireworks.

A majority of the crowd, however, celebrated the victory peacefully. Many took selfies in front of the stadium and hugged one another. Some also broke out in song, while others shook up beer bottles and sprayed the crowd.

Police officers, including about a dozen cops on horseback, kept a close eye on the crowd. And some officers were seen giving high-fives to fans as they walked by.

Brian Dusza, who was at Wrigley for Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, never thought he’d see the team win the pennant

“I never thought I’d see it,” Dusza, 49, said after attending Saturday’s game. “I can’t even describe what I’m feeling.”

Among the few thousand fans who stayed in their seats an hour after the game ended was Ed Koenig of Darien. His eyes welled up as he talked about his father, who died in May.

“He never got to see this,” Koenig said. “I haven’t been to a game this season without him and when my friend won a lottery for these tickets, I thought ‘how am I going to go without my dad?'”

But his friend convinced him to go.

“I have his watch on,” Koenig said, showing off the watch on his wrist. “I thought I was going without my dad, but I’m with him.”

Before the game, Steve Zucker said that if the team won, he would go to his father’s grave and leave him a Cubs hat and T-shirt.

“My dad died playing cards, listening to the game on a little transistor radio, so I may bring that, too,” Zucker said.

Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks said after the game that this win and trip to the World Series was for the fans.

“I hope they enjoy this. They have been waiting a long time,” Hendricks said. “Best fans in the baseball, most dedicated fans, and they deserve a lot more of these.”

The Cubs will face the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 on Tuesday, with the series returning to Wrigley Field for Game 3 on Friday.

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CHICAGO (AP) — When Jon Lester was a free agent two years ago, one of the reasons he decided to sign with the Chicago Cubs was a group of promising prospects that included all-around dynamo Javier Baez.

Look where they are now.

Lester and Baez were selected co-MVPs for the NL Championship Series on Saturday night after leading the Cubs to their first NL pennant since 1945.

Baez hit .318 (7 for 22) with five RBIs against the Dodgers, picking up right where he left off in the Division Series. The versatile Baez also made a couple of the NLCS’ most exciting plays, stealing home during Chicago’s victory in the opener and robbing Adrian Gonzalez of a hit with a terrific barehanded scoop in Game 5 on Thursday night.

“Just having fun,” Baez said. “Living my dream, playing like a little kid, moving everywhere, catching the ball and making plays.”

Next up for Baez and the Cubs is the World Series against Francisco Lindor and the Indians, beginning Tuesday night in Cleveland. Baez and Lindor are part of a dynamic group of young players from Puerto Rico that also includes Houston shortstop Carlos Correa.

Baez “grew up in Puerto Rico, played a lot of baseball as a youth, played a lot of winter ball,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s been taught properly and well. And when he goes out there, man, you saw him before the game sitting on the bench, saw him waving into the camera, he’s just being himself. I love that.”

Lester, one of baseball’s most accomplished playoff performers, went 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against Los Angeles. He has allowed just two runs in 21 innings in three postseason games this year.

Lester’s $155 million, six-year deal in December 2014 was a key moment in the Cubs’ turnaround from also-ran to contender. The left-hander is a sure bet to get the ball in Game 1 against the Indians, looking to improve to 4-0 in four World Series starts after helping Boston win it all in 2007 and 2013.

“It’s unbelievable. Going through this process, this is why they signed me,” Lester said. “This is why they wanted me to come here to win a World Series. This is why I wanted to come here, to win a World Series for this city and this organization, this ownership, this front office. … We still have a long ways to go.”

Lester and Baez became the first NLCS co-MVPs since Cincinnati relievers Rob Dibble and Randy Myers in 1990.

The Cubs grabbed Baez with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft. He made his major league debut in 2014, but really turned into a consistent force this year, batting .273 with 14 homers and 59 RBIs while playing several different positions.

After struggling for a while in his first year in Chicago, Lester went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA in 32 starts this season. The 19 wins matched a career high.

“You’re obviously going to feel more comfortable that second year as opposed to just getting thrown into that first year with a whole new atmosphere in front of you,” Lester said before Game 1 of the NLCS.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

MLB Playoffs: Cubs face Kershaw, try to end Series drought

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A look at what’s happening all around the majors today:

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ROCKIN’ WRIGLEY

It’s been 71 years since the Chicago Cubs reached the World Series. They can finally halt the drought with a victory at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series at 8 p.m. EDT. Anticipating a long-awaited pennant, excited fans at jam-packed Wrigley Field will certainly be on the edge of their seats.

THE MARQUEE MATCHUP

Standing in the way of a huge Cubs party is rested Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, perhaps the best pitcher in baseball. Shaking off his previous playoff struggles, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason. With the Dodgers down 3-2 in the best-of-seven NLCS, will he rescue them again or flop in October once more? Game 7 would be Sunday night, if necessary.

“We’ve won two games in a row before,” Los Angeles first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. “Nothing says we can’t do it Saturday and Sunday.”

Kyle Hendricks, who led the majors with a 2.13 ERA this season, gets the ball for Chicago. Kershaw beat Hendricks 1-0 in Game 2 at Wrigley Field.

ON THE MEND

All-Star starter Danny Salazar plans to throw a three-inning simulated game, and the AL champion Indians will assess his status before deciding whether to put him on their World Series roster. Salazar hasn’t appeared in a major league game since Sept. 9 because of tightness in his right forearm. But he’s thrown well in recent bullpen sessions and could be an option in the Fall Classic — even if that means working in relief. “I think he’s ready to pitch,” manager Terry Francona said.

Cleveland also hopes Trevor Bauer will be available after his Game 4 start in the ALCS lasted less than an inning when his stitched right pinkie opened up and he had to be replaced because of excessive bleeding. Bauer said his finger is healing and he’s confident the added rest before the Series will allow him to pitch. Game 1 is Tuesday night in Cleveland.

PUT ME IN, COACH

Wild Thing is stuck in the bullpen. While actor Charlie Sheen, who played Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn in the movie “Major League,” offered to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before one of this year’s World Series games, Major League Baseball said the choices were already made. A spokesman said MLB worked with the Indians to identify “former franchise greats” to do the honors in Cleveland. There had been a movement by fans on social media for Sheen to throw out a first pitch and be part of pregame festivities. Released in 1989, “Major League” is a fictional account of the Indians finishing in first place with an unconventional group of players, including Vaughn.

TIGER TALK

Detroit’s new batting instructor is a familiar face in Motown. The team hired former Mariners and Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon as hitting coach and Leon Durham as assistant hitting coach on Friday. McClendon returns for his second stint with the Tigers after serving as bullpen coach in 2006 and hitting coach from 2007-13. He managed the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate in Toledo this season, guiding the team to a 68-76 record.

MLB Playoffs: Cubs beat Dodgers 8-4, head home with 3-2 lead in NLCS

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — One win away. Two chances at home. Seven decades of waiting.

The Chicago Cubs closed in on their first World Series trip since 1945 by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday in Game 5 of their National League playoff.

Jon Lester pitched seven sharp innings , Addison Russell hit a tiebreaking homer and the Cubs grabbed a 3-2 lead in the NL Championship Series.

On deck, a pair of opportunities to wrap up that elusive pennant at Wrigley Field.

“The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re not going to run away from anything. It’s within our reach right now.”

The Cubs’ first opportunity to clinch comes Saturday night in Game 6, when Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw faces major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.

“That’s a game we expect to win,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said.

Of course, the Cubs were in the same favorable position 13 years ago — heading home to Wrigley with a 3-2 lead in the NLCS.

But even with ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood starting the final two games, Chicago collapsed against the Marlins in one of its most excruciating failures.

More than a decade later, the franchise is still chasing its first World Series championship since 1908.

“We’ve heard the history,” center fielder Dexter Fowler said, “but at the same time we’re trying to make history.”

Budding star Javier Baez was in the middle of everything for the Cubs, a common theme this October. The second baseman made a sensational defensive play when the game was still close in the seventh, and his three-run double capped a five-run eighth that made it 8-1.

After busting out of his postseason slump Wednesday, Russell hit a two-run homer for the second straight game. This one was a sixth-inning drive off losing pitcher Joe Blanton that gave Chicago a 3-1 lead.

“Just rounding the bases, it was pretty exciting,” Russell said. “Pumped up, not only for myself but for the team and that little cushion that Jonny had to go forward from that.”

Baez had three of Chicago’s 13 hits, matching the team’s total in Game 4, when the Cubs snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak and won 10-2.

Lester allowed one run and five hits, improving to 2-0 in three playoff starts this year. He has given up two runs in 21 innings.

The left-hander struck out six and walked one in a slow-paced game that lasted 4 hours, 16 minutes.

“These guys won the game for us,” Lester said, nodding toward Russell and Baez. “I was just kind of along for the ride.”

Anthony Rizzo’s run-scoring double gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first.

Los Angeles tied it in the fourth on Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI groundout.

Russell homered on an 0-1 pitch from Blanton, who gave up a single to Baez leading off the sixth. Baez stole second before Russell’s shot to left-center put the Cubs ahead on another unusually hot night at Dodger Stadium.

Blanton took his second loss of the series. The veteran right-hander gave up consecutive homers in the eighth inning of Game 1, including a tiebreaking grand slam by pinch-hitter Miguel Montero.

“Our confidence hasn’t wavered,” Roberts said . “This series certainly isn’t over.”

With the Dodgers trailing 3-1 in the seventh, Gonzalez found himself on the wrong end of a replay review for the second consecutive night.

With Baez playing way out on the outfield grass in shallow right, the slow-footed Gonzalez tried to take advantage with a drag bunt leading off the inning. Baez rushed in for a barehanded scoop and off-balance throw, but Gonzalez initially was called safe by first base umpire Ted Barrett. The Cubs challenged and the ruling was overturned.

In Game 4, Gonzalez was tagged out at home to end the second after diving with his left hand stretched toward the plate while catcher Willson Contreras applied a tag. The Dodgers challenged, but the video review upheld umpire Angel Hernandez’s out call.

Chicago jumped on struggling Dodgers rookie Kenta Maeda from the start. Fowler singled leading off the game and scored on Rizzo’s double to right two batters later.

Maeda gave up one run and three hits over 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings this postseason.

The Dodgers’ defense fell apart in the eighth.

Gonzalez tried flipping Russell’s slow roller to reliever Pedro Baez, who came over to cover first and bobbled the ball for an error.

Contreras followed with a pinch-hit single, and the runners moved up on pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr.’s sacrifice bunt. Fowler reached on an infield single to first, with Gonzalez losing a foot race when Fowler slid into the bag as Russell scored.

Kris Bryant reached on an infield single to third, with the Dodgers unsuccessfully challenging the call that he was safe.

The Dodgers thought they’d finally escaped the inning when Rizzo lined out to second baseman Kike Hernandez, who nearly doubled up Fowler at second. But the Cubs challenged the call and it was reversed, prolonging the inning.

Pedro Baez got yanked after walking Ben Zobrist to load the bases. Ross Stripling came on to face Javier Baez, who doubled to deep right, driving in three more runs.

“We can grab that momentum by one name: Kershaw,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t want to put it all on him, but if we score a couple of runs, we’ll feel real good.”

SCULLY RETURNS

Vin Scully was back at Dodger Stadium for the first time since ending his 67-year career behind the microphone earlier this month.

The 88-year-old Hall of Fame announcer attended as a spectator and proclaimed, “It’s time for Dodger baseball!” from an upstairs suite.

UNDERSTATED

Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur isn’t on the NLCS roster, but he’s contributing. A day after his bat was borrowed by Rizzo to hit a home run, Szczur revealed during an in-game TV interview that Russell wore a pair of his underwear leggings Wednesday after leaving his own at home.

UP NEXT

Dodgers: Kershaw takes the mound in Chicago on an extra day of rest. The left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason. Overall, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 4-6 with a 4.39 ERA in 17 career playoff appearances.

Cubs: Hendricks’ 2.13 ERA was tops in the majors this season. The right-hander allowed a solo homer over 5 1/3 innings in Game 2, his longest career postseason start. The Cubs lost 1-0 to Kershaw.

MLB Playoffs Roundup: Blue Jays bats go silent against Indians in ALCS

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TORONTO (AP) — Five games. Eight runs. Two shutout losses.

A power-laden Toronto Blue Jays lineup fizzled against Cleveland, finishing off a five-game AL Championship Series wipeout with a 3-0 loss Wednesday.

Bidding to return to the World Series for the first time since 1993, the Blue Jays lost in the ALCS for the second straight year, following last year’s six-game defeat against eventual champion Kansas City. Toronto was held to six hits by rookie Ryan Merritt and three relievers in the Indians’ second shutout of the ALCS.

“We never really had a big inning, never were able to really string some hits together and get a rally going,” Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said. “You can point the finger at us and say we didn’t do a good job, or you can point the finger at those guys. To get us out, you have to pitch well. You have to, and they did.”

No Cleveland pitcher was tougher than ALCS MVP Andrew Miller, who struck out 13 in 7 2/3 scoreless innings.

“It’s not easy to go through lineups like this,” Miller said. Still, the lefty sure made it look simple against the Blue Jays, who struck out 50 times over the five games.

An offense led by Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki produced seven extra-base hits in the series — three doubles, two triples and two solo home runs. The Blue Jays hit just .201; Cleveland was even worse at .168.

“I’m sure there will be some disappointments and grumbling and complaining about how you fell short again, but that’s not coming from me,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “I know what these guys did, and I think it’s a pretty good accomplishment. The key is we want to take that next step one of these days. Hopefully it’s next year.”

Bautista , who turned 36 Wednesday, and the 33-year-old Encarnacion may have been playing for the Blue Jays for the final time. Both are eligible for free agency, a subject neither wanted to address in a somber clubhouse.

“I don’t think it’s the right time to be taking about that,” Bautista said. “We just battled through a tough series. I don’t want to make this about myself, and I don’t really feel like I’m in the proper state of mind to be taking about that. I know it’s a possibility but we’ll see what happens.”

Gibbons said his two sluggers “helped put this team back on the map” after Toronto went 22 years between postseason appearances.

“We were staring at a playoff drought for a lot of years around here,” Gibbons said. “And they came through for the team last year, the organization, and then repeated it this year. And they really — both of them — made their name here in Toronto.”

Toronto slugged past Baltimore in the wild card game, winning on Encarnacion’s 11th-inning home run. The Blue Jays swept Texas in the Division Series, outhomering the Rangers 8-2 and outscoring them 22-10.

Bautista’s two hits in the finale left him 3 for 18 (.167) with no RBIs in the series, while Encarnacion was 4 for 19 (.211) and drove in two runs. Tulowitzki was 2 for 18 (.111) with no RBIs and Donaldson 6 for 18 (.333) with two RBIs.

“I know that I’m capable of doing a lot more,” Bautista said. “They pitched great. It was tough. They seemed to make the right pitches at the right time and got us out.”

Martin, who chased Merritt with a one-out bloop single in the fifth and advanced on pinch-hitter Michael Saunders’s hit, was Toronto’s only runner to reach scoring position. Reliever Bryan Shaw fanned Ezequiel Carrera and Kevin Pillar.

Toronto’s offensive funk was remarkable given the shaky state of Cleveland’s starting pitching. Carlos Carrasco (broken hand) and Danny Salazar (forearm) have missed the entire postseason, and right-hander Trevor Bauer left Game 3 after four batters when blood began dripping from his right pinkie, sliced open last week while he repaired a drone.

The Blue Jays hit .120 (3 for 25) with runners in scoring position.

“They never let us string base hits together,” Bautista said, “and when we had men in scoring position they seemed to turn it up a notch and go to another level of execution.”

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Los Angeles Dodgers’ Julio Urias sits in the dugout during the second inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Urias, Dodgers unravel in 4th inning of Game 4 blowout loss

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Julio Urias cruised through three hitless innings to begin Game 4 of the NL Championship Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ 20-year-old rookie starter seemed to be thriving under the spotlight.

Then the lights went out for Urias and the Dodgers.

In one miserable night at Chavez Ravine, they squandered a chance to take control of this series and lost their opportunity to win the pennant at home.

The Chicago Cubs ended their 21-inning scoreless streak with a four-run fourth against Urias, and the youngest pitcher in big league history to start a postseason game took his first playoff loss in the Dodgers’ 10-2 defeat Wednesday.

“I felt comfortable in that situation, but I just didn’t get the results,” Urias said through a translator.

Game 5 is Thursday at Dodger Stadium, with Kenta Maeda scheduled to pitch against Cubs lefty Jon Lester. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts reiterated he won’t start ace Clayton Kershaw on short rest this time, putting the three-time Cy Young Award winner in line for Game 6 on Saturday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Roberts said Kershaw was eager to pitch, but Game 5 “isn’t a deciding game. It’s not an elimination game. And I think the accumulation of his usage over the last 10 days plays a factor in our decision.”

Urias was in fine shape until the fourth inning, and so were the Dodgers’ plans to keep a powerful Chicago lineup off the board. The left-hander from Mexico didn’t pitch much down the stretch for the NL West champions, who gave him a postseason start with the hope he could realize his ample potential in October.

Urias walked two Cubs in the first three innings, but otherwise kept them mired in their slump — until Ben Zobrist led off the fourth with a clever bunt single. Urias acknowledged the bunt caught him off guard.

“That’s baseball,” he said. “Even if it’s a bad hit, it’s a hit. That’s how they scored their runs.”

Two more singles and an RBI groundout later, Addison Russell’s first homer of the postseason put the Cubs up 4-0 and well on their way to a series-tying win.

Adrian Gonzalez and several other Dodgers thought things started to unravel two innings earlier when the video review of a close play at the plate didn’t go their way.

Gonzalez was called out while trying to score from second on Andrew Toles’ single, and the ruling was upheld after replays that were interpreted both ways.

“I knew I was safe,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got plenty of still frames that prove I was safe. Unfortunately, it turned into a trial, and they said there was not enough evidence.”

Gonzalez believed his run, which would have put the Dodgers up 1-0 and kept the inning going with two runners on, would have given Urias a cushion in a high-pressure situation.

“It completely changes his way of pitching,” Gonzalez said. “Now he gets one guy on base, and he’s trying not to let that one run score, where if we’ve got that lead, he feels more comfortable. He attacks it a bit more. It changes everything. One little thing can change the outcome.”

While Urias didn’t finish strong, the Dodgers’ shaky defense played a big role in the collapse as well. Los Angeles hadn’t made four errors in a playoff game since the 1974 NLCS, but Toles’ throwing error on Willson Contreras’ soft single to left field allowed Zobrist to easily score the Cubs’ first run since Game 1.

“We played a very sloppy game overall,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes that happens. Obviously that was a big reason we lost today, but we’re confident we’ll play better.”

Down 5-0 in the fifth, the Dodgers still had a chance to get back in it. They loaded the bases against reliever Mike Montgomery, who accidentally deflected Justin Turner’s comebacker into shallow left field for a two-run single.

But Gonzalez and Kike Hernandez failed to reach base, and the Cubs turned it into a laugher moments later with a five-run sixth. The Dodgers’ defense chipped in again, with Hernandez and Joc Pederson making throwing errors while the Cubs batted around .

Thousands of Dodgers fans hit the freeways early, unwilling to watch a healthy contingent of Cubs rooters celebrate.

Now the NLCS is down to a best-of-three, with the Dodgers still two wins from their first pennant since 1988, and the AL champion Cleveland Indians waiting for a World Series opponent next week.

 

MLB Playoffs Roundup: Hill outpitches Arrieta; Dodgers beat Cubs 6-0 for NLCS lead

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rich Hill never strayed from his mindset of pitching in the moment, even when he was far from the major leagues playing independent ball with the Long Island Ducks.

Convinced there would be another opportunity to get back to the big leagues, he focused on executing pitches without worrying about his current circumstances.

Fourteen months later, Hill allowed two hits over six innings to beat Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs 6-0 Tuesday, giving the Los Angeles Dodgers a 2-1 NL Championship Series lead.

“It’s the biggest game of my career,” Hill said. “It’s just putting in the work, putting in the time, having a routine, persevere, all those things that you can say to sum up some kind of endurance or resiliency. For me, that’s all I’ve ever known is just work.”

Rookie Corey Seager had three hits, including a go-ahead single in the third, and Yasmani Grandal hit a two-run homer in the fourth.

After winning a big league-high 103 games during the regular season and sparking belief they could win the World Series for the first time since 1908, the Cubs have been shut out in consecutive games for the first time since May 2014, managing just six hits — five of them singles. Their 18 straight scoreless innings mark the longest postseason drought in franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“More than anything, I think we need to get a couple runs and hits and runs early to try to get that kind of feeling back,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, “because, obviously, when you’re not scoring any runs, it makes it even more difficult in the dugout.”

Hill, who made two starts in the independent Atlantic League in August 2015 before signing a minor league deal with Boston , struck out six and walked two. Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton and Kenley Jansen finished. Playing their 200th postseason game, the Dodgers posted consecutive shutouts for the first time.

Julio Urias starts Game 4 for the Dodgers on Wednesday and at 20 years, 68 days will become the youngest starting pitcher in postseason history. John Lackey starts for the Cubs.

“He’s not scared of the moment,” Seager said of Urias. “He’s not scared of anything.”

Hill was acquired from Oakland along with Josh Reddick at the Aug. 1 trade deadline. The 36-year-old left-hander struggled with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand that landed him on the disabled list from mid-July to late August. The blister still bothered him in the final weeks of the regular season, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled him after seven perfect innings against Miami on Sept. 10, saying the team had to keep its focus on bigger goals in October.

Hill was strong from the start against one of his former teams, retiring the side to open the game and later eight in a row. He’s given up one run in 23 innings over four home starts for the Dodgers, lowering his ERA to 0.39.

“When he’s got that attitude out there, you can tell,” Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. “That’s when you know he’s rolling, that his pitches are working, and he’s doing what he wants to do out there.”

Seager’s go-ahead single ended an 0-for-15 slide with runners in scoring position in postseason play.

Grandal was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts against Arrieta in his career before he launched a 3-2 pitch into the right-field pavilion in the fourth for a 3-0 lead. Grandal drove in Reddick, who singled and stole second and third.

“He’s been so good for the last couple years just because he doesn’t give in,” Grandal said of Arrieta. “He still made a really good pitch down in the zone. I was just lucky to put a swing on it and hit it out.”

Justin Turner homered on the first pitch leading off the sixth to chase Arrieta, who gave up four runs and six hits in five innings. He dominated the Dodgers in his previous two starts against them, including a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 30, 2015. Los Angeles had gone 2 for 51 against him in two games.

“It’s hard to go out there and pitch when your team is not scoring, so you try to be perfect. You can’t make any mistakes. If you give up one run, that can be it,” Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. “He had one of his best stuff all year, to be honest.”

Joc Pederson doubled in a run in the eighth and Grandal hit a run-scoring groundout .

Maddon moved struggling Anthony Rizzo from third to the cleanup spot, and his broken-bat infield hit in the ninth made him 2 for 26 in the postseason. Addison Russell, dropped from fifth to seventh, is 1 for 24. Jason Heyward struck out as a pinch hitter and is 2 for 19.

Chicago’s 3-4-5 hitters went 1 for 11 in the game and are 2 for 32 in the series without an RBI.

Dexter Fowler’s two-out double in the eighth provided the Cubs’ first extra-base hit since their 8-4 win in the opener.

“There’s no doubt here,” third baseman Kris Bryant said. “We certainly have all the belief in the world. It’s a powerful thing when you believe.”

With a win Wednesday, the Dodgers could try to finish the series at home.

“These guys won 100-some games. They’ve got the talent, so you can’t think ahead,” Grandal said. “If you think ahead, that’s when bad things happen.”

SHUTOUT BLUES

Four of Chicago’s eight shutouts this year have been against the Dodgers.

KERSHAW

Roberts hasn’t ruled out turning to Clayton Kershaw to pitch on three days’ rest in Game 5 on Thursday.

Los Angeles has announced rookie Kenta Maeda as its starter. He’s given up seven earned runs in a combined seven innings of his two postseason starts.

In last week’s five-game Division Series against Washington, Kershaw pitched in all three wins. He started Game 1 and Game 4, on three days’ rest and got his first big league save in Game 5.

“The series circumstances will kind of dictate what decision we make,” Roberts said Tuesday. “Clayton feels good after Game 2. He’s prepared for anything that we have for him. He’s shown the ability to adjust his routine or regimen for whatever is best for our club.”

UP NEXT

Lackey is 8-5 with a 3.22 ERA in 24 postseason appearances. Urias will be the third consecutive left-hander to start for the Dodgers. He earned the victory over Washington in Game 5 of the NLDS with two scoreless innings.

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Blue Jays stave off ALCS elimination, beat Indians 5-1

TORONTO (AP) — Just in time, Josh Donaldson and the Toronto Blue Jays broke out the bats to save their season.

Now they have a chance to really make things interesting in this AL Championship Series.

Donaldson backed up his fiery pep talk to teammates before the game, hitting a home run and turning in a timely diving stop Tuesday to help the Blue Jays avert a sweep with a 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians.

The Indians still lead the matchup 3-1, but with a couple of big hits and a strong outing by Aaron Sanchez, Toronto handed them their first loss of this postseason.

“I’m not going to give too much away of what I had to say, but just more so getting everybody’s attention and focus and understanding,” Donaldson said. “I mean, everybody knew coming into today how important today was. But at the same time I just wanted to kind of reiterate that and let the boys know that I was coming to play today.”

Cleveland will try again Wednesday to win to earn its first World Series trip since 1997, but the big concern for the Indians coming into the series — an injury-riddled rotation — still lingers. In Game 5, Cleveland will start Ryan Merritt, who has pitched just 11 innings in the majors, against Marco Estrada.

It was an emotional day all around at Rogers Centre, where the home crowd had fallen silent watching the season slipping away because of a slumbering offense that totaled only three runs in the first three games of the series.

“I thought we battled pretty good today, with the bats,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “Naturally, when you score, which we haven’t been doing, it always looks good.”

Donaldson’s solo shot to left-center field off Corey Kluber in the third put the Blue Jays ahead for the first time all series. Two innings after that, the star third baseman made an outstanding play to preserve a one-run edge.

Sanchez, the American League ERA champion, allowed a run and two hits in six innings, and the bullpen finished with three perfect innings.

Kluber was starting on three days’ rest for the first time in his career.

“I felt fine. I don’t think it physically affected me. I made a mistake to Donaldson,” Kluber said. “We’re one win away from the World Series and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Kluber hadn’t allowed a run in either of his first two starts this postseason. Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP and sporting a still freshly shaved face, opened the scoring with his first home run of these playoffs.

The wild-card Blue Jays made it 2-0 in the fourth when Ezequiel Carrera’s blooper fell between three Cleveland fielders in left-center for an RBI single.

Roberto Perez hit an RBI double in the fifth off Sanchez. Carlos Santana’s two-out grounder to the left side might have had a chance to score him, but Donaldson made the play to his left , then popped up and danced off the field with a bit of a fist pump.

“I was locked in,” Donaldson said. “It helps when you have a guy like Sanchez in the zone, where you can really focus in on a certain area of the strike zone. And I was able to get a really good read off the bat, and I was fortunate enough to be able to make the play.”

The Indians didn’t have another baserunner after that. Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna pitched an inning each in relief for Toronto.

Taking no chances, Gibbons brought in Osuna, his closer, in a non-save situation to finish off Cleveland.

The Indians were trying to become the third team to sweep a Division Series and Championship Series in the same postseason. The 2007 Colorado Rockies and 2014 Kansas City Royals both did it.

Cleveland had won nine in a row, including three straight over Boston in the ALDS.

The Indians had a chance to take the lead in the third when Tyler Naquin hit a leadoff double and went to third on a sacrifice. Sanchez retired Santana on a soft grounder with the infield in, and then Jason Kipnis also grounded out.

Kluber was pulled after 89 pitches. He allowed two runs and four hits in five innings.

The Blue Jays added two more runs in the seventh after a throwing error by reliever Bryan Shaw. Edwin Encarnacion came up with the bases loaded and the crowd chanting “Eddie” — and his hard grounder skipped off the mound and into center field for a two-run single to make it 4-1.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Trevor Bauer’s finger injury put more pressure on Kluber to come back for Game 4 and a possible Game 7 on short rest. Bauer cut his right pinkie on a drone and had to be pulled in the first inning Monday after he started bleeding.

“I had to witness everything he had to go through to try and go out there and pitch last night,” pitching coach Mickey Callaway said before Tuesday’s game. “Not too many people would have done that. He’s been wonderful. He’s obviously grown over the years because he wanted to.”

UP NEXT

Indians: The 24-year-old Merritt made his lone big league start on Sept. 30, when the left-hander held Kansas City to a run and three hits in five innings.

“If you told me on the first day of the season I would be pitching in the ALCS I might have thought you were crazy,” Merritt said. “To get this opportunity is awesome. It feels good that the team trusts me.”

Blue Jays: Estrada allowed two runs in eight innings in Game 1 against Cleveland.

MLB Playoffs Roundup: Kershaw helps Dodgers blank Cubs 1-0, NLCS even at 1-all

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CHICAGO (AP) — So much for October closer. With his Dodgers desperate for a win, Clayton Kershaw delivered the best start of his checkered playoff career.

The ace left-hander pitched seven sparkling innings, Adrian Gonzalez homered and Los Angeles beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0 Sunday night to tie the NL Championship Series at a game apiece.

Kershaw retired his first 14 batters and allowed just two hits in first outing since he pitched three times in the NL Division Series, including a two-out save in Game 5 on Thursday night in Washington. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner struck out six and walked one while throwing just 84 pitches in a brisk outing that could help when he returns later in the NLCS.

“It was one of those games where one pitch could have been the deciding factor,” Kershaw said. “So, really just kind of couldn’t look up for a minute for air and just kind of kept going through it and fortunate to get through it tonight.”

Kenley Jansen then struck out four in two perfect innings for his third save of the playoffs. The teams combined for just five hits for the lowest total in a playoff game since the Cardinals and Pirates had four in Game 4 of their 2013 NL Division Series.

“I think that you couldn’t have scripted it any better,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And it was just another fun ballgame.”

Roberts almost went to Jansen with a runner on first and two out in the seventh, but Kershaw argued successfully to stay in the game. Javier Baez then hit a drive to the warning track in deep center, but Joc Pederson was there for the catch.

“He hit it pretty good,” Kershaw said. “And yeah, after Dave came out and that, I kind of talked my way into it. I really wanted to — he was probably not going to trust me again after that, but, fortunately, he hit it at somebody, so it was good.”

Baez’s drive was one of a precious few hard-hit balls for the Cubs. Kershaw was that good.

The Dodgers needed a clutch pitching performance after their heartbreaking 8-4 loss in the series opener. And Kershaw responded with a gem that continued his reputation repair after a handful of playoff duds over the years. He was just 3-6 with a 4.79 ERA in 16 career postseason games coming into this series.

“I feel like every start he has the chance to be great,” catcher Yasmani Grandal said. “It’s just unbelievable to see him pitch, it’s unbelievable to see him compete.”

Game 3 is Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta, who pitched a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium last August, faces left-hander Rich Hill.

The Cubs lost a 1-0 game in the postseason for the first time since Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox blanked them in the 1918 World Series opener.

“Playoffs is always about pitching and defense,” said Miguel Montero, the Game 1 star for the Cubs. “Tonight we played great defense as well and we couldn’t score.”

Chicago, trying for its first pennant in 71 years, wasted a solid start by major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks, who pitched 5 1/3 innings of three-hit ball in his first outing since he left his Division Series start against San Francisco with a bruised right forearm.

Hendricks’ only mistake was a second-inning fastball that Gonzalez drove over the wall in left-center for his second homer of the playoffs. Gonzalez also had a tying two-run single in the eighth inning of the series opener, but Montero’s pinch-hit grand slam was the big blow in a dramatic win for Chicago.

A day later, the Cubs couldn’t get anything going against Kershaw.

“He kept the ball off the fat part of our bat,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He threw strikes like he normally does. So despite not having rest, his command and velocity were still good.”

Slumping slugger Anthony Rizzo just missed a home run with a foul drive in the fourth, and then bounced out. Baez and Willson Contreras hit consecutive two-out singles in the fifth for Chicago’s first baserunners, but Jason Heyward fouled out to third.

Nothing seemed to bother Kershaw on a muggy night at Wrigley Field. After Grandal dropped a foul popup in the seventh, Kershaw responded with a wry grin, and then struck out Ben Zobrist.

“I honestly thought with him pitching with a couple of days’ rest, he wasn’t going to be that nasty,” Baez said, “but obviously he came ready for us and he just did his job.”

Jansen backed Kershaw with flawless relief. The big right-hander struck out Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant before Rizzo lined meekly to second for the final out.

ABOUT GONZALEZ

Gonzalez became the seventh player in major league history to homer in at least six consecutive playoff series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was the third go-ahead homer of his postseason career.

WHAT A RELIEF

While the Cubs struggled against Jansen and Kershaw, Hendricks and their bullpen gave them a chance. Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, Pedro Strop and Aroldis Chapman combined for 3 2/3 innings of hitless relief.

Josh Reddick got Los Angeles’ last hit of the night in the sixth, putting runners on first and second. Edwards then came in and got Pederson to hit a soft liner to second that Baez let drop before starting a heady inning-ending double play .

UP NEXT

The Cubs and Dodgers work out in Los Angeles on Monday, and then Arrieta and Hill return to the mound for the first time since the Division Series. Arrieta made one start against Los Angeles this season, pitching seven scoreless innings in a no-decision at Wrigley on May 31. Hill, a fourth-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2002, has made one appearance against his first major league team, recording two outs in relief for Boston on May 21, 2011.

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A look at what’s happening all around the majors today:

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FLYING HIGH

Trevor Bauer and the Indians take a 2-0 lead in the AL Championship Series into Game 3 at Toronto. Bauer had been scheduled to start Game 2, but was pushed back after he said he cut the pinkie on his right hand while fixing a drone. Bauer, who needed stitches to close the wound, is a self-described “nerd” and big “Star Wars” fan who studied mechanical engineering in college and enjoys playing around with the flying objects. Marcus Stroman will start for the Blue Jays.

TAKE A BREAK

It’s workout day at Dodger Stadium with Chicago and Los Angeles tied at one game apiece in the NL Championship Series. Rich Hill is set to pitch Game 3 for LA on Tuesday against Jake Arrieta. Hill has been bothered by blister trouble, and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning in either of his two starts vs. Washington in the NLDS.

THE 0 IN TORONTO

The Blue Jays totaled one run over Games 1 and 2, and of their 10 hits, just one came against the Indians’ bullpen. Jose Bautista is 0 for 6, Edwin Encarnacion 2 for 7, Troy Tulowitzki 1 for 8 and Russell Martin 1 for 7. Toronto was fourth in the majors in home runs during the regular season got off to a powerful start in the playoffs, but hasn’t hit one in 27 innings, since the first inning of Game 3 in their AL Division Series against Texas.

WARMING UP

Injured Indians pitcher Danny Salazar threw what appeared to be a simulated game after Cleveland’s workout Sunday night in Toronto. The All-Star righty has been sidelined since Sept. 9 because of forearm trouble and isn’t on the roster for the ALCS. Salazar threw to hitters at Rogers Centre a day before Game 3. He was 11-6 with a 3.87 ERA during the regular season.

LINEUP SWITCH

The Diamondbacks plan to formally introduce Mike Hazen as their general manager. The 40-year-old served as Boston’s GM this season. Hazen replaces Dave Stewart, who was fired along with manager Chip Hale a day after Arizona finished 69-93 — its fifth straight year out of the playoffs. Hazen graduated from Princeton and played two seasons in the minor leagues.

MLB Playoffs: Montero’s PH slam lifts Cubs over Dodgers 8-4 in NLCS opener

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CHICAGO – (AP) — Miguel Montero delivered a memorable swing, Javier Baez stole home with his daring dash down the line and Jon Lester turned in another steady performance on the mound.

It all added up to another dramatic victory for the Chicago Cubs, who are off and running in the NL Championship Series.

Montero snapped an eighth-inning tie with the third pinch-hit grand slam in postseason history, and Chicago beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 in the opener Saturday night, moving the Cubs a step closer to their first pennant in 71 years.

“We hang in there,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “We don’t give up.”

Game 2 is Sunday night, with the Dodgers once again in need of a clutch performance from ace Clayton Kershaw. Major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks pitches for the Cubs, chasing their first World Series title since 1908.

Lester pitched six effective innings, and Dexter Fowler homered after making two diving catches in center field — breaking his belt on the second grab. Left fielder Ben Zobrist threw out Adrian Gonzalez at the plate, helping Chicago to its first NLCS victory in 13 years.

The Cubs pulled out 14 of their major league-best 103 wins this season in their final at-bat. They added two more in the Division Series against playoff-tested San Francisco, including a four-run ninth in the clinching Game 4.

And now, this.

“We’ve kind of proved we can overcome adversity in the game,” slugger Kris Bryant said.

Chicago was swept by the New York Mets in last year’s NLCS. Lester & Co. are back again and already in better shape following a crazy eighth inning.

In the top half, Gonzalez tied it at 3 with a two-out, two-run single off Aroldis Chapman.

Zobrist hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the inning before pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan was intentionally walked with runners at first and second and two outs, bringing up Chapman’s spot in the batting order.

“That was the right thing to do,” Maddon said. “I probably would have done the same thing.”

Maddon sent up Montero, who drove an 0-2 slider from loser Joe Blanton halfway up the right-field bleachers for his first hit of the playoffs.

“I trust Joe. I’ve trusted him all year long. He’s been great for us,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Left a pitch up. … It just didn’t work out.”

The crowd of 42,376 at Wrigley Field roared as Montero rounded the bases and kept cheering until the veteran catcher popped out of the dugout for a curtain call.

“I never even thought I was going to hit at that point,” Montero said. “To be honest, I thought Maddon put me out there just to bring the lefty and get (Willson) Contreras to pinch-hit for me, and they didn’t bring the lefty for Contreras.”

Fowler homered on the next pitch as the Cubs rebounded quickly from a shaky bullpen performance. Hector Rondon allowed Andrew Toles’ RBI double in the ninth before Chase Utley lined into a game-ending double play.

Chapman retired Yasmani Grandal on an inning-ending groundout in the eighth and was credited with the win.

“We’ll be ready tomorrow,” Gonzalez said. “This game gave us a lot of confidence. We know we can beat them.”

Lester and Baez helped Chicago to a 3-1 lead after seven. But the Dodgers rallied in the eighth, prompting Maddon to go to Chapman with the bases loaded and no outs.

The lefty struck out Corey Seager and Yasiel Puig before Gonzalez lined a 102 mph fastball back up the middle. A pumped-up Gonzalez celebrated at first base after delivering Los Angeles’ first hit in 12 at-bats with the bases loaded in these playoffs.

But everything changed in the bottom half, leaving both managers to answer for several difficult decisions. Lester was replaced by a pinch hitter after just 77 pitches, and the intentional walk to Coghlan put the go-ahead run at third.

“A lot of that stuff was preplanned,” Maddon said. “You look for situations. You’re looking for the right matchups. But you don’t know what he’s going to do. … You have to be able to react.”

Andre Ethier had a pinch-hit homer for Los Angeles, helped by a strong wind going out to left and left-center on a warm night at Wrigley Field. Kenta Maeda lasted just four innings in his fourth straight shaky outing dating to the regular season.

The last time Kershaw was on the mound, he got two outs for the save in Los Angeles’ clinching Game 5 win at Washington on Thursday night. The taxing final victory over the Nationals left Roberts with few options for the NLCS opener, and the Cubs jumped on Maeda for three runs in the first two innings.

“There were a lot of pitches I left over the plate that they took advantage of,” Maeda said through a translator.

Bryant drove in Fowler with an RBI double in the first. Baez, one of the breakout stars of this year’s postseason, added his own run-scoring double in the second, on a blooper into center over a drawn-in infield.

Baez was on third with one out when he initially broke for the plate with Lester squaring to bunt. Lester didn’t get the bunt down, and catcher Carlos Ruiz threw to third baseman Justin Turner. Baez hesitated, then kept going toward the plate. He slid in safely before Ruiz could get the tag on him.

Baez became the second player to steal home for the Cubs in a postseason game, joining Jimmy Slagle in Game 4 of the 1907 World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“It was a safety squeeze. I went a little too early and I saw I couldn’t get back,” Baez said. “This is the big leagues and a rundown is too easy, so I kept going.”

HISTORIC SLAM

Montero’s drive was the first go-ahead grand slam by a pinch hitter in postseason history. Mark Lewis and Ricky Ledee were the other pinch hitters to sock a playoff grand slam. Lewis connected for the Cincinnati Reds in a 1995 Division Series against the Dodgers. Ledee went deep for the New York Yankees in the 1999 ALCS vs. Boston.

UP NEXT

Dodgers: Kershaw pitched in all three Dodgers wins during the Division Series. The three-time Cy Young Award winner is 3-6 with a 4.79 ERA in 16 playoff appearances, including 12 starts.

Cubs: Hendricks, who went 16-8 with a 2.13 ERA this season, makes his fourth career playoff start. He left his Division Series start against San Francisco after taking a line drive off his right forearm.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

MLB Playoffs: Blue Jays-Indians open ALCS, Dodgers-Cubs set

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-   A look at what’s happening all around the majors Friday:

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OPEN UP

Edwin Encarnacion and the slugging Blue Jays visit Cleveland for Game 1 of the AL Championship series, with Corey Kluber starting for the Indians against Marco Estrada. Jose Bautista and wild-card Toronto hit eight home runs in their three-game sweep of Texas in the AL Division Series. Kluber was magnificent in his postseason debut, pitching three-hit ball for seven shutout innings as Cleveland swept Boston.

GETTING SET

The Dodgers will be working out at Wrigley Field, fresh off winning the deciding Game 5 of the NL Division Series in Washington. Ace Clayton Kershaw might not do a ton of throwing — he got the last two outs vs. the Nationals for his first major league save, two days after throwing 110 pitches in Game 4 on short rest.

ROTATING

Cubs lefty Jon Lester is all set to start the NL Championship Series opener on Saturday night against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field. The rest of Chicago’s rotation depends on the health of Kyle Hendricks. The righty exited in the Division Series vs. the Giants after being hit in the forearm by a comebacker. Hendricks threw a bullpen session Thursday and the Cubs are waiting to see how the major league ERA leader feels before confirming him for Game 2.

FEELING BETTER

Blue Jays reliever Francisco Liriano has recovered from the concussion he received when he was struck on the back of the head by Carlos Gomez in the ALDS. The lefty is expected to be cleared in time for Game 1 vs. Cleveland.

TALK TIME

The Giants want Madison Bumgarner to stick around. Two days after San Francisco lost to the Cubs in the NL Division Series, general manager Bobby Evans spoke with Bumgarner and told the ace’s reps the team is ready to begin talks on a new contract. The lefty signed a $35.56 million, six-year deal through 2017 that includes $12 million club options for 2018 and 2019.

MLB Playoffs Roundup: Kershaw gets save, LA tops Nats 4-3 to win NLDS

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A little past midnight in Game 5 of the NL Division Series, Clayton Kershaw emerged from the bullpen to pitch in relief for the first time in seven years.

Two outs later, the only save of his major league career in the books, Kershaw’s arms were raised and teammates were rushing to celebrate with a guy whose postseason performances have never carried the luster of his regular-season success.

Coming in after closer Kenley Jansen entered in the seventh inning and threw a career-high 51 pitches but issued a pair of one-out walks in the ninth, Kershaw got Daniel Murphy to pop out, then struck out Wilmer Difo to end it. That finished the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dramatic 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals that decided their NL Division Series in the wee hours of Friday.

“The adrenaline rush was pretty good right there,” said Kershaw, who approached Dodgers manager Dave Roberts in the seventh inning to offer to pitch if need be on the must-win occasion.

“At the at the end of the day, if we don’t win that game, we’re going home, anyway, so what does it matter?” Kershaw said. “I just wanted to be available, and it ended up to the point where I could help out tonight.”

The Dodgers won the last two games of the best-of-five NLDS with Kershaw pitching in each and now head to the NL Championship Series to face the Chicago Cubs. That opens at Wrigley Field on Saturday night.

The Nationals, meanwhile, still have never won a postseason series, winning three NL East titles in the past five years but losing in the NLDS each time.

And while there’s no way Kershaw will be available for Game 1 against Chicago, one thing’s for sure: Whatever notion there might have been about the lefty’s playoff problems — he was 2-6 in the postseason until this series, with an ERA nearly twice what he has in the regular season — is now a thing of the past.

“That (criticism) is ridiculous,” Dodgers President Stan Kasten said, his dress shirt soaked with alcohol from the postgame festivities. “That’s why I said to him, ‘Dude, you’re Mr. October.'”

Kershaw worked two days after throwing 110 pitches over 6 2/3 innings in Game 4, when he had the benefit of only three days’ rest following his win in the opener against the Nationals.

“Nobody wants it more than him — his tireless work ethic and how much he competes. And just for him to go up and tell them, ‘Hey, I can come in and close this thing out if you need me,’ just says so much about the type of player he is,” said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, whose two-run triple in the seventh helped LA build its lead. “He’s a winner. He’s a champion.”

How unanticipated was this work as a reliever? Several hours before Thursday’s game began, Dodgers first-year manager Dave Roberts was asked whether Kershaw might be available at all — maybe just for one out, say?

“No,” came Roberts’ reply. “Absolutely not.”

Turned out the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner would get a pair of outs in his first relief appearance since the 2009 playoffs.

“Clayton came to me in the seventh,” Roberts explained, “and said that he had an inning if I needed it.”

Kershaw came in after Jansen got a career-high seven outs. Jansen walked Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth with one out in the ninth — and that’s when Roberts went to Kershaw.

Kershaw wound up with his second pro save. His other came on Aug. 19, 2006, in the Gulf Coast League in a game against the Nationals’ rookie club.

And Kershaw’s catcher that day a decade ago?

Amazingly, none other than Jansen, who didn’t begin pitching professionally until three years later.

Jansen said he couldn’t recall that particular game. He assured everyone he’ll never forget this one. When Kershaw walked from the dugout to the bullpen before removing his blue jacket to start warming up, he got fist bumps from teammates.

In the tunnel that leads from the dugout to the visiting clubhouse, Jansen looked up at a TV and saw Kershaw getting ready to pitch.

“I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. Am I dreaming right now?’ I couldn’t believe it,” Jansen said later, just socks on his feet and ski goggles on his head, leaning against a wall in a clubhouse hallway. “I’m like, ‘Is Kersh warming up? Is he really out there?”

Sure was.

LA’s scoring all came in a four-run seventh off six Nationals pitchers, including Joc Pederson’s homer off Max Scherzer.

“It’s the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Scherzer, who took a no-hitter into the fifth. “We just didn’t get it done. No one’s a goat. No one made a crucial misplay. Everybody stepped up and did their game. We just didn’t get that extra run.”

Washington was leading 1-0 in the sixth, when Werth walked and Ryan Zimmerman smacked a two-out double to left. But third-base coach Bob Henley — whose propensity for waving runners home led to a popular T-shirt among Nationals players that says, “Send ’em short, send ’em tall, send ’em one, send ’em all” — sent Werth and saw him get thrown out easily on shortstop Corey Seager’s relay.

Wasn’t even close.

“You live and die by those moments, sometimes,” Werth said.

And in the sort of blink-and-you-missed-it game-shifting sequence, Werth’s inning-ending, overzealous bid to score was followed immediately by Pederson’s homer on Scherzer’s first — and, it turned out, only — pitch of the seventh.

That began a rally that included a pinch-hit RBI single by 37-year-old pinch hitter Carlos Ruiz, helping LA go up 4-1.

Then came pinch hitter Chris Heisey’s two-run homer in the Washington seventh.

Then came Jansen in an inning that took 66 minutes and included a total of eight pitchers.

And then came Kershaw.

The West champion Dodgers are back in the NLCS for the first time since 2013, but they’ve lost in their past three trips to that round, failing to make it to the World Series since they won their most recent championship in 1988.

And Kershaw had a hand in all three NLDS wins.

“Looking him in the eye, I felt good about it, and the training staff gave the OK,” Roberts said, “so it’s only fitting for Clayton to get the last out right there.”

MATCHUP

The Cubs were 4-3 against the Dodgers this year. The only other time they met in the postseason was the 2008 NLDS, which LA swept.

1-AND-DONE

The East champion Nationals are one-and-done in the playoffs yet again, losing in the NLDS yet again. Washington was beaten in five games in 2012 by St. Louis, and in four games in 2014 by San Francisco. Take it back further, and a baseball club based in the nation’s capital hasn’t won a postseason series since the old Senators were the 1924 World Series champions.

“I’m not ready to go home,” Nationals first-year manager Dusty Baker said. “I haven’t been home since February, but I would have gladly stayed a couple more weeks.”

Marc Rzepczynski was the losing pitcher.

YOUNG URIAS

Dodgers LHP Julio Urias, who turned 20 in August, became the youngest pitcher to appear in the postseason since Cincinnati’s Don Gullett was 19 in the 1970 World Series, the Dodgers said, citing STATS. Urias entered in the fifth and threw two scoreless innings and got the win. He walked Harper, then picked him off first base.

MAKE THE MOVE

Before this year, Roberts was best known in the postseason for his ninth-inning steal as a pinch-runner in Game of the 2004 ALCS that sparked Boston’s comeback against the Yankees. He’ll now also be remembered for his mound maneuvers that won this game — he used three members of his rotation, plus his closer in a career-long outing.

“These are conversations that me, the front office, we have daily, about just kind of forward-thinking, being open-minded to how you can use guys in certain roles. And today was a prime example,” Roberts said.

MLB Playoffs: Cubs rally for 4 runs in 9th, beat Giants 6-5 to win NLDS

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Kris Bryant tossed his glove high in the air, Jake Arrieta jumped over the dugout railing and the rest of the Chicago Cubs rushed to join the celebration.

Pure revelry and a sigh of relief, all at once.

World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs took another step in their championship chase Tuesday night by rallying for four runs in the ninth inning of Game 4 to beat San Francisco 6-5 and win their NL Division Series.

“You could see it coming. You could see little signs. We’ve done it before and the guys, we don’t quit,” Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler said. “It’s a little more special doing it here. They for sure were thinking that they won it. But we play 27 outs and we don’t give up until we win.”

Javier Baez’s tiebreaking single capped the comeback against a beleaguered bullpen that sabotaged the Giants one last time.

Four wins from their first pennant since 1945, the Cubs will open the NL Championship Series at Wrigley Field on Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers or Washington Nationals. That matchup is tied 2-all heading into the deciding Game 5 on Thursday.

Before that, the team with the best regular-season record (103-58) in the majors this year will get a few days of rest. Chicago was swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS last year and is still seeking its first World Series title since 1908.

“Expectations is a good word. Because normally it means that you have something good attached to it at the other side,” manager Joe Maddon said.

And after finishing off the resilient Giants, the Cubs should have their rotation all lined up for the NLCS.

“Pressure, expectations — I want our guys to thrive on those two words for the years to come. I want the organization to. In the end that means there’s a lot expected of you. Good. There should be. We should all have a lot expected of us,” Maddon added. “So all those things I want to have us channel in a positive direction.”

Held to two hits over eight innings by Matt Moore, the Cubs trailed 5-2 heading to the ninth.

No matter. One big rally ended San Francisco’s 10-game winning streak when facing postseason elimination.

Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras tied it with a two-run single with none out. Baez singled in the go-ahead run two batters later, and the Cubs capitalized on Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford’s second costly error and more untimely blunders by the Giants’ once-reliable relief staff.

One day after getting tagged in the eighth inning, Aroldis Chapman closed this one out by striking out the side in order. When he set down Brandon Belt to end it, Chapman’s teammates rushed to the mound to hug him and begin their celebration.

Maddon has his confident, power-hitting Cubs on an October roll. They already beat All-Star Johnny Cueto and ex-Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija, then waited until Moore’s stellar outing was done to pounce.

“With this team, the big thing is we never give up, we never quit,” said lefty Jon Lester, who figures to start the NLCS opener. “We always feel like we have a chance, whether it’s the first inning or the ninth inning.”

Soon-to-retire David Ross homered to start the third, hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth and threw out Denard Span trying to steal.

Downright unflappable for years in these pressure-packed situations, the Giants won World Series championships in 2010, ’12 and ’14. This was the club’s first postseason series defeat in the last 12.

“We don’t think we’re going to win the World Series every even year. I mean, it took 50-something years to get one here,” quipped manager Bruce Bochy, whose bullpen management was scrutinized throughout a disappointing second half.

The orange towel-waving sellout crowd of 43,166, perhaps spoiled this decade by the every-other-year title success, had been counting on a few more games by the bay this October.

Moore, acquired from Tampa Bay at the Aug. 1 trade deadline for games of this magnitude, struck out 10 as his former Rays manager — Maddon — watched from the other dugout.

Long after Cubs starter John Lackey’s night was done with just four innings, Hector Rondon pitched the eighth for the win.

WHAT CURSE?

Lester doesn’t buy all the superstition surrounding Chicago’s championship drought.

“Nobody really cares in there about a curse or a goat or anything else,” he said. “If we make a mistake, we’re not going to blame it on a curse or anything else like that. We’re going to blame it on ourselves and be accountable for it and move on to the next play or the next moment. … We’ve got too many young guys in there that don’t even know what that stuff is, you know what I mean? So, it’s almost better to play naive and just go out and worry about us, worry about the Cubs and not anything else in the past or, like I said, any animals.”

POWER PITCHERS

Two pitchers homered for the Cubs in the series: Arrieta on Monday and reliever Travis Wood in Game 2. The 1924 New York Giants were the only other team to have two pitchers go deep in a postseason series, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

“That’s pretty incredible, isn’t it?” Maddon said.

GIANTS INJURIES

Left fielder Angel Pagan missed his second straight start with back spasms, and third baseman Eduardo Nunez’s strained right hamstring is still slow to heal, leaving the Giants to contemplate replacing one on the roster. But no move was made before the game.

CRAWFORD’S MISCUES

The shortstop was the first Giants player to commit two errors in a postseason game since Don Mueller on Sept. 29, 1954, in Game 1 of the World Series.

______

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chase Utley watches his RBI-single during the eighth inning in Game 4 of a baseball National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Utley lifts Dodgers to 6-5 win over Nats to force Game 5

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Clayton Kershaw was out of the game, his head down in the dugout, the Los Angeles bullpen faltering and the season slipping away.

Chase Utley plucked the Dodgers from the brink, singling home the tiebreaking run with two outs in the eighth inning.

Suddenly, Game 5 was on the horizon.

One more chance to pursue the club’s first World Series appearance in 28 years.

“There is no quit in this team,” closer Kenley Jansen said.

The Dodgers avoided elimination Tuesday with a 6-5 victory over the Washington Nationals that forced a deciding game in their NL playoff.

Jansen worked the ninth for a save, one day after giving up four late runs during Los Angeles’ loss in Game 3.

“I got out there and focused and fought,” he said.

The finale is Thursday in Washington, with 20-game winner Max Scherzer set to pitch for the Nationals.

“Man, this is going to be a heck of a ballgame,” he said. “The effort from both sides over the first four games has been incredible. Great pitching, great hitting, defense, everything.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he will use left-hander Rich Hill and rookie Julio Urias, but did not announce which one will start. Hill is expected to get the ball first.

“If anyone gives up on this team, they haven’t seen us play a whole lot this year,” Roberts said, “and it starts with what Clayton did — short rest and leaving it all out there. Everyone fed off that.”

Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer for the Dodgers, who turned to Kershaw on three days’ rest to salvage their season.

The score was tied 5-all with two outs in the eighth when Andrew Toles got hit by a pitch from loser Blake Treinen. Ethier followed with a single to left and Utley singled to right, scoring Toles from second for a 6-5 lead.

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 as he and Bryce Harper battled through eight pitches before Harper drew a walk.

“Man, that’s what baseball is all about right there — a matter of will,” Nats manager Dusty Baker said. “Kershaw was on empty. We knew it. They knew it. Everybody knew it.”

Harper’s walk loaded the bases and chased Kershaw, who walked off with his head down. He sat alone in the dugout with his head resting on his right hand.

“Kershaw was outstanding,” Baker said. “That’s one of the best performances I’ve seen, especially on three days’ rest.”

But 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 5-3. Baez got booed off the field.

Daniel Murphy’s single off Luis Avilan dropped between Toles and Joc Pederson in left-center field, scoring two runs to tie it at 5. Avilan also heard boos.

Joe Blanton, who earned the win, retired Anthony Rendon on a swinging strikeout to end the inning.

“Our bullpen has been unbelievable,” Kershaw said. “Joe did what Joe’s been doing all season. He’s been through a lot in his career but he came in and shut them down.”

After failing to close out the Dodgers on the road, Washington gets one more chance to win a playoff series for the first time since the franchise relocated from Montreal. NL East champions in three of the past five years, the Nationals were unable to advance during their two previous trips to the postseason.

“That’s why we fought so hard for the home-field advantage,” Baker said. “This year, it’s coming to fruition.”

Desperate to avoid another early playoff exit, the Dodgers went with Kershaw, their three-time Cy Young Award winner who won Game 1 last Friday despite going just five innings and allowing three runs.

This time, he was charged with five runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out 11 — equaling his second-best postseason total — and walked two.

The left-hander was limited to 149 innings while compiling a 1.69 ERA during the regular season. He missed 2 1/2 months with a mildly herniated disk in his back.

Kershaw opened the game by giving up a leadoff single and a walk before Murphy’s RBI single.

The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning on Gonzalez’s two-run shot that scored Justin Turner, who was hit by a pitch from Joe Ross.

Werth’s RBI single tied it 2-all in the third.

Los Angeles again answered in the bottom of the inning, with Kershaw getting the rally going with a double to left field. He slid into second and clenched his fists in a rare show of emotion.

Kershaw scored on Turner’s single with two outs. Pederson got hit by a pitch from Ross with the bases loaded, forcing in Turner

Ross made his postseason debut for the Nationals, giving up four runs and three hits in 2 2/3 innings, equaling the shortest playoff start in the history of the Montreal-Washington franchise. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out three and walked two. He hasn’t pitched more than four innings since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 18.

LOOK OUT!

Five players were hit by pitches, including four Dodgers, which set a single-game franchise playoff record. Of the quartet, two ended up scoring. Werth was the lone Nationals player to get hit.

There have been 11 hit batters in the series, a postseason record.

“No one on either side is trying to hit anybody with everything on the line right now,” Scherzer said. “That’s just baseball being played at its highest.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg experienced discomfort in his right elbow during a bullpen session Monday at Dodger Stadium. He threw 30 or 31 pitches instead of the scheduled 35. Strasburg has been out since tearing the pronator tendon in his elbow on Sept. 7.

Baker said Strasburg was throwing the ball “very good” and he’s not concerned about the pitcher’s progress. Strasburg has said he would try to return this season if the Nationals advance to the NLCS.

CAN’T CLOSE ‘EM OUT

Baker has lost eight consecutive postseason games when his team would have advanced with a victory. That’s the longest such streak in major league history, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

ELIMINATION GAMES

The Dodgers improved to 12-15 in postseason elimination games since moving to Los Angeles.

MLB Playoffs: Nationals beat Dodgers 8-3 to take 2-1 lead in NLDS

This gallery contains 1 photo.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jayson Werth always wanted to hit a home run out of Dodger Stadium when he played two seasons in the venerable ballpark. His latest attempt came close with a 450-foot blast into the upper reaches of the left-field pavilion.

Werth’s homer helped break open a one-run game in the ninth inning, moving the Washington Nationals within one victory of taking a postseason series for the first time with an 8-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday and a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five NL playoff.

Heck, he even tied Babe Ruth with his 15th career postseason homer, good for 11th all-time.

“Ever since Dusty (Baker) moved me into the two-hole, I just felt like my job is to get on base for the animals behind me,” said Werth, whose three hits tied a postseason career high.

Four relievers combined for 4 2/3 shutout innings, putting the Nationals in position to wrap up the NL Division Series on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

“They work quick and they’re not afraid to go after anybody,” said third baseman Anthony Rendon, who hit a two-run homer in a four-run third that chased Kenta Maeda.

Werth added, “It gives us confidence. I feel like the bullpen is going to hold up and that might not have been the case or the feeling in years past.”

NL East champions for the third time in five years, the Nats were unable to advance during their two previous trips to the postseason. They lost in the Division Series to St. Louis in 2012 and San Francisco in 2014.

“I’m hoping this is our year,” Werth said. “We’re battle-tested, we’re playoff-tested, and we’ve got a good group of guys. We’ve been playing together a long time now, so I feel like this is our opportunity.”

Now 37 and with his 2008 World Series championship in Philadelphia long behind him, Werth senses time encroaching on him.

“Obviously, I can’t play this game forever,” he said. “So I feel like this is our chance and I also feel like maybe this is my last chance to do it.”

The franchise has won one playoff series — the Montreal Expos beat Philadelphia following the strike-shortened 1981 season before losing to the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.

The team moved from Montreal to Washington before the 2005 season.

Playing 23 hours after the Nationals tied the series at home in a rain-postponed Game 2, the Dodgers again struggled against left-handed pitching, a problem throughout the season when they had a major league-worst .213 average against lefties.

Four Washington lefty relievers stymied the Dodgers in the first two games. Facing lefty starter Gio Gonzalez in Game 3, they got three runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings.

The only Dodgers hitter with proven success against Gonzalez was catcher Carlos Ruiz, and he came through with a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the fifth that cut their deficit to 4-3.

“I made one bad pitch, but the bullpen was incredible,” Gonzalez said. “It’s tough to go on the road and win in the playoffs. I went after them but I wish I had that one pitch back.”

After that, the Dodgers mustered just a pair of singles off a Nats’ bullpen that included lefties Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez, and didn’t advance a runner past first base. Solis wound up with the win.

Now, the four-time defending NL West champions are facing elimination.

“We’re not afraid of this,” rookie manager Dave Roberts said. “There’s no quit in our guys. We’ll be ready tomorrow to win a baseball game, I can promise you that.”

It was still 4-3 when Werth homered on a 1-0 pitch from All-Star closer Kenley Jansen leading off the ninth.

Ryan Zimmerman added a two-run double that bounced off right fielder Josh Reddick’s glove at the wall — the hit scored Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper, who both walked.

Jansen, the team’s all-time saves leader, was yanked. Los Angeles used all seven of its relievers in the game.

Maeda gave up four runs and five hits in three innings. The Japanese right-hander who won a team-leading 16 games is one of seven rookies on the Dodgers’ NLDS roster.

“Kenta was missing and getting behind,” Roberts said. “His fastball leaked back behind the plate and they made him pay. It was a good game until the ninth. That’s baseball.”

Maeda retired the side in the second, striking out two, before wilting in the third. He opened the inning by giving up four hits in five batters.

Werth’s RBI double in the right-field corner tied the game 1-all. Harper hit an RBI single and Rendon followed with his two-run shot to the left-field pavilion for a 4-1 lead.

Dodgers rookie Corey Seager continued his first-inning success in the series, hitting an RBI double off the wall for a 1-0 lead after homering in the first inning of Games 1 and 2.

_____

Arrieta’s early 3-run homer doesn’t hold, Cubs lose Game 3

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Jake Arrieta had so boldly proclaimed October ace Madison Bumgarner could be beaten, and the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner nearly made it happen with his bat and that big right arm.

Arrieta hit a three-run homer in the second inning that held up for most of the night, but the game was decided by the bullpens hours later, and the Chicago Cubs will have to wait another day to try to earn their spot in the NL Championship Series.

Joe Panik doubled off the wall in right-center field to drive in Brandon Crawford with the winning run in the 13th inning, and the Giants staved off elimination again by outlasting the Cubs 6-5 on Monday in Game 3 of their NL Division Series.

The wild-card Giants forced Tuesday night’s Game 4 back at their raucous, sold-out ballpark, postponing a potential Cubs clinch party. Chicago leads the best-of-five playoff 2-1 and will send John Lackey to the mound opposite lefty Matt Moore.

“We played it hard, we played it right — and they beat us,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

Panik came through on the 57th pitch from Mike Montgomery, who was working his fifth inning of relief. Brandon Crawford hit a leadoff double on an 0-2 curveball.

“It’s definitely disappointing the way it ended, but I think we’ll come back tomorrow ready to go,” Montgomery said.

San Francisco won its 10th straight game when facing postseason elimination. The Giants are trying to extend their pattern of even-year championships after winning the World Series in 2010, ’12 and ’14.

Panik’s big hit ended a 5-hour, 4-minute game that was only 29 minutes shy of the total time it took to play the first two series games combined last week at Wrigley Field.

“We just have to have a short memory, forget about it. It’s over, just go out there tomorrow and get the victory,” Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. “It’s not easy. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Rookie left-hander Ty Blach was the winner, escaping a 13th-inning jam when pinch-hitter David Ross bounced into a double play.

Kris Bryant hit a tying, two-run homer off Giants closer Sergio Romo in the ninth after San Francisco rallied for three runs to take the lead in the eighth against Aroldis Chapman.

Bryant’s drive hit the top of the left-field fence and bounced into the seats, silencing the orange towel-swirling sellout crowd. The slugger received a warm hug of congratulations in the dugout from Chapman, who had just given up the lead.

With Bumgarner’s remarkable postseason scoreless streak at 24 innings, Arrieta drove a 1-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers in the second inning — and, as a bonus, a man in a blue Cubs cap caught it and jumped for joy at his good fortune.

Arrieta’s mouth hung wide open as he rounded the bases, pumping his pitching arm.

It was Arrieta’s fifth career home run, and the first Bumgarner had given up to a pitcher in his seven-year big league career.

_____

Indians top Ortiz, Red Sox 4-3, complete sweep, reach ALCS

BOSTON (AP) — The ball settled into the right fielder’s glove, the Cleveland Indians poured onto the diamond and the Fenway fans fell silent.

Then, slowly from the crowd rose a chant of “Pa-pi!”

Cleveland swept the Red Sox out of the postseason and sent David Ortiz into retirement on Monday night with a 4-3 victory that completed a three-game AL Division Series sweep. But even as the Indians frolicked on the field in their celebratory hats and T-shirts, Boston fans weren’t ready to let their beloved Big Papi go.

“I’m glad he didn’t get a hit to beat us,” manager Terry Francona said after leading the Indians to just the second postseason sweep in franchise history. “I thought it was an honor to be on the field, competing against him in his last game, because he’s truly one of the best. You could tell the way people were hanging around yelling his name and everything. He deserves every bit of that.”

Coco Crisp hit a two-run homer , closer Cody Allen got four outs and the Indians advanced the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2007. That year, they took a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series against Boston before losing three in a row.

Cleveland also blew a 2-0 lead against Boston in the best-of-five round in 1999.

But this year there would be no fold.

Perhaps inspired by the Cavaliers’ NBA title — the city’s first pro sports championship since 1964 — the Indians shut down Ortiz and the most prolific offense in the league. Rookie Tyler Naquin delivered a two-run single and Josh Tomlin pitched five strong innings for the Indians, who will open the ALCS at home against Toronto on Friday.

Cleveland went 4-3 this year against the wild-card Blue Jays, who swept AL West champion Texas to reach the ALCS for the second straight year.

“Nobody in this clubhouse doubts what we’re what capable of,” reliever Andrew Miller said as music blared and corks popped in the visitors’ clubhouse. “I think we saw in our games in Cleveland how much support we have. It’s a special place to be. I think we have bigger things ahead of us, but it’s not going to be any easier.”

To advance, the Indians had to shut down the most prolific offense in the major leagues and weather the emotional farewell to Ortiz . The Red Sox designated hitter went 1 for 9 in the series, collecting a sacrifice fly in Game 3 before walking on four pitches in his final plate appearance .

Ortiz was lifted for a pinch runner in the eighth and left to a standing ovation.

But that wasn’t enough for the crowd of 39,530 — the largest at Fenway since at least World War II. Chanting “We’re not leaving!” and “Thank you, Pa-pi!” for more than 10 minutes while the Indians celebrated their victory, the crowd finally drew the beloved slugger back onto the field.

Wearing a red warmup and a scowl on his face, Ortiz lumbered out to the mound and tipped his cap in all directions, tapping his heart. Only when the camera zoomed in on him did it become apparent that the frown was not regret over an early postseason exit: Big Papi was crying.

“Tonight when I walked to the mound, I realized that it was over. It was pretty much probably the last time as a player to walk in front of a crowd,” Ortiz told reporters afterward. “And the emotion came back out again.”

After two minutes, Ortiz retired to the dugout and retired for good, ending to a career that brought three World Series titles to Boston and transformed the once-futile franchise into winners.

“I’m happy, not just for me, not just how my career went down, but for the organization, the step that we took, from going from last place to win the division this year,” he told reporters. “Even if things didn’t end up the way we were looking for … it’s like going from bad to good, from day to night.”

Making it their goal to send their beloved Big Papi out as a winner, the Red Sox managed to win the AL East — the second time in four seasons they went from worst to first.

Boston raised fans’ hopes with an 11-game winning streak in September but then lost eight of its last nine games, including the playoffs. After winning the first two games in the best-of-five AL Division Series, and then waiting an extra day because of Sunday’s rainout, the Indians it took a 2-0 lead off Clay Buchholz in the fourth inning on Naquin’s single.

Tomlin gave up Andrew Benintendi’s Green Monster-scraping RBI double in the fifth, which gave some life to the Fenway crowd.

But with one run in, one out, one on and the fans taunting the Indians starter — “Tom-lin! Tom-lin!” — he struck out Sandy Leon on a pitch in the dirt and then Jackie Bradley Jr. grounded out to first. In the sixth, Crisp hit a two-run homer over the left-field wall to make it 4-1.

Buchholz allowed two runs and six hits in four innings, joining David Price and Rick Porcello as postseason losers.

Tomlin allowed two runs on four in five-plus innings. Miller pitched two innings , Bryan Shaw got two outs and Allen came on to face Ortiz with two out and a man on first in the eighth.

After walking on four pitches , Ortiz stood on first and waved his arms at the mostly dormant crowd. The fans rose to cheer for him and stayed there as Hanley Ramirez singled to make it 4-3.

Now representing the tying run at second, Ortiz was lifted for pinch-runner Marco Hernandez, leaving the field to a raucous cheer. But even after coming out of the game, his work wasn’t done: With one foot on the top step of the dugout, he continued to cheer the team on.

Xander Bogaerts hit a hard line drive to second and Ortiz jumped onto the dirt, only to turn around and walk dejectedly back into the dugout when it was caught for the last out.

In the ninth, Jackie Bradley Jr. singled with two out and Dustin Pedroia drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Travis Shaw worked the count full before popping up to end it.

“I was cheering so bad,” Ortiz said. “Once I got out of the game I was screaming at my team to put me back in it. Make me wear this uniform one more day. Because I wasn’t ready to be over with the playoff.”

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