Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Dodgers' Kershaw stands between Cubs and World Series in NLCS Game 6

CHICAGO — All that's left for the Cubs to do is make history.

The Cubs came home to Wrigley Field with a 3-2 lead over the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series and a chance Saturday night (8, Fox Sports 1, 620-AM) to end a more than seven-decade wait to return to the World Series.

"We're not going to run away from anything," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's within our reach right now. But I do want us to go after it as though it's, again, hate to say it, but Saturday. Let's just go play our Saturday game and see how it falls."

For a franchise defined more by heartbreak and losing, this will be no ordinary Saturday. Then again, this has been no ordinary season.

The Cubs led the majors with 103 wins and ran away with the NL Central title. They won more games than any Cubs team since 1910, and if they beat Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, they'll face Cleveland in their first World Series since 1945.

That will put them on the verge of their first championship since 1908.

But they face one of the game's most dominant pitchers in Kershaw. The Cubs will go with major-league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks.

Game 7 would be Sunday, if necessary.

"We've won two games in a row before," said Los Angeles' Adrian Gonzalez. "Nothing says we can't do it Saturday and Sunday."

The Cubs put themselves in this position by shaking off back-to-back shutout losses and combining to score 18 runs in the past two games. Jon Lester threw seven solid innings, Addison Russell had a tiebreaking home run and the Cubs won 8-4 Thursday.

Russell has gone deep in back-to-back games and is 5-for-10 after going 1-for-24 to start the postseason. Anthony Rizzo has five hits and a homer over the past two games after going 2-for-26. Javier Baez is getting big hits and making sensational plays at second.

Now, it's up to Kershaw to cool off the Cubs.

The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason and has been erasing a reputation for struggling in the playoffs. He had two decent starts against Washington in the NLDS and closed out the series-clinching win.

He was spectacular against Chicago in Game 2, allowing two hits over seven innings, and Kenley Jansen closed out a 1-0 victory.

Kershaw was ready to pitch Thursday on three days' rest. He'll get five between starts instead, though he will be pitching for the fourth time in 12 days.

"We're down a game, but we've won on the road before," manager Dave Roberts said. "We've won two games before. And I think that for us it's an isolated focus on Game 6. We get a rested Kersh. So with that, we feel good."

But it's the Cubs who are in position to move on.

World War II had just ended the last time they won the pennant, and the World Series that year is remembered as much for a goat and a curse as it is for the Tigers winning in seven games.

The Cubs angered Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis when they asked him to leave Game 4 because the odor of his pet goat Murphy was bothering fans. Sianis supposedly placed a curse on the franchise, and since then, it's been mostly losing with a few close calls for the franchise.

The Cubs had a 2-0 lead against San Diego in the 1984 NLCS, only to see the Padres win the final three games in that best-of-five series.

Thirteen years ago, the Cubs returned home up 3-2 over the Marlins in the NLCS. And fans still have nightmares over that one.

Chicago was five outs from the World Series with Mark Prior on the mound only to see everything come apart.

A fan named Steve Bartman reached up for Luis Castillo's foul as Moises Alou leaned into the stands. The ball deflected off Bartman's hands. Alou went wild. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez later booted a potential inning-ending double play. Prior melted down on the mound.

The Cubs lost that game, and they went on to drop the series finale even though they had Kerry Wood starting.

"We've heard the history, but at the same time we're trying to make history," Chicago's Dexter Fowler said.

TIGERS: Detroi hired Lloyd McClendon as hitting coach and Leon Durham as assistant hitting coach Friday.

McClendon is returning for his second stint with the Tigers after serving as bullpen coach in 2006 and hitting coach in 2007-13 before managing the Mariners for two seasons. He managed the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate in Toledo this season, guiding the team to a 68-76 record. He also managed the Pirates from 2001-05.

Durham has been a minor-league coach for the Tigers for 16 years.

McClendon, a Gary, Indiana, native, played 16 seasons with the Mets, Reds, Cubs and Pirates.

Durham played 10 with St. Louis, the Cubs and the Reds.

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