Sunday, December 17, 2017
Sports

Comeback sends Maddon's Cubs to NLCS

SAN FRANCISCO — Javier Baez's tiebreaking single capped a four-run ninth-inning rally, and the Cubs beat the Giants 6-5 on Tuesday night in Game 4 to win their NL Division Series.

Chasing their first World Series title since 1908, the Cubs will open the NL Championship Series at home Saturday against the Dodgers or Nationals.

Held to two hits over eight dominant innings by former Ray Matt Moore, the Cubs trailed 5-2 before coming back against San Francisco's beleaguered bullpen.

Now, the Cubs are going to their second straight NLCS after ending San Francisco's 10-game winning streak in postseason elimination games.

Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras tied it with a two-run single with none out. Baez singled in Jason Heyward for 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.

It was the second blown save in as many nights for San Francisco and the franchise-record 32nd overall this season.

One day after getting tagged in the eighth inning of Chicago's 6-5 loss in 13, 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 the celebration.

Cubs players gathered on the mound, fresh white caps adorning their heads, and posed for a group photo before bouncing up and down. They waved and saluted their loyal blue-clad fans cheering madly from the seats above the visitors' dugout.

Chicago earns another short break before opening the NLCS at Wrigley Field. Cubs manager Joe Maddon should have his rotation all lined up; left-hander Jon Lester was not needed to pitch a potential Game 5.

Dodgers rebound

LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw left with a lead in the seventh inning and the bases loaded. After the bullpen faltered, veterans Chase Utley and Andre Ethier rescued the Dodgers.

Utley singled home the tiebreaking run with two outs in the eighth, and Los Angeles avoided elimination with a 6-5 victory over the Nationals that forced a deciding Game 5 in their NL Division Series.

Kenley 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.

Game 5 is Thursday in Washington, with Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer set to pitch for the Nationals.

"Man, this is going to be a heck of a ballgame," Scherzer 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 left-hander Julio Urias but did not announce which one will start.

"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."

SETBACK FOR STRASBURG: Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg's bullpen session at Dodger Stadium was cut short after he felt discomfort in his pitching elbow. Strasburg has been out since tearing the pronator tendon in his elbow Sept. 7.

JAYS TAB ESTRADA: The Blue Jays picked right-hander Marco Estrada to start Game 1 of the AL Championship Series in Cleveland on Friday night. Estrada allowed one run in 81/3 innings against the Rangers in the AL Division Series opener Thursday.

AROUND THE MAJORS: The Braves named Brian Snitker manager, rewarding him for reversing the team's direction in his role as interim manager this season. Snitker, who'll be 61 next week, signed a one-year contract with a club option for 2018. Tampa native and former Devil Rays pitching coach Chuck Hernandez was promoted to pitching coach. … Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia had surgery on his troublesome right knee.

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