Four more wins. It's been 108 years since the Chicago Cubs won a World Series, and 71 since they even participated in the Fall Classic. On Saturday, the Cubs broke the latter of the two curses, and they are now just four wins away from breaking the longer curse, following their 5-0 NLCS-clinching victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs rode a dominating performance from Kyle Hendricks, who surrendered just two hits over 7 1/3 frames, as well as two-hit performances from Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo, both of whom collected RBI.
The Cubs knocked Dodgers' ace Clayton Kershaw around, ending his spectacular postseason run. Kershaw gave up five runs, four earned, over his five innings of work, taking the loss in the defeat that ended their season. It didn't help that Kershaw, who looked mortal for the first time this postseason, received no offensive support, as the Dodgers mustered out just two hits, one from Andrew Toles, the other from Josh Reddick.
Kershaw gets knocked around by red-hot Cubs bats
After being shut out in consecutive games by Kershaw and Rich Hill, the Cubs' offense has erupted, to the tune of 10-2 and 8-4 victories that brought them to the brink of a World Series berth. Winless in their previous NLCS-clinching attempts, the Cubs just kept the ball rolling, striking for two first-inning runs, and three more tallies after that, to seal the deal.
After the Dodgers collected one of their two hits in the top of the first, the Cubs picked up the only runs they would need in the bottom half of the frame. Fowler led off the inning by hooking a misplaced slider, mashing a ground-rule double to right field. Just four pitches later, the Chicago speedster came around to score, as Kris Bryant stayed back on a 95mph heater, poking it the opposite way for an RBI single to right field and a 1-0 lead. A costly two-base error by Toles set up another run, as Bryant crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist.
The Cubs tallied another run in the second inning, when Fowler knocked out his second hit, and tallied his lone RBI of the night, slapping an RBI single to left field, scoring Addison Russell. who had doubled off a hanging slider to begin the inning.
Kershaw's struggles continued to shine through, as he let a respectable 3-0 score line worsen, essentially putting the game away. In the fourth inning, the Dodgers' ace hung another slider, leaving it middle-in to Wilson Contreras, who cleaned it out, scorching the offering over the left-field wall for a solo shot. Anthony Rizzo wrapped up the scoring with a dinger of his own, as he got around on a 2-seam fastball and yanked it deep over the wall in right-center field.
Hendricks dominates, Chapman closes
Maybe the only time the Dodgers felt a flicker of hope in this game was after a leadoff single in the first inning by Toles. However, that flickering spark was extinguished quickly, as Corey Seager grounded into a double-play. It was the only hit the Dodgers would get until the eighth inning, by which point it was far too late to matter. The only baserunner to reach between the first and eighth innings was Reddick on an error. Even he, however, was quickly erased on a nifty pick-off move from Hendricks.
Hendricks dominated throughout, striking out six in his scintillating performance. His six whiffs came on three different pitches, all of the swinging variety. He picked up three K's on his cutter, his bread-and-butter pitch, and two more on his excellent changeup that made hitters look foolish, hacking away at a disappearing pitch in the dirt. He also struck out his opposing hurler, Kershaw, on three pitches, all fastballs. He retired 17 straight batters, never allowing Dodgers' hitters even so much as a glimpse of a possible rally.
And, as soon as his starter showed signs of 'faltering', which was essentially giving up just his second hit of the ballgame, manager Joe Maddon yanked him in favor of flamethrowing closer Aroldis Chapman. Chapman induced a double-play on a 100mph pitch to end the eighth inning, bringing the Cubs within 3 outs. Those 3 outs came relatively quickly, as Chapmanwhiffed Enrique Hernandez on a blazing 102mph fastball. After issuing a one-out walk, Chapman induced one more double play, sending the Cubs to Cleveland for the World Series.
The World Series will start on Tuesday, at the home field of the Cleveland Indians. The Cubs will get three home games, if necessary, during the series. They would be Friday, Saturday, and possibly Sunday, depending on the results of the series.