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MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez snaps out of funk to help Cubs avoid sweep

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MLB Playoffs: Javier Baez snaps out of funk to help Cubs avoid sweep

CHICAGO -- Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Chicago Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

Jake Arrieta pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning to held the defending World Series champion Cubs close their deficit to 3-1. Manager Joe Maddon got ejected for the second time in this series in the eighth, and a packed Wrigley Field crowd watched Davis get Cody Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play.

Maddon was heavily criticized for not using Davis during a 4-1 loss in Game 2. This time, the Cubs closer threw 48 pitches to finish the job.

Willson Contreras also homered for the Cubs. Bellinger and Justin Turner connected for the Dodgers, who had won a team-record six straight playoff games.

Game 5 is Thursday, with Jose Quintana pitching for Chicago against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (see full recap).

Tanaka, Yankees blank Astros to take ALCS lead
NEW YORK -- Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven innings of three-hit ball and the New York Yankees finally solved Houston Astros nemesis Dallas Keuchel, beating the ace lefty 5-0 on Wednesday for a 3-2 lead in the AL Championship Series.

Gary Sanchez hit an RBI single off Keuchel and later homered to help the wild-card Yankees win for the third straight day at home and move within one victory of their first trip to the World Series since 2009.

The teams head back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night, when Justin Verlander and the reeling Astros will try to regain their footing following an off day and force a decisive Game 7. Luis Severino is scheduled to start for New York.

Just days ago, Houston was up two games to none and appeared to be closing in on its second World Series appearance. But the Astros, like defending AL champion Cleveland before them, have been unable to put away these poised Yankees, who improved to 6-0 at home in this postseason in front of their cheering, chanting fans (see full recap).

MLB Playoffs: Yankees storm back for win over Astros to even ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Yankees storm back for win over Astros to even ALCS

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge ignited a rousing rally with a home run, then doubled during a four-run eighth inning to spur the New York Yankees over the Houston Astros 6-4 Tuesday night and level the AL Championship Series 2-2.

The Yankees trailed 4-0 against starter Lance McCullers Jr. until Judge homered leading off the seventh. He tied it with a line drive that nearly left the park in the eighth and scored on Gary Sanchez's go-ahead two-run double off loser Ken Giles.

The Yankees have rallied from a second straight 0-2 series deficit -- they beat Cleveland in the Division Series by winning three in a row to take that best-of-five matchup.

Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth, and New York improved to 5-0 at home in the playoffs.

Masahiro Tanaka pitches for New York against Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 Wednesday and rematch of the opener, won by the Astros 2-1 (see full recap).

Dodgers on brink of World Series after shutout
CHICAGO -- Yu Darvish pitched sparkling ball into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a commanding 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

Andre Ethier also went deep and Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth as Los Angeles set a franchise record with its sixth consecutive playoff win. Yasiel Puig had two more hits in another entertaining performance that included an impressive bat flip -- on a long foul ball in the first inning.

Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd NL pennant, the Dodgers will send Alex Wood to the mound Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a chance to reach the World Series for the first time since their last championship in 1988. Jake Arrieta, eligible for free agency after the season, pitches for the Cubs in what could be his final start with the team.

Los Angeles was eliminated by Chicago in the NLCS last year, but this is a different group of Dodgers. The lineup is patient and pesky and the pitching staff is much deeper, especially since Darvish was acquired in a trade with Texas in the final minutes before the July 31 deadline (see full recap).

MLB Playoffs: Dallas Keuchel strikes out 10 as Astros win Game 1 of ALCS

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MLB Playoffs: Dallas Keuchel strikes out 10 as Astros win Game 1 of ALCS

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON -- Dallas Keuchel faced the New York Yankees in the postseason for the second time and the Houston Astros ace shut them down again.

Keuchel struck out 10 in seven scoreless innings to help Houston to the 2-1 victory on Friday night in the AL Championship Series opener.

"I think it's just pitch execution, and it's just been there more times than it hasn't against the Yankees," Keuchel said.

Keuchel threw six scoreless innings in a 3-0 win over New York in the 2015 AL wild card game.

He allowed four hits -- all singles -- and walked one to improve to 8-2 with a 1.09 ERA in eight starts against the Yankees in the regular season and postseason combined. He joined Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott as the only Astros pitchers to reach double digits in strikeouts in a postseason game.

"Late movement -- he moves the ball and he commands it well," the Yankees Greg Bird said.

Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel hit RBI singles in the fourth off loser Masahiro Tanaka, and left fielder Marwin Gonzalez threw out Bird at the plate trying to score on Aaron Judge's two-out single in the fifth.

"We had a shot," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "If Bird's safe maybe we really get to him in that inning."

Bird homered off Ken Giles with two outs in the ninth, and the closer struck out pinch-hitter Jacoby Ellsbury . Giles, who threw a season-high 37 pitches, escaped a two-out jam in the eighth by striking out Didi Gregorius .

Greeted by MVP chants each time to the plate, Jose Altuve had three more hits and at 11 for 19 (.579) has the most hits in a team's first five postseason games since Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.

Houston is in the Championship Series for the first time since beating St. Louis in 2005. The Yankees, who overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat Cleveland in the Division Series, lost their sixth straight ALCS game since 2010.

After the Astros totaled eight runs in the first innings of their four AL Division Series games, Tanaka kept the Astros hitless until Altuve's infield single rolled through the pitcher's legs in the fourth. Altuve swiped second before scoring on Correa's single. Gurriel followed with a two-out single, his 10th hit of the postseason.

Bird singled to start the fifth and Matt Holliday, making his first appearance of the postseason, reached when Altuve dropped his slow bouncer to second for an error. Judge singled with two outs and Gonzalez, throwing with such force that he fell to the ground, made a 97 mph one-hop throw to catcher Brian McCann, who tagged the sliding Bird.

"That was their best moment in the game, (I needed) to stop the momentum," Gonzalez said. "All I was thinking was to go get the ball as fast as I could."

The call was confirmed in a video review.

"I'm too slow. I wish I was a little faster," Bird said.

Primarily an infielder, Gonzalez had just two outfield assists in the regular season. He beat his hand into his glove three times in celebration after watching McCann make the tag.

"It's one of the best throws I've ever seen from an outfielder," Correa said. "Long hop, low tag right there. It was just perfect. Unbelievable."

Gonzalez threw out Boston's Mitch Moreland at the plate in the Division Series finale and is the first outfielder with assists in consecutive postseason games since Jim Rice in the 1986 World Series. He joined Lance Berkman as the only players in franchise history to have two outfield assists in one postseason.

After controversially failing to challenge a call in Game 2 of the Division Series, Girardi didn't hesitate to ask for a review.

"We thought he was out," he said. "But God knows I'm not doing that again."

Up next
Yankees: Luis Severino will make his third start of this postseason on Saturday. Severino yielded three runs and four hits in seven innings of a win in Game 4 of the ALDS to bounce back after allowing three runs and getting just one out in the wild-card game.

"I feel good, I feel confident in myself," he said. "I knew that that first start I did, that wasn't me, and I made adjustments. That's how we do it; we make adjustments and the second start I put in place those adjustments and did good."

Astros: Justin Verlander is scheduled to make his 18th playoff start on Saturday. Verlander got the win in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox and picked up win No. 2 of this postseason when he made his first career relief appearance in Game 4. He's 9-5 with a 3.36 ERA and 115 strikeouts in his postseason career.

Game 3
Manager A.J. Hinch announced that Charlie Morton will start Game 3 and that Lance McCullers, a starter who pitched in relief in the ALDS, could pitch Game 4. The Yankees will start CC Sabathia in Game 3 and Sonny Gray in Game 4.