Cubs

Jon Lester, Addison Russell come up big to put Cubs one win from World Series

Jon Lester, Addison Russell come up big to put Cubs one win from World Series

LOS ANGELES - The Cubs' goal all year has been World Series or bust.

They are now just one victory away from reaching the World Series for the first time in a generation (since 1945).

The Cubs took commanding control of the National League Championship Series with an 8-4 victory over the Dodgers in front of 54,449 fans in Chavez Ravine Thursday night.

After setting a new franchise record for offensive futility in Game 3, the Cubs stormed back to take the last two games in L.A. and a 3-2 lead with the series heading back to Chicago.

Jon Lester once again proved why the Cubs invested so much in him, tossing seven innings of one-run ball.

The Dodgers tried to throw Lester off his game with crazy leads, dancing off the bag and giving the veteran southpaw something to think about.

"People have been doing it all year," Lester said. "I just got done saying earlier, I'd prefer Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson to try to bunt. They're home run guys. They hit 30 homers, so I'd rather them put the ball on the ground and let these guys try to field it and take my chances that way."

But all that gamesmanship only netted one run off Lester - when Howie Kendrick doubled, stole third base and then scored on a grounder that Anthony Rizzo mishandled.

Offensively, Addison Russell came through with the big blow for the second night in a row.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

Dexter Fowler led the game off with a single and Rizzo doubled him home, but the Cubs let too many other opportunities slip past them in the early innings.

Until Russell's at-bat in the sixth.

With the game tied 1-1 and Javy Baez standing on second base after a Jason Heyward strikeout, Russell deposited Joe Blanton's offering into the bleachers in left-center.

"I was just trying to find some gaps," Russell said. "I was looking for something up in the zone to drive. First pitch slider a little bit low. Second pitch was a slider, but it was elevated and I put the barrel on it, and it kind of went. But just rounding bases it was pretty exciting. Pumped up.

"Not only for myself, but for the team and that little cushion that Jonny had to go forward from that, and I felt really good."

That was all Lester needed, but the Cubs tacked on anyways.

Russell led off the eighth by Respecting 90 to force a Dodgers error and Willson Contreras followed with a single.

After an Albert Almora sacrifice bunt, Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant each legged out RBI infield singles to give the Cubs a more comfortable cushion. 

A few batters later, Baez created even more breathing room with a three-run double to make it an 8-1 ballgame.

Lester now has a 2.50 career ERA in 119 postseason innings.

This fall, he has an 0.86 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in three playoff starts spanning 21 innings.

The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks to the mound against Clayton Kershaw in Game 6 at Wrigley Field Saturday night.

"It's going to be a formidable event," said manager Joe Maddon. "Our guys will absolutely be ready for the moment. I promise you that. It's great. The city of Chicago has got to be buzzing pretty much right now. I expect a sellout at Wrigley. It will be a lot of fun."

Cubs Talk Podcast: David Bote’s wild ride and a huge test for Cubs pitchers

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: David Bote’s wild ride and a huge test for Cubs pitchers

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs’ series win over the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field, which capped off with yet another David Bote walk-off and a surprising performance from Tyler Chatwood. They also break down where this Cubs team is at as they get set to welcome the high-powered Dodgers offense into Chicago later in the week.

:30 – The Kelly Effect

1:00 – David Bote’s wild ride

2:00 – El Mago’s magic pays off for Cubs yet again

3:30 – Bote’s adjustments

6:40 – Chatwood’s big day

8:50 – What’s next for Chatwood?

10:10 – Lester’s return is right around the corner

11:30 – Cubs pitching firing on all cylinders

12:00 – Did Kap jinx Strop?

13:30 – Dodgers pose a big challenge for Cubs pitching staff

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Add another chapter to David Bote's incredible story

Add another chapter to David Bote's incredible story

David Bote had to be feeling like the luckiest guy on Earth.

The Cubs were humming along in their quickest game of the season and two outs away from a 1-0 victory on a picture-perfect Easter Sunday at Wrigley Field. That was good news for him, because he had a flight to catch — doctors were inducing his wife, Rachel, and she was going to be giving birth to their third child that night.

Then Bote watched as Arizona's light-hitting outfielder Jarrod Dyson — he of 16 homers in 744 career games coming into the afternoon — sent a Pedro Strop pitch into the right-field bleachers in the top of the ninth inning to extend the game.

So Bote took things into his own hands.

Javy Baez led off the Cubs' half of the ninth with a double down the right field line, advanced to third on an error and then Willson Contreras was plunked by Diamondbacks reliever Archie Bradley.

Up stepped Bote, who watched a curve for Ball 1 and then narrowly got out of the way of a 95 mph fastball ticketed for his left temple. Bradley came back with a curve for a strike and Bote knew what to look for, waiting on another curveball and hammering it through the drawn-in infield for the Cubs' 10th win of the season. 

Minutes later, Bote had bolted out of Wrigley Field, heading back home to Colorado for the birth of Baby No. 3.

Speaking of which, Bote's walk-off hit Sunday came exactly 36 weeks (a little over eight months) after his ultimate grand slam to beat the Washington Nationals...

"It's a grand slam baby and now it's another walk-off for him," teammate Anthony Rizzo joked.

This is just the latest chapter in the incredible story of Bote, an 18th-round draft pick who endured seven seasons in the minor leagues before being called up to the majors. He doesn't even have a full year of service time in "The Show" yet, but he's already proven he belongs and carved out a permanent spot on the roster before signing a 5-year, $15 million extension earlier this month.

"From the homer last year, there was a lot of pressure and he slowed everything down," Baez said. "He just keeps getting better and he knows he's got talent and he can do it. He's got a lot of confidence coming off the bench and he's been huge for this team."

This was Bote's 42nd career RBI and it was already his 4th walk-off RBI. That means nearly 10 percent of his career RBI have come via walk-off situation.

"It's nice. He's had experience early [in those situations]," Rizzo said. "You can't teach that. He's had a lot of situations like that and he's come through. It's fun to watch."

This was only the 10th start of the season for Bote in the Cubs' 20th game, but he's found a way to stay sharp. 

After his 2-hit game Sunday, he's now slashing .295/.380/.455 on the season and showing off the adjustments he's made after hitting just .176 with a .559 OPS after that ultimate grand slam last year.

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