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."

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

USA Today

Yu Darvish thinks Houston Astros should be stripped of 2017 World Series title

The Astros' sign-stealing scandal is personal for a lot of players, though it probably hits a little differently for Yu Darvish. 

Darvish was a member of the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers team that Houston beat in the World Series. Darvish didn't have his best performance in the series and when asked about the scandal, the Cubs' pitcher didn't hold back:

It's a weird feeling. Like, in the Olympics, when a player cheats, you can't have a Gold medal, right? But they still have as World Series title. That makes me feel weird. That's it. And one more thing. With [Carlos] Correra talking about [Cody] Bellinger. I saw that yesterday. So they cheat, and I think right now that they don't have to talk. They shouldn't talk like that right now.

You can watch the video of Darvish's comments, from ESPN's Jesse Rogers, it right here.

The comments took on a life of their own, as Astros' soundbytes have been known to do over the last few weeks or so. Darvish was ready for the clapback, though, and delivered a final blow to some poor 'Stros fan who thought he could compete with Darvish on twitter dot com. 

Sign a lifetime contract, Yu. Never leave us.

Related: Bryant crushes Astros for cheating scandal: 'What a disgrace that was' 

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Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career


Jason Kipnis comes home looking to write one final chapter of his career

Jason Kipnis, who’s potentially the Cubs’ new second baseman but indisputably the pride of Northbrook, said there’s one major reason why his possible reunion with Wrigley Field is so exciting.

“Now I don’t have to hate the 'Go Cubs Go' song,” he quipped.

Kipnis was a late addition to the Cubs’ roster, and still not even a guaranteed one at that. After almost a decade spent being one of the Cleveland Indians’ cornerstones, Kipnis arrived in Mesa on a minor league contract, looking to win a job. Ironically, being with his hometown team is unfamiliar territory for the two-time All-Star. 

“[Leaving Cleveland] was hard at first,” he said. “You get used to the same place for 9-10 years, and I think it’s a little hard right now coming in and being the new guy and being lost and not knowing where to go. But it’ll be fun. It’s exciting. It’s kind of out of the comfort zone again, which is kind of what you want right now – to be uncomfortable. I don’t know, I’ve missed this feeling a little bit, so it’ll be good.”

It was a slow offseason for the second baseman, but the second baseman said he was weighing offers from several teams. Opportunity and organizational direction dictated most of his decision-making, but Kipnis admitted the forces around him were all, rather unsubtly, pulling him in one direction.

“They were telling me to take a deal, take a cut, whatever. Just get here,” he joked. “... It made sense, it really did. I think I didn't fully understand it until it was announced and my phone started blowing up and I realized just how many people this impacted around my life. Friends and family still live in Chicago, so it’s going to be exciting.”

The theme of renewed motivation has hung around Sloan Park like an early-morning Arizona chill, and Kipnis said part of the reason he feels the Cubs brought him in is to set a fire under some guys. He talked with Anthony Rizzo during the offseason, who talked about how the Cubs had struggled at times to put an appropriate emphasis on each of the 162 games in a regular season. That’s not a new problem in baseball, and it struck a chord with Kipnis, who himself was on plenty of talented Cleveland teams that never got over the hump. 

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” he said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys' roster.’” 

As for his direct competition, Kipnis said he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know Nico Hoerner yet, but doesn’t feel like the battle for second base has to be a contentious one by any means. At 32, Kipnis has been around long enough to understand the dynamics an aging veteran vs. a top prospect, and doesn't feel like it’s a situation where only one of them will end up benefiting. 

“I know he came up and had a pretty good success, so I think [it’s] going to be a competition, but at the same time, I’m not going to try to put him down,” he said. “I’d like to work with him, kind of teach him what I know too and hopefully both of us become better from it.”