The Cubs did Tuesday what neither ALDS club could do Monday -- close out a series on its home turf.
The Cubs, hosting Game 4 of their series, finished off the Cardinals to advance to the National League Championship Series. It will be the team's first NLCS appearance since the fateful 2003 series that made Steve Bartman a household name.
"We beat the Cardinals -- these guys are like our older brothers and they've been kicking sand in our face for 100 years," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "There's a lot of similarities to when [the Red Sox] knocked off the Yankees in '04. This one just gives us a nice date on Saturday."
The Cubs did it the way they've done it for most of the year -- with sheer force. A day after belting six home runs in a Game 3 win, the Cubs blasted three more Tuesday to dispense of the NL Central division winners. The Cubs got solo homers from Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo late -- Rizzo's was the eventual game-winning run -- and both players finished the series with two jacks.
But it was Javier Baez, starting for the injured Addison Russell, who delivered arguably the biggest blow. After the Cards had jumped out to a two-run lead in the first inning, the Cubs answered with a run in the second before Baez came up with two runners on. On John Lackey's first pitch, Baez belted a three-run shot to right field to give the Cubs a lead.
The Cardinals would come back to tie the game in the top of the sixth against the Cubs bullpen -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon had a short leash for starter Jason Hammel, removing him after three innings -- before Rizzo's bomb in the bottom half of the inning swung the game back in the Cubs' favor. Lackey, starting on three days' rest, also lasted just three innings, with the four-run second inning accounting for all the damage against him.
The Cubs now have the luxury of setting up their rotation for the NLCS, allowing them to turn to Jake Arrieta and John Lester for the first two games of the series. And despite winning more regular season games than both of their prospective opponents, the Cubs will start the series on the road by virtue of being the Wild Card representative.
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Dodgers Stay Alive
Like their American League counterparts, the Dodgers were able to stave off elimination on the road behind a strong start from a Cy Young candidate.
Clayton Kershaw, pitching on three days' rest, allowed a lone run over seven innings in the Dodgers' 3-1 win over the Mets, forcing a Game 5 Thursday at Chavez Ravine. Kershaw struck out eight while allowing only three hits and a walk in the win.
Kershaw was opposed by Mets rookie starter Steven Matz, who matched his fellow southpaw pitch for pitch through two innings before the Dodgers struck in the third. Singles by Clayton Kershaw and Howie Kendrick were followed by an Adrian Gonzalez RBI single and a Justin Turner two-run double, both with two outs. Matz allowed the three runs on six hits over five innings of work.
The runs were all Kershaw and the Dodgers bullpen would need. Kershaw yielded a Daniel Murphy solo home run in the fourth inning but didn't allow another runner past first base all game. Chris Hatcher and Kenley Jansen combined for the final six outs, walking two without allowing a base hit.
Now, both teams will be forced to send their best starters to the mound in the pivotal Game 5. For the Mets, that means Jacob deGrom, who held the Dodgers scoreless over seven impressive innings in Game 1 of the series. deGrom struck out 13 in outdueling Kershaw in that start. The Dodgers will look to Zack Greinke, who also has a win in this series after tossing seven strong innings in Game 2.
Cano Undergoes Abdominal Surgery
After playing through injury for much of the second half, Robinson Cano underwent successful surgery to repair core-muscle injuries on Tuesday.
Cano had damage to the left and right side of his abdominal area repaired during the procedure. The surgery was performed by Dr. William Meyers of the Vincera Institute in Philadelphia.
Cano had played through the injury since July 28, when he suffered an abdominal strain. He missed a couple games immediately following the injury, but Cano was still able to play in 156 games this season.
And while the injury impacted his ability to sprint and make quick sudden movements, it didn't noticeably affect his offensive performance. Cano batted .287/.334/.446 with 21 home runs, 79 RBI and 82 runs scored this year despite the ailment.
Recovery will take around six weeks, leaving Cano ready for the start of spring training assuming no setbacks.
Quick Hits: The Cardinals played without all-everything catcher Yadier Molina, who was sidelined with thumb discomfort. Molina hurt his left thumb shortly before the end of the regular season and had been playing through the pain before succumbing ahead of Tuesday's game ... Chase Utley's appeal of his two-game suspension won't be heard until next Monday. The league actually attempted to have the hearing prior to Monday's Game 3, but Utley's representation requested more time. Despite the appeal, Utley still hasn't appeared in a game since breaking Ruben Tejada's leg on a slide during Game 2 ... The Padres are expected to interview Alex Cora for their managerial vacancy. Cora will also interview with the Marlins and Nationals, while former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and Pirates third base coach Rick Sofield are among the other candidates who will interview in San Diego ... Yasiel Puig made his first start of the series on Tuesday, manning right field and batting sixth. The outfielder went 0-for-4 in the win ... Russell, who left Game 3 with left hamstring tightness, didn't appear in Tuesday's game. The Cubs will have a few days to get Russell right, but it's unclear at this point what his status is for the NLCS.