The Chicago Cubs are a win away from the MLB World Series after an 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs' offense seems to have found form once more, as they took a 3-2 National League (NL) Championship Series lead on Thursday.
Addison Russell hit a two-run homer, Anthony Rizzo had an RBI double and Javier Baez a three-run double.
The Cubs broke the game open with a five-run eighth inning and can seal the series at Wrigley Field on Saturday.
Jon Lester started and was strong for the Cubs, giving up just five hits and striking out six in seven innings.
Mind games do not impact Lester. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game his players were going to take "huge leads" and try to bunt on Lester to "try to get in his psyche a little bit" since the pitcher is known as being a bad defender that rarely throws to first to hold the runner. The Dodgers that did get on base against Lester did go to some drastic measures to try and distract the Cubs starter but Lester was unfazed as he struck out six on 108 pitches. The stellar playoff start is nothing new for Lester, who now has nine postseason starts of six-plus innings with one or fewer runs allowed, the sixth-most such games in MLB history. Only Tom Glavine (14), Andy Pettitte (12), Curt Schilling (11), John Smoltz and Roger Clemens (10) have more.
Dodgers shakeup line-up to no avail. Roberts benched Chase Utley, Josh Reddick, Yasmani Grandal and Andrew Toles, looking rather for Carlos Ruiz, Howie Kendrick, Yasiel Puig and Kike Hernandez to provide a spark against the left-handed Lester. The Dodgers ranked last in average against lefties during the regular season but Ruiz, Puig, and Hernandez combined to go zero-for-eight against Lester. LA did have some chances before Chicago blew things open in the eighth but went zero-for-four with runners in scoring position.
Joe Blanton blows up again. The starter-turned-reliever was one of the best bullpen pieces the Dodgers had all season as the 35-year-old right-hander went 7-2 with a 2.48 ERA during the regular season but it all went out the window this postseason. After giving up a grand slam to Miguel Montero in game one of the NLCS, Blanton served up the go-ahead homer to Russell and has now given up five extra-base hits in 7.2 postseason innings after allowing 18 such hits in 80 innings during the regular season.
RUSSELL HOMERS AGAIN
Russell joined Alex Gonzalez as the only Cubs shortstops to hit multiple home runs in the postseason.
DODGERS LOOK TO STAY ALIVE
After five full days off, Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA) gets the ball for the Dodgers as the club hope to stave off elimination and improve to 5-0 when Kershaw pitches this postseason. Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA), who suffered the tough-luck loss in game two after surrendering just one run on three hits, takes the mound for the Cubs.