Cubs eliminate Giants, Dodgers even series with Nats

Chicago Cubs players celebrate around pitcher Aroldis Chapman, center foreground, after Game 4 of baseball's National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. The 
Cubs won 6-5. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Chicago Cubs players celebrate around pitcher Aroldis Chapman, center foreground, after Game 4 of baseball's National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. The Cubs won 6-5. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Kris Bryant tossed his glove high in the air, Jake Arrieta jumped over the dugout railing and the rest of the Chicago Cubs rushed to join the celebration.

Pure revelry and a sigh of relief, all at once.

World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs took another step in their championship chase Tuesday night by rallying for four runs in the ninth inning of Game 4 to beat San Francisco 6-5 and win their NL Division Series.

“You could see it coming. You could see little signs. We’ve done it before and the guys, we don’t quit,” Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler said. “It’s a little more special doing it here. They for sure were thinking that they won it. But we play 27 outs and we don’t give up until we win.”

Javier Baez’s tiebreaking single capped the comeback against a beleaguered bullpen that sabotaged the Giants one last time.

The team with the best record in the majors this year will open the NL Championship Series at Wrigley Field on Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers or Washington Nationals. That matchup is tied 2-all heading into the deciding Game 5 on Thursday.

“I’ve seen it so many times from this group. It’s a big part of our philosophy,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Seeking their first World Series title since 1908, the Cubs will get a few days of rest before opening the NLCS. Chicago was swept by the New York Mets in a four-game NLCS last year.

Held to two hits over eight innings by Matt Moore, the Cubs trailed 5-2 heading to the ninth.

Now, they’re headed back to their second consecutive NLCS after snapping San Francisco’s 10-game winning streak when facing postseason elimination.

Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras tied it with a two-run single with none out. Baez singled in the go-ahead run two batters later, and the Cubs capitalized on Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford’s second costly error and more untimely blunders by the Giants’ once-reliable relief staff.

One day after getting tagged in the eighth inning, Aroldis Chapman closed this one out by striking out the side in order. When he set down Brandon Belt to end it, Chapman’s teammates rushed to the mound to hug him and begin their celebration.

After finishing off the resilient Giants, Maddon should have his rotation all lined up because lefty Jon Lester wasn’t needed to pitch a potential Game 5 in the Division Series.

Maddon has his confident, power-hitting Cubs on quite an October roll. They already beat All-Star Johnny Cueto and ex-Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija, then waited until Moore’s stellar outing was done to pounce.

Downright unflappable for years in these pressure-packed scenarios, the Giants had won 10 straight games when facing postseason elimination. The World Series champions in 2010, ’12 and ’14, their every-other-year title chance is over in ’16 with the club’s first postseason series defeat in the last 12.

“We don’t think we’re going to win the World Series every even year. I mean, it took 50-something years to get one here,” quipped Giants manager Bruce Bochy, whose bullpen management was scrutinized throughout a disappointing second half.

The orange towel-waving sellout crowd of 43,166, perhaps spoiled this decade by the every-other-year title success, had been counting on a few more games by the bay this October.

Moore, acquired from Tampa Bay at the Aug. 1 trade deadline for games of this magnitude, struck out 10 as his former Rays manager — Maddon — watched from the other dugout.

Long after Cubs starter John Lackey’s night was done, Hector Rondon pitched the eighth for the win.


Lester doesn’t buy all the superstition surrounding Chicago’s championship drought.

“Nobody really cares in there about a curse or a goat or anything else,” he said. “If we make a mistake, we’re not going to blame it on a curse or anything else like that. We’re going to blame it on ourselves and be accountable for it and move on to the next play or the next moment. … We’ve got too many young guys in there that don’t even know what that stuff is, you know what I mean? So, it’s almost better to play naive and just go out and worry about us, worry about the Cubs and not anything else in the past or, like I said, any animals.”


Two pitchers homered for the Cubs in the series: Arrieta on Monday and reliever Travis Wood in Game 2. The 1924 New York Giants were the only other team to have two pitchers go deep in a postseason series, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

“That’s pretty incredible, isn’t it?” Maddon said.


Left fielder Angel Pagan missed his second straight start with back spasms, and third baseman Eduardo Nunez’s strained right hamstring is still slow to heal, leaving the Giants to contemplate replacing one on the roster. But no move was made before the game.


The shortstop was the first Giants player to commit two errors in a postseason game since Don Mueller on Sept. 29, 1954, in Game 1 of the World Series.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Utley lifts Dodgers to 6-5 win over Nats to force Game 5
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Clayton Kershaw was out of the game, his head down in the dugout, the Los Angeles bullpen faltering and the season slipping away.

Chase Utley plucked the Dodgers from the brink, singling home the tiebreaking run with two outs in the eighth inning.

Suddenly, Game 5 was on the horizon.

One more chance to pursue the club’s first World Series appearance in 28 years.

“There is no quit in this team,” closer Kenley Jansen said.

The Dodgers avoided elimination Tuesday with a 6-5 victory over the Washington Nationals that forced a deciding game in their NL playoff.

Jansen worked the ninth for a save, one day after giving up four late runs during Los Angeles’ loss in Game 3.

“I got out there and focused and fought,” he said.

The finale is Thursday in Washington, with 20-game winner Max Scherzer set to pitch for the Nationals.

“Man, this is going to be a heck of a ballgame,” he said. “The effort from both sides over the first four games has been incredible. Great pitching, great hitting, defense, everything.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he will use left-hander Rich Hill and rookie Julio Urias, but did not announce which one will start. Hill is expected to get the ball first.

“If anyone gives up on this team, they haven’t seen us play a whole lot this year,” Roberts said, “and it starts with what Clayton did — short rest and leaving it all out there. Everyone fed off that.”

Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer for the Dodgers, who turned to Kershaw on three days’ rest to salvage their season.

The score was tied 5-all with two outs in the eighth when Andrew Toles got hit by a pitch from loser Blake Treinen. Ethier followed with a single to left and Utley singled to right, scoring Toles from second for a 6-5 lead.

Trailing 5-2 in the seventh, the Nats had runners on first and second against Kershaw with two outs. The crowd chanted Kershaw’s name as he and Bryce Harper battled through eight pitches before Harper drew a walk.

“Man, that’s what baseball is all about right there — a matter of will,” Nats manager Dusty Baker said. “Kershaw was on empty. We knew it. They knew it. Everybody knew it.”

Harper’s walk loaded the bases and chased Kershaw, who walked off with his head down. He sat alone in the dugout with his head resting on his right hand.

“Kershaw was outstanding,” Baker said. “That’s one of the best performances I’ve seen, especially on three days’ rest.”

But the Dodgers’ bullpen nearly gave the game away.

Pedro Baez came in and hit Jayson Werth with his only pitch, forcing in a run to make it 5-3. Baez got booed off the field.

Daniel Murphy’s single off Luis Avilan dropped between Toles and Joc Pederson in left-center field, scoring two runs to tie it at 5. Avilan also heard boos.

Joe Blanton, who earned the win, retired Anthony Rendon on a swinging strikeout to end the inning.

“Our bullpen has been unbelievable,” Kershaw said. “Joe did what Joe’s been doing all season. He’s been through a lot in his career but he came in and shut them down.”

After failing to close out the Dodgers on the road, Washington gets one more chance to win a playoff series for the first time since the franchise relocated from Montreal. NL East champions in three of the past five years, the Nationals were unable to advance during their two previous trips to the postseason.

“That’s why we fought so hard for the home-field advantage,” Baker said. “This year, it’s coming to fruition.”

Desperate to avoid another early playoff exit, the Dodgers went with Kershaw, their three-time Cy Young Award winner who won Game 1 last Friday despite going just five innings and allowing three runs.

This time, he was charged with five runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out 11 — equaling his second-best postseason total — and walked two.

The left-hander was limited to 149 innings while compiling a 1.69 ERA during the regular season. He missed 2 1/2 months with a mildly herniated disk in his back.

Kershaw opened the game by giving up a leadoff single and a walk before Murphy’s RBI single.

The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning on Gonzalez’s two-run shot that scored Justin Turner, who was hit by a pitch from Joe Ross.

Werth’s RBI single tied it 2-all in the third.

Los Angeles again answered in the bottom of the inning, with Kershaw getting the rally going with a double to left field. He slid into second and clenched his fists in a rare show of emotion.

Kershaw scored on Turner’s single with two outs. Pederson got hit by a pitch from Ross with the bases loaded, forcing in Turner

Ross made his postseason debut for the Nationals, giving up four runs and three hits in 2 2/3 innings, equaling the shortest playoff start in the history of the Montreal-Washington franchise. The 23-year-old right-hander struck out three and walked two. He hasn’t pitched more than four innings since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 18.


Five players were hit by pitches, including four Dodgers, which set a single-game franchise playoff record. Of the quartet, two ended up scoring. Werth was the lone Nationals player to get hit.

There have been 11 hit batters in the series, a postseason record.

“No one on either side is trying to hit anybody with everything on the line right now,” Scherzer said. “That’s just baseball being played at its highest.”


Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg experienced discomfort in his right elbow during a bullpen session Monday at Dodger Stadium. He threw 30 or 31 pitches instead of the scheduled 35. Strasburg has been out since tearing the pronator tendon in his elbow on Sept. 7.

Baker said Strasburg was throwing the ball “very good” and he’s not concerned about the pitcher’s progress. Strasburg has said he would try to return this season if the Nationals advance to the NLCS.


Baker has lost eight consecutive postseason games when his team would have advanced with a victory. That’s the longest such streak in major league history, according to ESPN Stats & Info.


The Dodgers improved to 12-15 in postseason elimination games since moving to Los Angeles.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.