2016 National League Championship Series
|2016 National League Championship Series|
103 - 58 in the NL
|4 - 2
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
91 - 71 in the NL
- Paul Nauert, Eric Cooper, Gary Cederstrom (crew chief), Angel Hernandez, Alfonso Marquez and Ted Barrett
|1||Los Angeles Dodgers 4 Chicago Cubs 8||October 15||Kenta Maeda (0-0) Jon Lester (0-0)||8:08 pm|
|2||Los Angeles Dodgers 1 Chicago Cubs 0||October 16||Clayton Kershaw (1-0) Kyle Hendricks (0-1)||8:08 pm|
|3||Chicago Cubs 0 Los Angeles Dodgers 6||October 18||Jake Arrieta (0-1) Rich Hill (1-0)||8:08 pm|
|4||Chicago Cubs 10 Los Angeles Dodgers 2||October 19||John Lackey (0-0) Julio Urias (0-1)||8:08 pm|
|5||Chicago Cubs 8 Los Angeles Dodgers 4||October 20||Jon Lester (1-0) Kenta Maeda (0-0)||8:08 pm|
|6||Los Angeles Dodgers 0 Chicago Cubs 5||October 22||Clayton Kershaw (1-1) Kyle Hendricks (1-1)||8:08 pm|
Game 1 @ Wrigley Field
|WP: Aroldis Chapman (1-0); LP: Joe Blanton (0-1)|
|Home Runs: LA - Andre Ethier (1); CHI - Miguel Montero (1), Dexter Fowler (1)|
- Attendance: 42,376
The Cubs won Game 1, 8-4, although the final score obscured the fact that this was a low-scoring game until the 8th inning. The Dodgers' pitching staff had been taxed during the Division Series, but starter Kenta Maeda was not one of the pitchers manager Dave Roberts had had to overuse, as he was working on normal rest. His opponent, Jon Lester, had not pitched since starting and winning Game 1 of the other NLDS, back on October 7th, so he was fully rested as well. The Dodgers had made a couple of changes to their roster before the series, among them activating utility player Enrique Hernandez, who started this game at second base. Roberts also chose to start Yasiel Puig in right field, Howie Kendrick in left and Carlos Ruiz at catcher, maximizing the number of right-handed batters in his line-up against Lester.
The Cubs drew first blood in the bottom of the 1st when Dexter Fowler led off with a single and Kris Bryant followed with a double. Maeda was in deep trouble from the get-go, but he managed to rally by retiring the next three batters without allowing Bryant to score. In the 2nd, the Dodgers got something going against Lester. Adrian Gonzalez led off with a single and after one out, Hernandez drew a walk. Lester struck out Joc Pederson to bring up Maeda, who managed to hit a single to left. However, in a poor decision, the Dodgers sent the slow-footed Gonzalez home, and he was easily retired by Ben Zobrist's throw to David Ross. Chicago then made things worst by scoring two more runs in the bottom of the inning. Jason Heyward led off with a triple to the right field corner and scored when, with the infield playing in, Javier Baez dropped a ball in short left center between a trio of converging players; hustling all the way, Baez slid safely into second with a double while Heyward scored. After one out and with Lester at bat, Maeda threw a wild pitch to move Baez to third, then, with the Cubs trying to lay down a squeeze bunt, he threw wide of the plate, catching Baez in no man's land between third and home. Ruiz immediately threw to third to try to pick-off Baez, but his throw was wide and in any case Baez had decided to run straight home, By the time 3B Justin Turner turned around and threw back to the catcher, Baez had slid in safely under Ruiz for a steal of home. The television network then quickly showed that it was the first steal of home by a Cubs player in a postseason game since the 1907 World Series. A shaken Maeda completed the base on ball to Lester, but he got the next two batters to pop out. It was 3-0 Cubs after two, but it could have been a lot worse. It was easy to understand why the crowd at Wrigley Field was convinced at that point that the game would be a cakewalk.
There was no scoring over the next couple of innings, as Lester continued to master the Dodgers' hitters with the help of some defensive gems, including a couple of diving catches by Fowler in center field and two nice plays by Bryant at third base. For his part, Maeda settled down after his rough first two innings. With two outs in the 5th, Roberts had Andre Ethier pinch-hit for him and the veteran who had missed most of the regular season with an injury surprised Lester by lifting a ball to left center, the famed air currents of the Windy City bringing it to a rest in the wire netting in front of the bleachers. Pedro Baez came in to pitch and while he slowed the game's pace down to a crawl by talking forever to deliver each of his pitches, he managed to put together two scoreless frames. Joe Maddon also used a pinch-hitter for his pitcher in the bottom of the 6th, Jorge Soler, who grounded out to shortstop for the third out. It was a bit of an unexpected move, as Lester was cruising and still had a low pitch count at that point of the game.
It was thus 3-1 in the top of the 7th as Maddon began to dig into his bullpen like a kid trying out every one of his toy cars. Travis Wood was first out; he retired Gonzalez on a grounder, and immediately came out for Carl Edwards who got pinch-hitter Yasmani Grandal for the second out, but then left in turn after walking Hernandez. Mike Montgomery now came in to strike out Joc Pederson. It had taken three pitchers to get three outs, even though the Dodgers had not even threatened. Roberts had a different philosophy in using his relievers, as he now called on Ross Stripling to pitch and let him do the job, the rookie getting three outs without his manager having the uncontrollable urge to replace him. In the 8th, Maddon was having an itchy hook again. Andrew Toles pinch hit for Stripling and hit a single, so Montgomery had to come out. In came Pedro Strop, Chase Utley pinch-hit for Kendrick and drew a walk. Maddon resisted the urge of going to his bullpen again, although by now he had Aroldis Chapman warming up and it would probably have been better if he had called on him now, while he still had a margin of error, rather then waiting for the situation to have become inextricable. In any case, Turner was up next. He hit a bouncer to Bryant at third and the Cubs' young star decided to race the speedy Toles to the bag instead of getting the sure out at first. Toles won the footrace, and now the Cubs were in serious trouble with the bases loaded and nobody out. Now that the situation was complicated enough, Maddon turned to Chapman. The fireballing reliever almost managed an escape for the ages. Throwing just about every pitch in triple digits, he struck out Corey Seager and Puig back-to-back before Gonzalez stepped up. The veteran managed to line a ball to center, allowing Toles and Utley to score. The game was now tied, 3-3. Gonzalez, who had not stolen a base all season, then stunned everyone by swiping an undefended second base but Grandal grounded out to end the inning.
Dave Roberts decided to live or die with Joe Blanton in the bottom of the 8th. With closer Kenley Jansen likely available for only a brief stint after having the longest outing of his career only 48 hours earlier, and only a bunch of second-tier pitchers available besides him, he figured the veteran Blanton, who had had an excellent season, was his best bet, but it was a bet he lost. Zobrist led off with a double, but Addison Russell hit a grounder to third for the first out. Things were under control, but Roberts decided to outsmart himself, asking Blanton to issue an intentional walk to Heyward. That set up a meeting with Baez, the Cubs' hottest hitter of the postseason and a very difficult man to double off if the move's purpose was to set up a potential double play. Baez did fly out to center for the second out and Chris Coghlan batted for Ross. Roberts then made another fateful move: wanting to force Maddon to either bat Chapman, who was due up next, or to take him out of the game, he had Blanton issue another intentional walk, this one with first base occupied and loading the bases. He went against convention and paid big time. Maddon called back Chapman and sent in Miguel Montero to pinch hit. Blanton got a couple of quick strikes, with Montero clearly swinging for the fences on the second of these. The third pitch was right down the pipe and Montero absolutely crushed it. As soon as he made contact, it was clear it was destined to go far, and indeed it landed into the back row of the right field stands for a grand slam. The crowd was still cheering wildly when Fowler came up next, and he took Blanton's first pitch deep as well, although it was not so well hit: it barely cleared the center-right fence for another homer and an 8-3 lead. Bryant followed with another hard-hit ball, this one a double, and finally, Roberts removed Blanton, with rookie Grant Dayton getting Anthony Rizzo to pop up for the last out. With a five-run lead, it did not matter that Chapman was out of the game. Hector Rondon took the mound, and while a single to Pederson and an RBI double to Toles put a last run on the board, he ended the game by getting Utley to line out to Rizzo at first, who in one smooth move immediately threw to second base to double off Toles by a full step. It had been tougher than expected, but the heavily-favored Cubs had won the opening game.
Game 2 @ Wrigley Field
|WP: Clayton Kershaw (1-0); LP: Kyle Hendricks (0-1); SV: Kenley Jansen (1)|
|Home Runs: LA - Adrian Gonzalez (1)|
- Attendance: 24,384
Game 2 was a classic pitchers' duel, featuring three-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw facing off against Kyle Hendricks, the league's ERA champion. The only question was whether Kershaw would be able to go deep into the game after being used heavily in the Division Series. Interviewed in the early innings of the television broadcast, Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said that the plan was to have Kershaw go long enough to be able to hand the ball directly to closer Kenley Jansen; it sounded preposterous at the time, but it's exactly how it turned out: Kershaw pitched seven excellent innings, and Jansen relieved to get the last six outs. The game turned on one pitch, a high drive to center-left by Adrian Gonzalez that was taken up by the wind currents at Wrigley Field and landed in the first rows of the bleachers; apart from that long ball there were only four other hits all evening.
Both pitchers started off by going 1-2-3 in the 1st inning and looked sharp doing so, Kendrick retiring the first two men he faced on strikes. In the 2nd, however, Gonzalez jumped on him by lifting a 1-0 pitch to left field. It did not look particularly dangerous when it left his bat, but the ball traveled well, aided by the wind, and landed just beyond the fence for a 1-0 lead. It would become quickly apparent that that early run was crucial, however. Kershaw breezed through the first four innings, not allowing a single baserunner. The only highlight for the Cubs came with two outs in the 4th when Anthony Rizzo got all of one of Kershaw's pitches, driving it to right field completely out of the ballpark and onto the street; unfortunately for the Cubs, it was foul by about 20 feet and there was no harm as Rizzo eventually grounded out to Gonzalez at first base. For his part, Kendrick walked three batters over that span, but did not allow another hit.
In the 5th, Kershaw got Los Angeles's second hit of the evening on a sharp line drive to center, but the next two batters grounded out. For the Cubs, Javier Baez finally reached base with a two-out single off Kershaw, ending a streak of 14 straight outs to start the game. He was immediately followed by Willson Contreras who hit another single, but Jason Heyward, moved down to the 8th spot against the lefty Kershaw, ended the threat with a foul pop-up to third. Joe Maddon already had Jorge Soler swinging a bat in the on-deck circle when Heyward made the out, showing he was willing to take out Hendricks early, even though he was pitching very well. Hendricks did return for the top of the 6th, but he gave up a one-out walk to Gonzalez followed by a single by Josh Reddick. His night was done as Maddon replaced him with Carl Edwards. Joc Pederson then hit a soft liner to Baez at second base; in a brilliant defensive move, Baez let the ball drop in front of him, immediately picked it up to throw out Reddick at second, then screamed at SS Addison Russell to look at the other runner. Indeed, Gonzalez had unexpectedly frozen between second and third base, and the Cubs were able to tag him out, completing a rare 4-6-5-6 double play that was entirely to Baez's credit.
Such a great defensive play should have woken up the Cubs' hitters, but they were still mesmerized by Kershaw. Soler batted for Edwards to lead off the inning, but he struck out swinging, and the next two batters made outs as well for another perfect frame. In the 7th, Mike Montgomery came out to pitch for Chicago and walked lead-off batter Yasmani Grandal. Enrique Hernandez pinch-hit for Andrew Toles, but Maddon did not change his pitcher with every batter, as he had done in Game 1. Left to fend for himself, Montgomery induced Hernandez to hit a soft ground ball for the first out, although Grandal made it to second. Next up was Kershaw, who struck out swinging as Montgomery served him three breaking balls, not taking any chances. He walked Chase Utley to put a second runner on base but then induced Corey Seager, hitless in the postseason in any inning other than the 1st, to hit a soft fly ball to Ben Zobrist in left for the last out. The Cubs had one last gasp in the bottom of the inning; Anthony Rizzo led off by drawing a four-pitch walk, with three of the pitches bouncing in front of home plate. Zobrist then hit a foul pop-up just behind home plate, but Grandal lost it in the lights, then almost collided with a charging Gonzalez and finally dropped the ball for an error. Zobrist was given a reprieve, but Kershaw, looking completely unperturbed, struck him out. The next two batters made outs as well and Kershaw had done just what Honeycutt had wanted: pitch seven scoreless innings with only two hits allowed. Jansen was now ready to step in to close out the win. The Cubs' pitchers were doing well too: Pedro Strop used a double play grounder to erase the Dodgers in the 8th, and Aroldis Chapman pitched a scoreless 9th, helped by an attempt by Yasiel Puig to bunt with a runner on second and two outs: Puig hit a weak pop-up that Chapman caught easily for the final out. But Jansen was just untouchable: In the 8th, he struck out Contreras and pinch-hitter Miguel Montero around a weak fly ball by Heyward, and in the 9th he struck out Fowler and Kris Bryant before Rizzo ended the game by lining out to Utley at second. The two teams headed to the West Coast tied at one win apiece.
Game 3 @ Dodger Stadium
|WP: Rich Hill (1-0); LP: Jake Arrieta (0-1)|
|Home Runs: LA - Yasmani Grandal (1), Justin Turner (1)|
- Attendance: 54,269
The Dodgers pitched their second consecutive shutout in beating the Cubs, 6-0, in Game 3. Journeyman Rich Hill had a superb outing after two poor starts in the NLDS, throwing six scoreless innings to set the tone for the Dodgers. His opponent, Jake Arrieta, was not as sharp, putting his team in an early hole from which they could not climb out. Joe Maddon toyed with his starting line-up, moving his hottest hitter, Javier Baez, to the fifth slot, and inserting Jorge Soler in right field and Miguel Montero behind the plate. Those changes did not succeed in shaking the Cubs' bats out of their torpor, however. Meanwhile, Los Angeles went with its standard line-up.
The action started in the 2nd as Hill had his only difficult inning, causing his own trouble by walking lead-off batter Anthony Rizzo and then making so many throws to first base that the slow-footed Rizzo eventually stole second base by taking a huge jump on Hill's by-now familiar move. Hill then walked Soler as well, but got out of trouble by striking out Addison Russell and getting Montero to ground out. All this required a lot of pitches, and there was concern that, once again, he would have to leave a start early. It did not come to pass, though. His teammates helped him out with a run in the 3rd when Andrew Toles led off with a single, moved to second on a soft ground ball by Hill and scored when Corey Seager hit a two-out single to right, his first hit of the postseason not to come in the 1st inning. The Dodgers then doubled their lead in the 4th when Josh Reddick hit an infield single with one out, stole second base and, after a second out, third base as well. That seemed to rile Arrieta who then grooved a pitch to Yasmani Grandal, who parked it in the right centerfield stands for a 3-0 lead.
Hill left after six innings, having allowed only two hits. Arrieta came in to start the bottom of that inning but was greeted by a first-pitch homer by Justin Turner, ending his workday. Travis Wood replaced him, but after giving up a hit to Yasiel Puig and a walk to Grandal, he had to be replaced as well, by Justin Grimm, who got the final out. Joe Blanton pitched the 7th for Los Angeles, and he showed no aftereffects from having surrendered a game-winning grand slam to Montero in Game 1, retiring the Cubs in order. In the 8th, Grant Dayton got a couple of outs before allowing a double to Dexter Fowler, and that was manager Dave Roberts's cue to call in his closer, Kenley Jansen. He struck out Kris Bryant to end the inning. The Dodgers then added a couple of insurance runs off Mike Montgomery in the bottom of the 8th, on a double by Joc Pederson that scored Puig, followed by a steal of third base by Pederson and a ground ball. By now Jansen had a more-than-confortable lead and it was not a save situation, but he still closed out the game in the 9th, completing the shutout by allowing just a single.
Game 4 @ Dodger Stadium
|WP: Mike Montgomery (1-0); LP: Julio Urias (0-1)|
|Home Runs: CHI - Addison Russell (1), Anthony Rizzo (1)|
- Attendance: 54,449
After being shut out in two straight games, the Cubs got their bats going in Game 4, and by the time the 6th inning was over, they had scored in double figures and two of the hitters whose stone-cold bats had been big parts of the recent slump, Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo, had hit homers. The Cubs rolled to an easy 10-2 win, ganging up on a pair of rookie pitchers, Julio Urias and Ross Stripling, for most of the damage. This allowed Chicago to overcome a mediocre outing by their own starter, John Lackey, who left after only four innings. For their part, the Dodgers had little choice but to give the ball to the 20-year-old Urias, because of the unavailability of more experienced starting pitchers such as Scott Kazmir; manager Dave Roberts was not counting on the youngster going deep into the game, but would have liked to get three or four decent innings from him. In the end, though, he left him in too long, as the game was already practically out of hand by the time he turned to his bullpen.
Urias got off to a good start, retiring the Cubs in order in the top of the 1st, then Lackey hit Corey Seager with a pitch with one out in the bottom of the inning. Justin Turner forced him out at second, but in an attempt to complete a double play, 2B Javier Baez threw the ball into the dugout, and the first of six errors in the game put Turner on second. However, he was immediately picked off the bag on an excellent throw by C Willson Contreras. In the 2nd, Baez drew a one-out walk, and it was now 2B Chase Utley's turn to commit an error: on a potential double play ball by Contreras, he tried to catch SS Seager's relay with his bare hand, but fumbled it and did not even record the sure out at second. However, Urias got out of the jam by retiring the next two batters. The bottom of that inning featured one of the critical plays of the game. Adrian Gonzalez led off with a single and after two outs, moved to second on a walk by Yasmani Grandal. Andrew Toles followed with a single to right. There was a very close play at the plate, with Gonzalez adamant that he had managed to sneak his hand on the plate ahead of Contreras's tag, but umpire Angel Hernandez ruled otherwise, and the video review was not clear enough to overturn the call. There was then no scoring in the 3rd, extending the Cubs' scoreless streak to 21 innings.
Everything fell apart for the Dodgers in the 4th however. Ben Zobrist, even though he was batting clean-up, got things started with a beautiful bunt down the third base line for a base hit. Baez followed with a single, then Contreras dropped a ball in shallow left field; Toles came charging in, but made an awful throw towards home that allowed Zobrist to score and Baez and Contreras to both take an extra base. Pedro Baez had been warming up for the Dodgers, but they stuck with Urias, and he got Jason Heyward to ground to second, but that drove in a second run as both runners advanced. Russell was up next and he finally did some damage with the bat, lifting a ball to right-center field for a two-run homer. It was now 4-0 Cubs, but Roberts did not change pitchers until after Urias had retired his opponent Lackey on a grounder. One could easily argue that the game was already lost by that point. The Cubs then added a run in the 5th, on a solo homer by Rizzo, who pulled the feat of hitting both a foul and a fair home run off Baez in the same at-bat.
Lackey made things interesting in the bottom of the 5th by walking the first two men he faced, Toles and pinch-hitter Andre Ethier. Contrary to Roberts, Joe Maddon did not hesitate in pulling his starter at the first hint of trouble, bringing in lefty Mike Montgomery. He was unable to prevent the two runners from scoring, as the first batter he faced, pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick, singled to load the bases, then after one out, Turner hit a ball that deflected off Montgomery and past Russell for a two-run single. That was it however, as Gonzalez and a third pinch-hitter, Enrique Hernandez, both grounded out. The Cubs then put the game away in the 6th, against another rookie pitcher, Stripling. Russell singled with one out and reached second on Hernandez's poor throw to first base. Montgomery, batting for himself, followed in the footsteps of other Cubs moundsmen in the postseason by singling to left to put men on the corners. Dexter Fowler singled in a run and Kris Bryant drew a walk to load the bases. On Fowler's hit, the Dodgers overthrew cut-off men left and right, but no errors were charged. Rizzo then drove in two more runs with a single to right and after Luis Avilan had replaced Stripling on the mound, Zobrist hit an infield single to load the bases again. A sacrifice fly by Baez completed the scoring.
With the Cubs holding a 10-2 lead, the rest of the game was academic. Montgomery pitched a perfect bottom of the 6th to confirm that he would be credited with the win, and in the 7th Carl Edwards and Travis Wood issued a pair of walks, but there were no runs. Alex Wood saw his first action of the postseason with some mop-up duty for the Dodgers in the 8th and 9th, while Joe Maddon did not have to call on Aroldis Chapman in this game, although set-up men Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon did pitch an inning each. The Cubs' victory tied the series at two wins each and ensured that the two teams would need to return to Chicago for at least a sixth game.
Game 5 @ Dodger Stadium
|WP: Jon Lester (1-0); LP: Joe Blanton (0-2)|
|Home Runs: CHI - Addison Russell (1)|
- Attendance: 54,449
Game 5 was another close affair for its first two thirds, until the Cubs put up five runs in the 8th to run away with the win. They had threatened to put the game away in the 1st inning against a shaky Kenta Maeda, but he managed to get out of a jam with only a 1-0 deficit, and it took a two-run homer by Addison Russell off Joe Blanton in the 6th to put the Cubs on top to stay. Maeda left early, once again putting the pressure on the Dodgers' bullpen, and it eventually cracked, as it had previously in Games 1 and 4. For the Cubs, Jon Lester made his second start, throwing to his personal catcher David Ross, and was excellent, giving up only one run in 7 innings before the bullpen allowed a few late meaningless runs. With a lefty on the mound, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made a few changes, starting Enrique Hernandez at second base and leading-off, with Carlos Ruiz behind the plate and Howie Kendrick in left field.
The Cubs started the game strongly as Dexter Fowler singled and scored one out later on a double by Anthony Rizzo. Maeda then walked Ben Zobrist to put himself in a serious jam, but he escaped by striking out Javier Baez and Jason Heyward. The Dodgers had a 1-0 lead, but had missed a good chance to put up a crooked number on the board from the get-go. Lester also had a poor start, as he walked Hernandez on four pitches. Hernandez faked taking off for second base a couple of times, taking advantage of Lester's well-known aversion to throwing to first base, but he stayed put and had to stop at second when Corey Seager singled with one out. He did move to third on a fly ball by Ruiz but was left stranded when Kendrick grounded out. Both pitchers recovered in the 2nd and nothing much happened until the 4th, except for a two-out single by Justin Turner followed by a stolen base in the bottom of the 3rd.
In the 4th, Baez led off with a double and Heyward was hit by a pitch, putting two men on with no one out. Maeda then cooled thing down by striking out Russell and getting Ross to hit a fly ball to shallow center. Up next was Lester, but Roberts decided to pull his starter immediately, even though he had recorded the two toughest outs, mindful perhaps of the criticism he had received for leaving Julio Urias in the game too long the previous day. So, in came Josh Fields and he got Lester to fly out to shallow left to end the inning. Los Angeles had escaped the jam, but it was going to be another long night of work for its relievers. In the bottom of the inning, the Dodgers tied the score when Kendrick hit a one-out double then stole third base. He was originally called out, but the video replay showed clearly that he had beaten the throw and the call was overturned. He then scored on a grounder to first by Adrian Gonzalez.
The 5th inning featured a double by Kris Bryant and another change of pitchers by the Dodgers, with Grant Dayton replacing Fields, but no scoring. Andre Ethier then pinch-hit for Dayton in a 1-2-3 bottom of the 5th, and Los Angeles had to use its fourth pitcher of the game to start the 6th, even though the score was still only 1-1. Joe Blanton got the call, and for the second time in the series, he failed in his attempt to keep the score tied. Baez led off with a single and immediately stole second base. Heyward struck out, but Russell followed with a homer to center field for a 3-1 lead. Ross then hit a double but Lester and Fowler made outs and were unable to drive him in. Lester had had his troubles early on, but by now he was cruising and he shut out the Dodgers in both the 6th and 7th to hand the ball over to the bullpen with only six outs remaining to be recorded. It was still a tight 3-1 game at that point, but in the top of the 8th, the Cubs made their relievers' work a whole lot less stressful by piling on five runs. Pedro Baez took over on the mound, and against the first batter he faced, Russell, he dropped a relay throw from 1B Gonzalez for an error. Willson Contreras, batting for Ross, followed with a single and Albert Almora, who batted for Lester, laid down a sacrifice bunt. Fowler hit a single to drive in a run then Bryant followed with an infield single for another. After a second out, Zobrist walked to load the bases and Ross Stripling replaced Pedro Baez. The other Baez, Javier, then put the game out of reach with a double that cleared the bases. It was now 8-1. The Dodgers managed to score three late runs, one in the bottom of the 8th against Pedro Strop and two more in the 9th against Aroldis Chapman, but the outcome of the game was never in doubt after the Cubs' five-run outburst. The final score was 8-4, and Chicago headed back to Wrigley Field one game away from punching its ticket to the World Series - exactly the situation the Cubs had been in against the Florida Marlins in the 2003 NLCS.
Game 6 @ Wrigley Field
|WP: Kyle Hendricks (1-1); LP: Clayton Kershaw (1-1)|
|Home Runs: CHI - Willson Contreras (1), Anthony Rizzo (2)|
- Attendance: 42,386
Game 6 turned out to be a historic one, the game that Cubs fans had been waiting for for decades, the one that put the team in the World Series for the first time since 1945. And it was a masterpiece, as two pitchers, Kyle Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman, allowed only two hits, but even better, all four Dodgers baserunners during the game - the two who reached on singles and two more on a walk and an error - were all wiped out, three on double plays and one on a pick-off, meaning that the two pitchers faced the minimum of 27 batters over the 9 innings of the 5-0 win. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw once again had a poor outing in a key postseason game, giving the Cubs an early 3-0 lead after only two innings. By the time he handed the ball to Kenley Jansen after 5 innings, the Dodgers were down 5-0 and everyone in Wrigley Field was counting down to the final out, as the outcome of the game was never in doubt.
The first batter of the game, Andrew Toles, batting lead-off for the first time in the postseason, started things off with a single to right on Kendrick's first pitch. Up next was Corey Seager, and he also swung at the first pitch, hitting a grounded straight at 2B Javier Baez. Toles should have stopped in his tracks and forced Baez to either come to him or throw to second, but instead, he attempted to dive away from Baez. It was a poor decision, as he was called out for leaving his baseline (but he was tagged him anyway, or at least it was close enough), then Baez threw to first to retire Seager. The tone of the game was set. Justin Turner then flew out and Kendricks had needed fewer than 10 pitches to get through the frame. In the bottom of the inning, Dexter Fowler led off with a ball that bounced down the right field line into the stands for an automatic double, then Kris Bryant followed with a single to open the score. Next up was Anthony Rizzo who hit a ball hard into the alley in left-center, but Toles was under it, saw it go into his glove and then inexplicably dropped it for a huge error. Bryant had to stop at third, as he had expected the ball to be caught, while Rizzo made it to second. Ben Zobrist followed with a sacrifice fly for a second run. Up next was Baez, who hit a high pop-up in front of the mound. There was almost a collision between three different players who had run over to catch it, but finally 1B Adrian Gonzalez made the catch, then Willson Contreras grounded out. Chicago already had a nice lead, but the Cubs could easily have put the game away there and then. For his part, Kershaw had needed 29 pitches to get through the tough frame.
In the 2nd, Josh Reddick reached first on an error by Baez after one out, but one out later, he was caught well off the bag on a pick-off throw by Hendricks for the third out. Another bad note for the Dodgers, who were clearly not at the top of their game. Then in the bottom of the inning, Addison Russell led off with a double and after two outs, Fowler singled, then strayed off the bag to draw a throw, which allowed Russell to score a third run completely unchallenged. It was already clear this was a one-way game, and the 3rd inning just confirmed things as Hendricks pitched a perfect inning, then Kershaw struggled again, allowing another double, this one to Rizzo, even though he escaped without giving up a run.
The next two innings just confirmed the story line: it was the night the Curse of the Billy Goat was coming to an end. The Dodgers went down in order again in the top of the 4th, and Contreras led off the bottom of the inning by parking a ball into the right field stands. The 5th saw a similar scenario: the Dodgers going down meekly against Hendricks, and another solo homer to drive up the score, this one by Rizzo with two outs, just as Kershaw thought he had finally managed a 1-2-3 inning of his own. Kershaw struck out Zobrist to end the inning, finishing his night's work with five runs allowed on seven hits. It was now a question of how long Joe Maddon would leave Hendricks in the game. But since the pitcher was not allowing any baserunners and was seemingly untouchable, it was also a bit of a moot question given Chicago's comfortable lead. The Dodgers went down in order again in the 6th, with Andre Ethier pinch-hitting for Kershaw and grounding out for the final out. In the bottom of the inning, Dave Roberts decided to go for broke in terms of which reliever to send in, tabbing his closer Kenley Jansen. He was helped by the fact that the Cubs considered their lead to be safe by then, and were not really trying to lengthen at-bats or work the count. Jansen ended up pitching the 6th through the 8th and retiring all nine Chicago batters he faced, but his nice effort came too late to matter.
In the 7th, it was 1-2-3 again for the Dogders, then in the 8th, Reddick managed a single after one out, only the Dodgers' second hit of the game. That was enough for Maddon to call in his closer, Chapman. Howie Kendrick batted for Joc Pederson, and he hit a liner to Baez, who caught it on a short hop and started an easy double play. In the 9th, Enrique Hernandez struck out then Carlos Ruiz, pinch-hitting for Chase Utley, drew a walk - the only one of the game for either team. Five runs down, Roberts did not call on a pinch-runner, but sent in Yasiel Puig to pinch-hit for Jansen. Puig hit a grounder to the shortstop Russell, who started the Cubs' third double play of the evening to end the game. The crowd went wild, as the unthinkable was now true: the Cubs were going to the World Series! For their part, the Dodgers had been thoroughly outplayed in the game and had nothing to do but congratulate the winners. Jon Lester, author of two excellent pitching performances in Games 1 and 5, and Javier Baez, the Cubs' offensive and defensive star all series, were named co-winners of the NLCS MVP Award.
- Ted Berg: "Cubs shut out Dodgers, advance to first World Series since 1945", USA Today Sports, October 23, 2016. 
- Cliff Corcoran: "Dodgers-Cubs: Breaking down who prevails in a star-studded NLCS", USA Today Sports, October 14, 2016. 
- Ken Gurnick: "Dodgers' banner '16 falls just short of goal", mlb.com, October 23, 2016. 
- Ken Gurnick and Carrie Muskat: "LA-CHC NLCS clash one of high expectations: Both clubs entered the season with sights set on winning World Series title", mlb.com, October 15, 2016. 
- Ken Gurnick and Carrie Muskat: "Wait of the World: Cubs win NL pennant!", mlb.com, October 23, 2016. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Cubs and Dodgers' intertwined fates lead them to NL Championship Series", USA Today Sports, October 15, 2016. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Believe it: Cubs are in the World Series, as generations rejoice at Wrigley", USA Today Sports, October 23, 2016. 
- Mike Petriello: "Cubs vs. Dodgers: Position-by-position NLCS look: First postseason matchup between the clubs since 2008 NLDS", mlb.com, October 15, 2016. 
|Major League Baseball National League Championship Series