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Cubs’ bats wake up, slug past Dodgers 10-2 in NLCS Game 4 to even up series

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After getting shut out in back-to-back games in the NLCS against the Dodgers, the Cubs’ woke up with a vengeance in Game 4 at Dodger Stadim on Wednesday evening. The offense banged out eight runs and 10 hits to take a convincing 10-2 victory to even the NLCS at 2-2.

Dodgers starter Julio Urias was humming through the first three innings, going toe-to-toe with postseason veteran John Lackey. With a scoreless tie through the first third of the game, it looked like it’d be a nailbiter.

The Cubs’ offense, though, awoke from its slumber in the top of the fourth. Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez hit back-to-back singles to open up the frame. Willson Contreras singled to left field to plate Zobrist. Both Baez and Contreras advanced on the bases when Andrew Toles made a poor throw. The struggling Jason Heyward came up and missed on several pitches down the middle, ultimately grounding out weakly to first base, but at least it brought another run in to make it 2-0. Addison Russell, who had been having just as miserable a postseason, followed up with a well-struck two-run home run to center field, doubling the lead to 4-0. Anthony Rizzo tacked on one more leading off the fifth, drilling a solo homer to right-center off of reliever Pedro Baez.

The Dodgers answered in the bottom half of the fifth. Lackey walked Toles and pinch-hitter Andre Ethier, forcing manager Joe Maddon to bring in lefty Mike Montgomery to face pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick, replacing lefty Chase Utley. Kendrick singled to left field, loading the bases. Montgomery was able to strike out Corey Seager, giving him light at the end of the tunnel. Justin Turner then hit a comebacker to Montgomery who, if he had fielded it cleanly, likely would’ve had an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play. Instead, it deflected off of his glove, past Russell at shortstop and into left field. Toles and Ethier both scored, cutting the lead to 5-2. Montgomery saw his way out of the inning from that point, though, getting Adrian Gonzalez and pinch-hitter Enrique Hernandez to ground out.

In the top of the sixth, the Cubs doubled their run output with a five-spot. It started when Russell reached on an infield single. Maddon, questionably, had Montgomery hit for himself rather than a pinch-hitter, but as fate would have it, Montgomery sliced a single to left, putting runners on first and third. Dexter Fowler came up and singled to right, plating Russell. Kris Bryant drew a walk to load the bases. Then, Rizzo came through again with a single to right, plating two. Ben Zobrist hit a light tapper in front of home plate, but it was far enough in front to make a tough play for catcher Yasmani Grandal. Zobrist reached on a call that was overturned, scoring the Cubs’ 10th run and their fifth of the inning. Baez flied out and Contreras grounded out to send the game to the bottom half of the sixth.

Montgomery worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth, getting a strikeout and two ground outs. He gave way to Carl Edwards, Jr. in the seventh, who issued a two-out walk to Seager, then left with left hamstring tightness after being tended to by trainer Ed Halbur. Lefty Travis Wood entered and walked Turner before getting Gonzalez to fly out, sending the game into the eighth.

Pedro Strop took over in the bottom of the eighth. He struck out Carlos Ruiz, got Pederson to fly out to right, and ended the inning with a Grandal ground out.

The ninth was Hector Rondon‘s. The right-hander struck out Toles to start the inning. Yasiel Puig then chopped a single past second baseman Baez, but Rondon bounced back to get Kendrick to fly out to right field and Seager to ground out, finalizing the 10-2 victory. It’s the worst postseason loss the Dodgers have suffered at Dodger Stadium.

With the series tied at two games apiece, the Dodgers and Cubs will meet again for NLCS Game 5 on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs while the Dodgers will counter with Kenta Maeda. The series is guaranteed to return to Wrigley Field for at least Game 6, possibly Game 7.

Blue Jays clinch 1st playoff spot since 2016, beat Yanks 4-1

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Barred from playing in their own ballpark this year because of COVID-19, the vagabond Toronto Blue Jays have found a home in the playoffs.

The slumping New York Yankees, meanwhile, look likely to play on the road in the postseason, where they’ve struggled all year.

Hyun Jin Ryu pitched seven shutout innings and the Blue Jays clinched their first postseason spot since 2016, beating the Yankees 4-1 Thursday night and further damaging New York’s chances of hosting a first-round series.

New York lost for the fourth time in five games following a 10-game winning stretch and remained two games behind the slumping White Sox for the fourth seed. Chicago lost 5-4 at Cleveland, its fifth straight defeat.

“We’ve got to get it rolling again, obviously, if we’re going to get to where we want to go,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I’m confident we can do it.

New York went 21-7 at home this season but was 11-18 on the road. Boone said he’s not concerned about that split even as a potential road playoff series looms next week.

“We’ve got to get ourselves in order and start playing really good baseball if we’re going to give ourselves a chance,” Boone said.

Toronto secured at least an AL wild-card spot and ensured its eighth trip overall to the postseason. The Blue Jays had endured three losing campaigns since their previous playoff trip, going 67-95 last season.

“I’m just so proud of my club and everything we’ve gone through all year,” second-year manager Charlie Montoyo said.

Canada’s federal government refused to allow games at Toronto’s Rogers Centre this season, citing the closed Canada-U.S. border and the travel risk associated with the pandemic. Stuck on the road to start the season, the Blue Jays eventually ended up at their Triple-A ballpark, Sahlen Field in Buffalo, but didn’t gripe about their fate.

“They never complained,” Montoyo said. “They had their mind set on getting to this moment right now.”

Blue Jays players embraced after Rafael Dolis struck out Aaron Hicks to end it, donning blue T-shirts that said “Respect Toronto.”

“This is something we want to make an every year thing,” infielder Cavan Biggio said. “For us, we’re happy, we’re excited we’re able to put ourselves in this position, but this is only the start of hopefully something special for a long time.”

The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by two games for second place in the AL East. Both teams have three games remaining. Toronto hosts Baltimore in Buffalo this weekend while the Yankees host the Marlins.

New York failed to hit a homer for the fourth straight game, matching its longest streak since June 2016. It’s the first time the Yankees have failed to homer in a four-game series since doing so at Texas in July 2013.

“I’m concerned with the way we’ve played recently,” outfielder Brett Gardner said. “Any time you’re not playing your best baseball and the postseason is right around the corner, something needs to be corrected rather quickly.”

New York loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Gary Sanchez flied out to deep center, where Randal Grichuk made a leaping catch at the wall.

“It’s good to see him get a really good swing off in a big spot,” Boone said of Sanchez. “Just unfortunately, that short.”

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered for Toronto, his eighth.

Ryu (5-2) scattered five hits, walked two and struck out four. Luke Voit and Hicks hit back-to-back singles to begin the sixth but Ryu struck out Giancarlo Stanton, got Gleyber Torres to fly out, and retired Gio Urshela on a groundball.

“He’s an ace and he did what an ace does,” Montoyo said.

The left-hander lowered his ERA from 3.00 to 2.69.

Dolis got four outs for his fifth save in six chances.

Guerrero opened the scoring with a solo homer off left-hander Jordan Montgomery (2-3) in the second.

The Blue Jays extended their lead when Biggio and Bo Bichette hit back-to-back, two-out doubles in the third.

Toronto made it 4-0 in the sixth. Grichuk chased Montgomery with a single and Guerrero singled off Adam Ottavino before rookie Alejandro Kirk hit a two-out, two-run double.

Montgomery lost for the first time in four starts. He allowed three runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays finished 5-5 in their 10-game regular season series against the Yankees.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (elbow) was activated off the injured list and RHP Wilmer Font was designated for assignment. . RHP Jordan Romano (strained right middle finger) will throw a second bullpen session Friday.

Yankees: Aaron Judge came on as a pinch-hitter but is expected to start all three remaining regular season games, Boone said.

SHARED DUTY

Boone said he expects to use both Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka at catcher in the postseason. Higashioka has hit well while working with ace Gerrit Cole, while Sanchez has struggled with both offense and his defense down the stretch.

SEVEN UP

Ryu became the first Blue Jays starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2019, to pitch into the seventh. It had been an MLB-record 88 games since RHP Jacob Waguespack pitched into the seventh at Dodger Stadium last year.

UP NEXT

Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ (2-2, 3.25) starts Friday as New York returns home to begin a three-game series against Miami. RHP Sandy Alcantara (3-2, 3.12) starts for the Marlins.

Blue Jays: RHP Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.86) starts Friday in the opener of a three-game series against Baltimore. The Orioles have not named a starter.