LEADING OFF: Day off for Dodgers, Cubs before NLCS Game 6

Jon Lester threw seven innings of one-run ball, continuing his mastery of the Dodgers, who have scored only three runs in 28 innings against the lefthander this season. He struck out six, walked only one and even threw out Joc Pederson at first base on a bunt. Blanton had a scoreless inning in Game 3 but was touched for two runs and three hits over 1⅓ innings Thursday.

"I was a little surprised", Maeda said through a translator. Even the baseball diehards I follow on Twitter were unhappy with the pace of the past two games.

He hit a two-run home run in Game Four to turn the tide for the Cubs.

The series is tied at 2-2 and the victor of Game 5 will have a commanding 3-2 lead with the loser facing elimination for the first time at Wrigley Field on Saturday.

The Cubs will struggle if they can't get to Cleveland's starters before the 5th inning because manager Terry Francona has no problem getting his big bullpen arms going early on in the game. "It's going to be a formidable event".

No wonder the Cubs sounded like they were ready to conquer anyone in their path. Kershaw is waiting, but Maddon knew exactly what he was saying when he predicted, "our guys will be absolutely ready for the moment". A Game 5 start would have meant less rest for him, a better chance to bring a series lead for the Dodgers back to Wrigley and the possibility of a Game 7 appearance.

Will this year be different?

Jon Lester holds the Dodgers to one run over seven innings while striking out six to help pull the Cubs within a win of the World Series. Kershaw faces Cubs RHP Kyle Hendricks (0-1, 3.00) in a rematch of Game 2 starters.

"There is always plotting going on", Maddon said.

You had to figure the Cubs were in good shape Thursday when they got on the board first.

Luckily for the Dodgers, they have Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, and a whole lotta Jansen lined up for Games 6 and (if necessary) 7.

"Obviously the fans are pretty excited about their team this year, and rightfully so", Kershaw said.

But for all of his command issues, Lester escaped the first inning without allowing a run.

Lester flirted with danger in the first and third, but he stranded a runner in scoring position in each inning.

Javier Baez remains the quiet assassin in this Cubs lineup. Manager Dave Roberts could have deployed him Thursday night in Chavez Ravine and probably again in relief at Wrigley Field.

"We've got Clayton going in Game 6, so that's a game we expect to win", Roberts said. "He just hasn't been able to give us any length". "To his credit, he found ways to get that out". After Andrew Toles singled to right with two outs, Adrian Gonzalez was called out at the plate by umpire Angel Hernandez on a throw by right fielder Jason Heyward to catcher Willson Contreras.

Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers are now on the brink of elimination Saturday night.

Addison Russell homered to break a tie in the sixth off Blanton, who had a fantastic regular season but has fallen into Tom Niedenfuer territory allowing a pair of game-winning home runs in the NLCS. Baez led off with a single, then stole second. The 26-year-old squared off against L.A.'s dynamite southpaw in Game 2 and was effective to the tune of five strikeouts and one earned run allowed over 5.1 innings, but he did give up four walks in the loss.

"It's kind of nice", he said. "Right there, that situation, just trying not to do too much". But it looked to me (and many others) as if the Dodgers did nothing but take themselves out of their own game. With one out and the bases empty, Kris Bryant was forced to move in on the infield grass to guard against a Howie Kendrick bunt due to pitcher Jon Lester's shaky glove. "I felt really good". The Cubs stranded two men in the first inning and another in the second.

Boom: Two big home runs and just like that, Russell came to life and lifted the Cubs to two key victories. "We do a lot around goal setting with kids right and the importance of education band talking about where the players came from they didn't just get to be players".

  • Rosalie Stanley