The Chicago Cubs took a giant leap forward in their hopes to advance to the MLB World Series for the first time since 1945 after a grand slam saw them trump the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 in game one of the National League Championship Series.
With the game tied at 3-3 and bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning on Saturday, Miguel Montero hit a pinch-hit slam to give the Cubs a 7-3 lead.
Dexter Fowler then followed with a solo shot to make sure of the victory in Chicago after the Dodgers had rallied from 3-1 down to level the scores.
The Cleveland Indians are two wins away from returning to the World Series for the first time since 1997.
With clutch hitting, heads-up base-running and a stellar bullpen, the Indians edged the Blue Jays 2-1 in game two to take a 2-0 game lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
Carlos Santana (solo homer) and Francisco Lindor (RBI single) provided the offense the Indians needed as Andrew Miller and their relievers finished off Josh Tomlin's stellar start. Cleveland will now head to Toronto in the driver's seat.
ROBERTS' GAMBLE DOES NOT PAY OFF THIS TIME
In game five of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals, Dave Roberts made bold moves, bringing in his closer Kenley Jansen in the seventh inning and Clayton Kershaw for the save. On Saturday, his moves failed to work in his favour as Roberts decided to intentionally walk Jayson Heyward and Chris Coghlan to load the bases in the eighth inning of a tied game to force the Cubs to pinch-hit for closer Aroldis Chapman. The result? A grand slam by pinch-hitter Montero.
Rookie right-hander Kenta Maeda allowed four runs over three innings in a game three loss against the Nationals in the NLDS and did not fare much better in Saturday's loss. Maeda lasted just four innings, allowing three runs on four hits as he suffered his fourth consecutive bad outing dating back to September 27. Over that time, Maeda owns a 9.88 ERA. The Dodgers bullpen did a great job keeping them in the game for 3.5 innings as LA bats finally came to live in the top of the eighth with two runs to tie the game. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Chicago responded with five runs with two outs in the bottom half.
Miller and company will take it from there. Like the regular season, the Indians are nearly unbeatable when relievers take over. Cleveland have lost just five times this year when leading after six innings and have lost just once when leading after eight. Miller is a big reason why and has carried over his dominance into this postseason. The southpaw has faced 55 batters and allowed only four hits, three walks and no runs with an incredible 28 strikeouts. With the help of their bullpen the Indians have not trailed the past 42 innings.
MONTERO SETTLES GAME ONE
In a dramatic finish, Montero hit a grand slam to right field off Joe Blanton.
CUBS AND DODGERS GO AGAIN
After converting a save in game five of the NL Division Series, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA) takes the mound looking to finally end his postseason struggles on Sunday. The three-time Cy Young Award winner is 3-6 with a 4.79 ERA in 16 playoff games (12 starts). Toeing the rubber for the Cubs is Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA), who was 9-2 with a 1.32 ERA in 15 home games this year