Los Angeles

Dodgers Take Stranglehold on NLCS After 6-1 Victory Over Cubs in Game 3

The Dodgers are on their brink of their first World Series birth in 29 years as they defeated the Chicago Cubs, 6-1, in Game 3 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

Five more wins.

The Dodgers are on the brink of their first World Series berth in 29 years as they defeated the Chicago Cubs, 6-1, in Game 3 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

There's an age-old saying, "Go with the wind," that's exactly what the Dodgers did in Game 3 as the wind was blowing out at Wrigley Field throughout the game.

Andre Ethier and Chris Taylor both took full advantage as they each hit home runs and Yu Darvish dazzled over six innings, putting Los Angeles on the cusp of reaching the Fall Classic for the first time since 1988.

In his fourth career postseason start, Darvish started off shaky as he served up a first inning home run to Kyle Schwarber.

The 408-foot blast by Schwarber was his first home run of the 2017 playoffs, and the first pitch he ever saw from the Japanese right-hander in his career.

"The first home run I gave up to Schwarber, after he hit it, the stadium got really excited and I realized I was on the visitor's side," said Darvish. "But I was able to focus after that home run."

Scwarber is now tied with Anthony Rizzo for the most postseason home runs in Cubs' history with six. 

Before the game, Cubs' manager Joe Maddon believed that the key to Chicago's offense would be getting to Darvish early, which they did, to the tune of one run on three hits, but Darvish was able to settle in after that.

Andre Ethier had the answer for the Dodgers in the bottom half of the first inning as he sent an 86MPH sinker ball from Kyle Hendricks off the video screen in right field for his first home run of the postseason, and second in as many years against the Cubs in the NLCS.

"I got a good pitch to hit, and hit it out," Ethier said of the home run that silenced the sell out crowd. "It's just answering. Every time they get something, it's just how we answer. Try to keep them on their heels as much as possible."

Ethier made his first start in left field of the postseason, and his first start since Game 5 of the NLDS in 2015 against the New York Mets.

"Personally, it's just been a battle to get back on the field," Ethier said following the game. "Last year was frustrating, but this was more because I feel like I got myself back. Coming from an injury, and then another five-month break where you're not knowing what's going to happen."

Before the game, analysts questioned Dave Roberts decision to start Ethier in left field due to the fact he hasn't played the field very much in the past two years. 

However, Ethier made Roberts look like a genius on Tuesday as he improved to 2-for-6 with a home run, an RBI, and two walks in his last two playoff starts.

"It's a big honor that Doc would, I guess, trust me, especially how things are going," said Ethier of his manager's confidence in him. "Getting my name called tonight, it's a great thing."

One inning later, Chris Taylor crushed a similar sinker from Hendricks and sent it 444-feet off the roof of the batter's eye in straightaway center for a solo shot that gave the Dodgers the lead. 

The go-ahead home run by the shortstop was Taylor's second game-winning home run of the series as he joined current Washington Nationals' manager Dusty Baker (1977), as the only two Dodgers in history two have two game-winning homers in the same postseason series.

Taylor was not finished, as he would bring home Joc Pederson in the top of the fifth with a triple down the left field line to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.

Taylor became just the sixth Dodger player in franchise history to triple and homer in the same postseason game since current teammate, Andre Ethier, did it Game 3 of the NLDS in 2009. 

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Taylor is also the first player in MLB history to homer as an outfielder (Game 1) and as an infielder (Game 3) in the same postseason series.

"To be able to start him in centerfield the first couple games, and then to start him at short and to get on base, to slug, drive runs in, catch the baseball, he's a huge asset for us," said Roberts of Taylor.

Hendricks was unable to recapture his magic from Game 6 of the NLCS last season that saw the Cubs eliminate the Dodgers and advance to the World Series on a shutout performance by Hendricks through 7 and 1/3 innings.

On Tuesday, Hendricks was less than stellar as he allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts in five innings of work.

The play of the game came in the top of the sixth inning.

Yasiel Puig led off the inning on an error by third baseman Kris Bryant and advanced to second base on a single by Ethier.

Maddon brought the hook for Hendricks and inserted right-hander Carl Edwards Jr. who got two outs before loading the bases for Darvish. 

At first, Roberts had pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson in the on-deck circle to bat for Darvish. However, after a short time to reflect, he made the brazen move to keep Darvish in the game and send him to the plate.

"I just felt that we had a two-run lead right there, and Yu was throwing the baseball really well, and I felt he could continue to go and get us outs," said Roberts of his decision. "To feel that I could extend Yu for more than an inning, I just felt that the value of continuing to get outs and to be able to deploy the bullpen later in the game, I just felt that was more of an upside for me."

Shockingly, the move worked, as Edwards walked Darvish on four straight pitches, giving the Dodgers a 4-1 lead.

"I just wanted to do something, draw a walk, maybe get hit by pitch, anything just to score a run," Darvish said of the at-bat. "When I looked back and saw it was a ball, I was really happy."

The bases-loaded walk put Darvish in elite company, joining Philadelphia's Larry Christenson (1977) as the only two pitchers in MLB history to draw a bases-loaded walk in the potseason. 

"Obviously it validates and makes you feel better about the decision," Roberts said. "But you still have to go into that at-bat expecting not to come away with a run right there. But the story of the night, is Yu Darvish."

Ironically, it was Dodgers' pitcher Burt Hooton in that NLCS series in 1977 who walked Christenson.

Darvish did not disappoint on Tuesday as he dominated the Cubs hitters, allowing just one run on six hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in 6 and 1/3 innings of work.

"I feel like I'm pitching better now than before the Tommy John surgery," said Darvish. "But like I said, there is no goal set. I just want to keep pitching better and better."

After losing his first two starts in the postseason with the Rangers, Darvish has won his first two of 2017 with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers added two more runs in the top of the eighth thanks to a swinging strikeout that bounced off catcher Wilson Contreras' right arm and rolled into the visiting dugout. 

The Cubs snaped an 0-for-29 drought against the Dodgers bullpen when Alex Avila led off the ninth inning with a single off relief pitcher Ross Stripling. 

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the 0-for-29 streak was the longest hitless streak against a bullpen to start a postseason series in MLB history.

"I guess their relief pitchers have pretty much thrown a no-hitter against us," said Joe Maddon of the Dodgers' bullpen. "They've been pretty good."

Los Angeles remains undefeated in the postseason with a franchise record six consecutive playoff wins and can eliminate the reigning World Series Champions in Game 4 on Wednesday.

"I think that right now we're just laser focused on trying to win baseball games," said Roberts when asked if he's able to appreciate being one win away from the World Series. "Right now, our focus is Jake Arrieta and trying to figure out a way to win a baseball game tomorrow night."

The Dodgers have trailed in all three games of the NLCS and have comeback three consecutive times.

After leading all of MLB with 47 come-from-behind victories in the regular season, the Dodgers have added four more comebacks to their postseason resume. 

Since 1985, the only team in Major League history to overcame an 0-3 deficit and win the series was the Boston Red Sox in 2004 against the New York Yankees. 

Suprisingly, the Cubs are the first team to trail a series 0-3, despite the fact that they scored the first run in all three games, since the Red Sox in the 1990 ALCS against the Oakland Athletics. 

The last time the Cubs were down in a series, 0-3, they were swept by the New York Mets in the 2015 NLCS. The Dodgers have never led an NLCS 3-0 in their history. 

Up Next: 

The Dodgers look for their second straight series sweep as they send Alex Wood to the mound in Game 4 with the World Series on the line. Jake Arrieta will start for the Cubs with first pitch scheduled for 6:01PM PST. 

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