Cubs advance, Mets hope to follow
CHICAGO - The Chicago Cubs will spend the weekend in New York or Los Angeles.
The Cubs have won the National League Division Series by belting three more homers in a 6-4 victory over the Cardinals in Game 4 at Wrigley Field. Javier Baez launched a three-run homer to put Chicago ahead 4-2 in the second inning. The Cards eventually tied it in the sixth before Anthony Rizzo smashed a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the inning. Kyle Schwarber provided the Cubs' ninth home run in two games to make it 6-4 in the seventh.
Manager Joe Maddon needed a lot of help from his bullpen to close it out after starter Jason Hammel was reached for three hits in three innings. Seven pitchers followed Hammel, with Justin Grimm and Pedro Strop each tossing a hitless inning before Hector Rondon closed it out.
Losing pitcher Kevin Siegrist served up the solo shots by Rizzo and Schwarber.
Steven Piscotty hit a two-run homer for the Cardinals, who failed to reach the NLCS for the first time in five seasons. Piscotty also made the final out of the series, striking out against Rondon.
It's the first time the Cubs have ever clinched a playoff series at Wrigley Field. They also moved into the championship series for the first time since 2003.
Chicago remains baseball's hottest team. The Cubs ended the regular season on an eight-game winning streak before taking four of their first five playoff games.
As a wild-card team, the Cubs will open the NLCS on the road despite finishing with a better record than the Mets and Dodgers.
The Dodgers have sent their division series back to Los Angeles, thanks to a great outing by Clayton Kershaw.
The Los Angeles lefty had been 1-6 with a 4.99 ERA lifetime in the postseason before holding the Mets to a run and three hits while striking out eight in a 3-1 win over the Mets in New York. Kershaw's only major mistake was a fourth-inning homer by Daniel Murphy. It was the only extra-base hit of the night for the Mets, who had six in their 13-7 victory in Game 3.
The Dodgers got their runs in the third inning off Mets starter Steven Matz. Kershaw began the rally with a one-out single before Adrian Gonzalez singled home the first run with two out. Justin Turner followed with a two-run double to make it 3-0.
Gonzalez has five RBIs in the series, all coming with two out. Turner leads the team in batting at .467.
The Mets had the potential go-ahead run at the plate in the eighth before Murphy flied out to right to end the threat.
The series will be decided Thursday in Los Angeles. Zack Greinke will start for the Dodgers against Jacob deGrom.
The two American League Division Series resume on Wednesday. The Toronto Blue Jays will host the Texas Rangers in a winner-take-all fifth game, and the Kansas City Royals will entertain the Houston Astros in Game 5 of that series.