Cubs rout Dodgers to take 3-2 NLCS lead

LOS ANGELES -- Breaking down Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium.

Cubs 8, Dodgers 4: Cubs lead series 3-2.

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The game: After a lopsided win on Wednesday, the Cubs appeared ready to pick up where they left off when leadoff batter Dexter Fowler smacked a single to center and came around to score on an Anthony Rizzo double. But Dodgers starter Kenta Maedaheld the Cubs' offense in check until the fourth, when manager Dave Roberts turned the game over to his bullpen.

After relievers Josh Fields and Grant Dayton notched two outs apiece, Roberts called on righty Joe Blanton to open the sixth. Blanton allowed a quick single to Javier Baez, then struck out Jason HeywardAddison Russell followed with a 419-foot homer to center field that put the Cubs ahead for good.

Where Roberts needed five pitchers just to get through the game's first seven innings, his counterpart Joe Maddon needed only one. The Dodgers hoped to take advantage of starter Jon Lester's issues throwing to bases, but Lester neutralized that strategy by keeping anybody from getting there. The veteran lefty scattered five hits and a walk across the seven innings, allowing the Dodgers' first run on a fielder's choice in the fourth.

 

The Cubs rallied for five runs in the eighth off frustratingly deliberate Dodgers setup man Pedro Baez to put the game out of reach. The Dodgers mustered a run in the bottom half of the inning off Cubs reliever Pedro Strop.

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Man of the moment: Lester. In a postseason dominated by creative and aggressive bullpen usage and one game after John Lackey lasted only four innings, the Cubs' lefty reminded the world the value of a workhorse starter. His seven-inning effort means the bulk of the Cubs bullpen will enter Game 6 of the season well rested.

 

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Manager's special: Roberts set a new MLB record for pitching changes during the 2016 season, so it hardly seems surprising he relied heavily on his bullpen in Game 5. But his first move of the night raised eyebrows: With two outs and two on in the fourth, Roberts yanked Maeda after only 76 pitches and brought in Josh Fields to face Lester, the owner of a career .064 batting average. Fields got Lester to fly out, but it seems hard to imagine Maeda would not have managed as much.

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Pivot point: Russell's homer. According to Fangraphs.com, the two-run shot decreased the Dodgers' chances of winning from 46.4% to 21%.

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What you missed on TV: The musical stylings of Dodger Stadium organist Dieter Ruehle, who mixes classic ballpark organ cues with creative covers of a broad variety of songs, keeping things festive throughout the Dodgers' loss.

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State of the series: The clubs have a travel day on Friday and play Game 6 in Chicago on Saturday. Needing only one win in the two home games ahead, the Cubs appear the prohibitive favorites to take the NLCS and advance to the World Series. But their Saturday task is hardly a mundane one, as they'll face a fully rested Clayton Kershaw in Game 6. Kyle Hendricks will be on the mound for the Cubs, looking to wrap up the series and secure an extra off-day before the World Series starts Tuesday.


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