CHICAGO (AP) — Yu Darvish pitched sparkling ball into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a commanding 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.
Andre Ethier also went deep and Taylor added an RBI triple in the fifth as Los Angeles set a franchise record with its sixth consecutive playoff win. Yasiel Puig had two more hits in another entertaining performance that included an impressive bat flip — on a long foul ball in the first inning.
Looking for a four-game sweep and their 22nd NL pennant, the Dodgers will send Alex Wood to the mound Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with a chance to reach the World Series for the first time since their last championship in 1988. Jake Arrieta, eligible for free agency after the season, pitches for the Cubs in what could be his final start with the team.
Los Angeles was eliminated by Chicago in the NLCS last year, but this is a different group of Dodgers. The lineup is patient and pesky and the pitching staff is much deeper, especially since Darvish was acquired in a trade with Texas in the final minutes before the July 31 deadline.
Not even a return to Wrigley Field could get the Cubs back on track after an 0-2 start in Los Angeles. Chicago manager Joe Maddon juggled his lineup, inserting Kyle Schwarber into the No. 2 slot and benching slumping second baseman Javier Baez, but the defending World Series champions were shut down by another Dodgers starter and more stellar relief from the NL West champions.
Making their third straight appearance in the NLCS, the weary Cubs also hurt themselves with a couple of big mistakes. Carl Edwards Jr. walked Darvish on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth, continuing a rocky postseason for the reliever and leading to a round of boos from a frustrated crowd of 41,871. A passed ball brought home another run in the eighth, and pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-1 Los Angeles.
Darvish departed after striking out Addison Russell in the seventh, pausing for congratulations from his whole infield before heading to the dugout. The Japanese right-hander allowed six hits, including Schwarber’s first-inning homer, in his second career playoff win — both coming this year.
Tony Watson got two outs, Brandon Morrow worked the eighth and Kenley Jansen closed it out for the Dodgers after Ross Stripling gave up two hits in the ninth. With manager Dave Roberts pushing all the right buttons, Los Angeles’ bullpen has yet to allow a run in the series.
The Cubs finished with eight hits, one more than they had in the first two games combined.
Schwarber’s sixth career postseason homer got Chicago off to a fast start, but Darvish struck out Jon Jay with two runners on to end the inning. The Dodgers responded with Ethier’s leadoff drive in the second and Taylor’s second homer of the series in the third, a mammoth drive to center off Kyle Hendricks.
Ethier finished with two hits in his first start of this year’s playoffs after he missed most of the season with a herniated lumbar disk. Taylor also had two hits and is 4 for 14 for the series, helping to make up for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager to a back injury.
ON THIS DAY
Tuesday was the 13th anniversary of Roberts’ memorable stolen base for Boston in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees. The Red Sox were three outs from elimination when Roberts ran for Kevin Millar, swiped second and scored on Bill Mueller’s single.
Boston went on to rally past New York and sweep St. Louis for its first World Series championship since 1918. Roberts said he never mentions the steal to his players, but it comes up occasionally.
“Yu Darvish about two weeks ago I guess was surfing the internet, and there was an ‘aha’ moment,” Roberts said. “He ran across the stolen base and kind of put 2 and 2 together and didn’t realize that was his manager. So he proceeded to kind of awkwardly approach me about it and talked about my goatee and how I could steal a base. He just couldn’t believe, that was my manager. So that was kind of funny.”
Dodgers: Wood, who had a career-high 16 wins this season, will make his first appearance since Sept. 26. He was lined up for Game 4 of the NLDS, but the Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks in three games. “It has its pluses and negatives,” Wood said of the layoff. “I’ve stayed on a semi-regular schedule. I’ve had two (simulated) games in between against a lot of our regular guys in our lineup.”
Cubs: Arrieta has pitched just 14 1/3 innings since Aug. 30, including four innings of two-hit ball against Washington in Game 4 of the NLDS. The 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner was hampered by a right hamstring injury at the end of the season.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
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