On deck, a pair of opportunities to wrap up that elusive pennant at Wrigley Field.
“That’s a game we expect to win,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said.
Of course, the Cubs were in the same favourable position 13 years ago — heading home to Wrigley with a 3-2 lead in the NLCS.
More than a decade later, the franchise is still chasing its first World Series championship since 1908.
“We’ve heard the history,” center fielder Dexter Fowler said, “but at the same time we’re trying to make history.”
Budding star Javier Baez was in the middle of everything for the Cubs, a common theme this October. The second baseman made a sensational defensive play when the game was still close in the seventh, and his three-run double capped a five-run eighth that made it 8-1.
After busting out of his postseason slump Wednesday, Russell hit a two-run homer for the second straight game. This one was a sixth-inning drive off losing pitcher Joe Blanton that gave Chicago a 3-1 lead.
The left-hander struck out six and walked one in a slow-paced game that lasted 4 hours, 16 minutes.
“These guys won the game for us,” Lester said, nodding toward Russell and Baez. “I was just kind of along for the ride.”
Anthony Rizzo’s run-scoring double gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first.
Los Angeles tied it in the fourth on Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI groundout.
Russell homered on an 0-1 pitch from Blanton, who gave up a single to Baez leading off the sixth. Baez stole second before Russell’s shot to left-center put the Cubs ahead on another unusually hot night at Dodger Stadium.
“Our confidence hasn’t wavered,” Roberts said. “This series certainly isn’t over.”
Maeda gave up one run and three hits over 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs in 10 2/3 innings this postseason.
The Dodgers’ defense fell apart in the eighth.
Contreras followed with a pinch-hit single, and the runners moved up on pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr.’s sacrifice bunt. Fowler reached on an infield single to first, with Gonzalez losing a foot race when Fowler slid into the bag as Russell scored.
Kris Bryant reached on an infield single to third, with the Dodgers unsuccessfully challenging the call that he was safe.
The Dodgers thought they’d finally escaped the inning when Rizzo lined out to second baseman Kike Hernandez, who nearly doubled up Fowler at second. But the Cubs challenged the call and it was reversed, prolonging the inning.
“We can grab that momentum by one name: Kershaw,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t want to put it all on him, but if we score a couple of runs, we’ll feel real good.”