The defending champs aren't going down without a fight.
The Chicago Cubs extended their season Wednesday with a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the 2017 National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field. Los Angeles still leads the series 3-1, but two home runs from Javier Baez, a homer from Willson Contreras and clutch pitching from Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis kept Chicago alive.
The Cubs put their season on Arrieta's shoulders, and he delivered with a vintage performance, allowing just three hits and five walks while striking out nine in 6.2 innings.
The only run he gave up was Cody Bellinger's solo homer in the top of the third, although he ran into trouble in the seventh when he walked Yasmani Grandal and Chris Taylor. Brian Duensing entered to face Bellinger—who represented the go-ahead run—and induced a fly out to end the frame and ensure Arrieta finished with an impressive stat line.
Wednesday may have been Arrieta's final start in a Cubs uniform considering he is set to become a free agent this offseason, and he added an exclamation mark to a tenure that included a 2015 Cy Young, a World Series title, three NLCS appearances and two no-hitters.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today suggested his outing paid off in more ways than one:
Arrieta even drove his counterpart from the game with a single in the fifth. It was the only base hit Alex Wood allowed that wasn't a home run, but three solo long balls with the wind blowing out at Wrigley cost him a chance at victory in his first career postseason start.
In all, he finished with seven strikeouts and zero walks while giving up three runs and four hits in 4.2 innings.
At the bottom of the second inning, Contreras had his monster blast off the left-field scoreboard, and not even the wind blowing in could have kept it from clearing the fence:
The catcher gave the Cubs their initial run for the fourth straight game in the series, but Baez—who was hitless in his 20 at-bats this postseason entering play Wednesday—helped the lead stand this time around with his solo homers in the second and fifth:
His second homer came with a dash of style, as Brian Cassella of the Chicago Tribune captured:
It wasn't all bubblegum and home runs for the Cubs, as Davis' two-inning save came with a game's worth of drama. He needed 34 pitches to escape the eighth alone in a frame that featured a long ball from Justin Turner—which trimmed the lead to one—and manager Joe Maddon's ejection.
The umpires kicked the Chicago skipper from the game after Curtis Granderson's swing-and-miss for strike three was overturned and ruled a foul ball. The broadcast showed Granderson miss the pitch, and the play wasn't reviewable. The umpires still changed the call, however, and incited an outburst from Maddon and the hostile crowd.
Davis struck out Granderson on the next pitch before fanning Chase Utley with two runners on to end the threat.
A scoreless ninth means attention turns to Thursday's Game 5 at Wrigley.
The 3-1 margin is the hole the Cubs dug themselves out of in last year's World Series against the Cleveland Indians, so they have experience in these situations. But the Dodgers have the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Yu Darvish looming as they look to clinch their first Fall Classic appearance in 29 years.