Arrieta, Baez keep Cubs alive with Dodgers on verge of World Series

Jake Arrieta congratulates teammate Javier Baez after his home runThe defending World Series champions lived to fight another day on Wednesday. Down three games to none to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs did just enough to avoid being swept out of the postseason unceremoniously after their historic championship run last season, winning 3-2 to force one more game at Wrigley Field.

Chicago starter Jake Arrieta set the tone with a dominant performance, striking out nine and scattering three hits over six and two-thirds innings. His one mistake was allowing a solo home run in the third inning, but he also went 1-for-2 at the plate to help the Cubs on the other side of the ball as well, which is something the team has desperately needed.

The Cubs entered Wednesday with four runs through the first three games of the NLCS, and that lack of offense was a big reason for their precarious position. Javier Baez responded with his best game of the playoffs at the plate, hitting two homers, while catcher Willson Contreras added a home run of his own. The three runs were enough for Arrieta, and Wade Davis closed the night with a two-inning save.

While Chicago gave its fans something to cheer about on in Game 4, Thursday’s Game 5 promises to be an even greater challenge. The Dodgers are scheduled to start their ace, Clayton Kershaw, who pitched five solid innings in Game 1 and has a chance to vanquish his postseason demons with one more strong performance. Kershaw was on the mound last year in Game 6 of the NLCS, when the Cubs defeated Los Angeles to clinch a World Series berth. He surrendered all five runs in the contest, and now he can atone by getting the Dodgers to their first World Series since 1988.

If Chicago staves off elimination for another game, the series will shift back to Los Angeles for Games 6 and 7 on the weekend. Winning twice at home is one thing, but stealing two more crucial games from a team that was 57-24 at home during the regular season is a monumental task. Fortunately for the Cubs, a 3-0 series comeback is not unprecedented: the Boston Red Sox rallied from three games down to defeat the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, and Boston went on to win the World Series that year.