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Cubs defeat Dodgers, 5-0, to advance to World Series for first time since 1945

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Chicago dominates Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers to win the NLCS, 4-2

Clayton Kershaw can’t carry the Dodgers to Game 7; Cubs beat Dodgers, 5-0

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw drops to the ground while giving up a home run to Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo in the fifth inning of Game 6.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

For the past three weeks, as the Dodgers crawled through these playoffs, Clayton Kershaw acted as a one-man cordon, capable of holding off his opponents and offsetting the mistakes of his teammates. On the final night of the Dodgers’ 2016 season, in a 5-0 loss to the Cubs in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, he could do neither.

Chicago mauled Kershaw for five runs in five innings. The Dodgers’ offense never materialized against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks. And as Wrigley Field swayed in the aftermath, with 42,000 fans howling “Go Cubs Go,” three dozen men in Dodgers uniforms emptied their dugout and prepared for the winter.

For the first time since 1945, the Cubs are headed back to the World Series. For the 28th year in a row, the Dodgers are headed home before the Fall Classic.

The Dodgers surged into control of the National League West while Kershaw mended a herniated disk for 10 weeks. But in October, the team reverted to its former state. They could go only as far as Kershaw could take them. Before Saturday, the team was unbeaten in playoff games in which Kershaw appeared and 1-5 in the rest.

Kershaw entered this October with questions about his resiliency in the postseason. He squashed some of those with his performance earlier this week, when he pitched four times in a 10-day span.

Only nine days ago, he stood in the center of Nationals Park with his arms raised aloft. He secured the final two outs of a first-round clincher, and his teammates engulfed him. His face wore a mixture of exhaustion and joy. The postseason had only just begun, and Kershaw would soon remember how fickle it can be.

Before the game, Manager Dave Roberts made no bold proclamations. But he did reveal something that pointed to his optimism. His father, Waymon, and his teenage son, Cole, were in Phoenix, where Cole was playing in a baseball tournament. Both had tickets to fly to Chicago for Game 7.

“A sign of confidence,” Roberts said with a grin, as his team completed batting practice. “I already bought the tickets.”

The real reason to believe would emerge from the dugout a few minutes later. Kershaw ascended the steps and walked into the outfield. He stretched by himself as fans filtered into the bleachers. He had silenced the Cubs for seven innings in Game 2. The Dodgers needed something similar in the sequel.

It was not to be. On the third pitch of the game, Kershaw pumped a slider at the belt. Outfielder Dexter Fowler flicked a line drive down the right-field line. The ball kissed the inside of the paint and bounced over the bricks for a ground-rule double. Giving chase, right fielder Josh Reddick shook his head.

Three pitches later, third baseman Kris Bryant reached across the plate, dug out a low fastball and sent an RBI single into right field. The crowd was already alive, braying Kershaw’s name, elongating the syllables like playground bullies. Now the ballpark shook. It would only get worse.

After five fastballs to first baseman Anthony Rizzo, Kershaw tried a slider. Rizzo hit a drive into the gap between left fielder Andrew Toles and center fielder Joc Pederson. Toles settled underneath it. He raised his glove. At the last moment, as the ball approached the leather, he shifted his eyes to the diamond. He never saw the ball clip his glove and fall to the ground.

Kershaw did. He stuck out his tongue, but managed to shield his dismay. Both runners advanced into scoring position. Bryant scored on a subsequent sacrifice fly by outfielder Ben Zobrist. The torment of the inning lasted 30 pitches.

The elements appeared aligned against the Dodgers. Midway through an at-bat in the second inning, a rogue firework erupted beyond center field as Pederson stood at the plate. Pederson tried to protest the strike that followed from Hendricks. Umpire Ted Barrett offered no relief.

As bombs burst in the night, the Dodgers stepped on their own toes, incapable of avoiding unforced mistakes. The top of the second ended when Reddick was picked off first base. To add some annoyance to the mix: Reddick reached base when second baseman Javier Baez bobbled a groundball. Even when the Cubs made errors, the Dodgers topped them with gaffes of their own.

Reddick’s inattention came with Yasmani Grandal at the plate, and cost the club a chance to tie the game with one swing. That chance would not arise again soon.

For Kershaw, the agony was not limited to the first inning. Shortstop Addison Russell greeted him in the second inning by stinging a leadoff double into the ivy along the left-field wall. With two outs, Kershaw picked up two strikes on Fowler. But he left an 0-2 fastball over the middle, and Fowler pulled it into left field for an RBI single.

Hendricks had given up a hit on the first pitch he threw when Toles roped a single. But Hendricks erased Toles on the next pitch, an 87-mph sinker that Corey Seager bounced into a double play.

Hendricks led the National League in earned-run average this year, and he does not overwhelm his opponents. He thrives on soft contact and pristine command. Earlier in the week, Kershaw compared him to Greg Maddux. Hendricks faced the minimum through seven innings. He departed when Reddick singled in the eighth.

As Hendricks twirled a gem, Kershaw found his evening only worsening. In the bottom of the fourth, he tried to spin a slider aimed at the back foot of catcher Willson Contreras. His aim was not true. The pitch was elevated over the plate. Contreras ripped it over the left-field fence for a solo shot.

Kershaw was toiling without mastery of his weapons. He could not induce swings with his curveball. He could not locate his slider. And he could not fool the Cubs with his fastball. He dropped into a sidearm during the fifth, trying to fool Rizzo with a trick he learned from teammate Rich Hill. Rizzo re-directed the fastball into the bleachers for another solo homer.

Down five, Kershaw left the game on his own accord. He struck out Zobrist for the third out and shuffled toward his dugout. He kept his head down as the ballpark vibrated with noise. He slipped out of sight, his season finished, his legacy still undetermined.

Andy.mccullough@latimes.com

Twitter: @McCulloughTimes

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Fans in Wrigley Field are ecstatic

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Celebration in Chicago

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Cubs defeat Dodgers, 5-0, to end L.A.'s season and advance to World Series

TOP OF NINTH: CUBS 5, DODGERS 0

It’s over. The Dodgers’ 2016 season ended Saturday night at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks shut them out for 7 1/3 innings, and Aroldis Chapman finished it off in the ninth. Carlos Ruiz worked a one-out walk, but pinch-hitter Yasiel Puig grounded into a double play on the first pitch he saw, and this stadium went crazy.

The Cubs won, 5-0. They beat the Dodgers in this series four games to two.

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Cubs 5, Dodgers 0 after eight innings

BOTTOM OF EIGHTH: CUBS 5, DODGERS 0

Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts stuck with Kenley Jansen for a third inning, and Jansen again shut down the Cubs. Kris Bryant struck out, Anthony Rizzo lined out to center, and Ben Zobrist grounded out to second base.

Here it goes. Unless the Dodgers score five or more runs in the top of the ninth inning, their season is over.

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Dodgers are three outs away from elimination

TOP OF EIGHTH: CUBS 5, DODGERS 0

Kyle Hendricks finally allowed another hit, to Josh Reddick with one out in this eighth inning, and Cubs Manager Joe Maddon immediately pulled him for closer Aroldis Chapman.

Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts countered by pinch-hitting Howie Kendrick for Joc Pederson. Kendrick grounded into a double play on Chapman’s third pitch. It’s still 5-0, and the Dodgers have just three outs left.

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They are getting ready outside Wrigley

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Cubs lead Dodgers 5-0 through seven innings

BOTTOM OF SEVENTH: CUBS 5, DODGERS 0

In for one more inning, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen set down the Cubs in order. Albert Almora Jr. struck out, Kyle Hendricks flied out to right, and Dexter Fowler struck out. Hendricks is going to begin the eighth, and, at this point, it seems plausible he could complete the game.

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News flash: Scottie Pippen can’t sing

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Kyle Hendricks has given up one hit in seven innings

TOP OF SEVENTH: CUBS 5, DODGERS 0

Kyle Hendricks has encountered absolutely no trouble in this game. Facing the Dodgers’ lineup a third time, he began by inducing a pop-up from Andrew Toles. Corey Seager then struck out and Justin Turner popped out in foul territory.

Hendricks has faced the minimum number of Dodgers. The Cubs have six outs to go.

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Dodgers are nine outs away from elimination

BOTTOM OF SIXTH

In a rare sixth-inning appearance, Kenley Jansen got Javier Baez to ground out, Willson Contreras to fly out, and Addison Russell to strike out swinging.

Jansen will likely handle another inning. The Dodgers have nine outs left to score at least five runs.

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Kershaw is out, Jansen is in; Cubs lead Dodgers, 5-0 after top of sixth

TOP OF SIXTH: CUBS 5, DODGERS 0

Kyle Hendricks struck out Yasmani Grandal, induced a weak groundout to second base from Chase Utley, and got another groundout from Andre Ethier, who was pinch-hitting for Clayton Kershaw.

Hendricks has thrown only 71 pitches. Outside of the very first pitch of this game, he has not yielded a hit nor allowed a walk. It’s been a remarkable performance, and he has exhibited no signs of tiring yet.

Closer Kenley Jansen is going to pitch the bottom of the sixth inning. The Dodgers trail, 5-0.

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Cubs fans taunt Kershaw

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Cubs take 5-0 lead over Dodgers after five innings

BOTTOM OF FIFTH: CUBS 5, DODGERS 0

Clayton Kershaw still could not cruise through an inning against this talented Chicago lineup. He struck out Dexter Fowler, lucked out on a line drive from Kris Bryant, then yielded a sizable shot to Anthony Rizzo. The baseball departed the field of play for a solo home run. Kershaw has thrown 93 pitches through five innings, and his spot in the Dodgers’ order is due up third in the sixth inning, so his night — and, potentially his season — could be done.

The Cubs lead this game by five runs.

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Cubs take 5-0 lead on Rizzo’s homer

Anthony Rizzo hits one deep, 5-0 Cubs. If Chick Hearn were here, he’s be preparing to say a certain phrase soon.

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Dodgers can’t solve Kyle Hendricks

TOP OF FIFTH: CUBS 4, DODGERS 0

Kyle Hendricks is dominating the Dodgers. Adrian Gonzalez grounded out, Josh Reddick popped out in foul territory, and Joc Pederson struck out swinging. Hendricks, at just 55 pitches through five innings, has still faced the minimum number of batters. The Dodgers are running out of chances.

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Cubs take 4-0 lead after four innings

BOTTOM OF FOURTH: CUBS 4, DODGERS 0

Willson Contreras hit Clayton Kershaw’s second pitch of the fourth inning, a sitting slider, off the left-field foul pole for a solo shot. Addison Russell quickly grounded out to first, Albert Almora Jr grounded out to shortstop, and Kyle Hendricks grounded out to third, around the horn.

Kershaw has thrown 73 pitches. The Cubs lead the Dodgers, 4-0.

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There is no cursing in baseball

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Willson Contreras makes it 4-0 Cubs

You can hear Dodgers watch parties ending all over Los Angeles as Willson Contreras launches a Kershaw pitch into the left field bleachers. 4-0 Cubs

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Dodgers go down quickly in top of fourth

TOP OF FOURTH: CUBS 3, DODGERS 0

Andrew Toles flew out to right field, Corey Seager tapped out to the pitcher, and Justin Turner grounded out to first base. The Dodgers have sent up only 12 batters through four innings, the minimum number of batters a team can send up through four innings. Chicago leads, 3-0.

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Cubs 3, Dodgers 0 after three innings

BOTTOM OF THIRD: CUBS 3, DODGERS 0

Clayton Kershaw got Kris Bryant to fly out to right to begin the inning, but Anthony Rizzo subsequently slammed a baseball into the center-field ivy for a 394-foot double, clocked at 106 mph. Ben Zobrist next drove a ball to center, caught by Joc Pederson, that allowed Rizzo to take third. Javier Baez fell behind 0-and-2 before Kershaw fired a sharp slider into the dirt to induce his second strikeout of the night.

Kershaw has thrown 62 pitches, which could soon become an issue.

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Leadoff double for Cubs in third

Anthony Rizzo lines a leadoff double in the bottom of the third as Clayton Kershaw does not have his good stuff today.

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Kyle Hendricks keeps rolling

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Dodgers go in order in top of third

TOP OF THIRD: CUBS 3, DODGERS 0

Yasmani Grandal saw nine pitches from Kyle Hendricks and then struck out. Chase Utley lined out to left on three pitches, and Clayton Kershaw struck out on three. While Clayton Kershaw has thrown 46 pitches in two innings, Hendricks has thrown just 37 through three.

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Cubs take 3-0 lead over Dodgers after two innings

BOTTOM OF SECOND: CUBS 3, DODGERS 0

Leading off, Addison Russell hammered a hanging slider to the ivy down the left-field line. Andrew Toles fielded it and threw well to second base, but Russell had a double, and he stayed at second when Albert Almora Jr. soon grounded out to third base. Pitcher Kyle Hendricks struck out on seven pitches, but Dexter Fowler ripped an 0-and-2 middle-middle fastball for a run-scoring single into left field.

Fowler was caught between bases for the inning-ending out, but the Cubs now own a significant 3-0 lead through two innings.

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Dexter Fowler knocks in Russell to make it 3-0 Cubs

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Cubs get leadoff hitter aboard in second

Cubs get a leadoff double from Addison Russell in the bottom of the second. Most of Kershaw’s pitches are up in the zone.

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Cubs 2, Dodgers 0 after top of second

TOP OF SECOND: CUBS 2, DODGERS 0

Kyle Hendricks retired Adrian Gonzalez on a groundout up the middle. Josh Reddick next grounded a ball to second baseman Javier Baez, who bobbled it twice and could not get a throw to the base. Reddick reached; Joc Pederson followed by striking out swinging on an exceptionally high fastball. Yasmani Grandal, up with two outs, fell behind 1-and-2, and then Hendricks caught Reddick far off first base for an embarrassing pickoff.

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Steve Bartman playing left for the Dodgers?

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Cubs lead Dodgers 2-0 after one inning

BOTTOM OF FIRST: CUBS 2, DODGERS 0

Clayton Kershaw’s first pitch to Dexter Fowler missed the strike zone. His second caught the outside edge. The third jammed Fowler, but he managed to push it into right field, just fair, for a bloop double.

The crowd began to chant: “KER-SHAW”, and then Kershaw served up a single to Kris Bryant, scoring Fowler. It became exceptionally loud at this little old ballpark. Then, as the chant continued, Anthony Rizzo smacked a drive to left field, in Andrew Toles’ direction. Toles, the rookie who began this season in Class-A, dropped the baseball, to the fans’ collective disbelief. Bryant took third base and Rizzo second.

As Toles walked back to his spot in the outfield, he looked up to the new video board behind him, watched his mishap, and smacked his right hand to his glove. He seemed to take his eye off the ball.

Ben Zobrist next notched a sacrifice fly, and Kershaw soon retired Javier Baez and Willson Contreras to end the inning. Still, the Cubs scored before they made an out, and they scored twice; they could not score once before they made 27 outs in Game 2 against Kershaw and Kenley Jansen.

Kershaw threw 30 pitches.

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Cubs take 2-0 lead

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Cubs take 1-0 lead

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Dodgers held scoreless in top of first

TOP OF FIRST: DODGERS 0, CUBS 0

Here at a raucous Wrigley Field, Andrew Toles rapped Kyle Hendricks’ first pitch into right field for a single. Corey Seager, too, swung at the first pitch, but it went for a double play. Cubs second baseman Javier Baez fielded a grounder, tagged Toles, and threw to first base. The crowd chanted Baez’s first name, a common refrain here during this postseason.

Up next, Justin Turner battled to seven pitches before flying out to the edge of the right-field warning track.

Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the Dodgers in the bottom of this inning. He’ll be pitching on extra rest for the first time since the regular season, and it’s easy to envision the Dodgers deploying only him and Kenley Jansen on the mound tonight.

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Big crowds outside Wrigley Field

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Note to self: Never go see another John Cusack movie

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Starting it all off

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Fans in Chicago are ready

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Dodgers and Cubs announce their Game 6 lineups

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Dave Roberts on why Andrew Toles is batting leadoff

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Dodgers-Cubs Game 6 preview

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

It is a matchup of young men who think highly of each other. Clayton Kershaw, 28, on Thursday called the 26-year-old Kyle Hendricks the “Greg Maddux of this generation, with his ability to sink the ball, cut the ball, and put hitters in spots where they are enticed to swing but can’t put the barrel on it.”

Kershaw won the battle between them in Game 2, mostly because he was able to last longer than Hendricks, who uncharacteristically issued four walks in 5 1/3 innings. Both men will be pitching on an extra day of rest, rare for Kershaw but remarkably common for Hendricks, who has not started on a normal starter’s schedule since August. That’s mostly because the Cubs were so far ahead of their divisional opponents.

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Adrian Gonzalez readies for ‘another chess game’ against Cubs in Game 6

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Adrian Gonzalez should have felt worn down. At 34 years old he had played in more than 160 games this year, many with excruciating pain in his neck or back.

Except there he was, standing in the middle of an otherwise empty locker room at Wrigley Field, smiling and laughing as he pointed here and waved there. Later, he illustrated an argument by throwing his arms out along his usual swing path.

“I love it,” he said.

There was something charming about a 13-year veteran sharing his thoughts on hitting with child-like enthusiasm.

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Dodgers once again turn to Clayton Kershaw to save their season

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The equipment bag sat in front of Clayton Kershaw’s locker, half-zipped but ready to be tossed aboard a charter flight to Chicago. As the Dodgers prepared Friday to leave home for Game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Cubs, the players understood the likelihood of another game at Dodger Stadium in 2016 depended on Kershaw’s left arm.

The arithmetic for the Dodgers heading into the weekend is tantalizing and disheartening. The team is two victories away from its first World Series berth since 1988. It is also one loss away from the off-season.

Such is the situation after the Dodgers bungled Games 4 and 5 at home to fall behind in the series, three games to two.

So the Dodgers return to Wrigley Field, where they exited in triumphant fashion last Sunday. Once more, they will turn to Kershaw. For the second series in a row, the team must win an elimination game with their ace on the mound.

“I’m sure he’ll be the first one to tell you that he wants it,” reliever Joe Blanton said. “He wants it more than anybody. We want him to have it. He’s going to go out and do what he does best, whatever that may be, whatever the result is. Everybody is going to give 100%.”

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