Chicago: Miguel Montero’s eighth-inning grand slam powered the Chicago Cubs to an 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday in game one of their Major League Baseball play-off series.
Montero’s blast off Dodgers relief pitcher Joe Blanton - after the Dodgers had knotted the score at 3-3 with two runs in the top of the eighth - was just the third pinch-hit grand slam in post-season history and boosted the Cubs to a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
The winner of the series advances to the World Series to face either the Cleveland Indians or Toronto Blue Jays.
Cleveland took a 2-0 lead in the American League Championship Series on Saturday with a 2-1 triumph over Toronto.
The Cubs, who had the best record in the major leagues this season, are vying to end the longest title drought in North American sport, with their last World Series triumph coming in 1908.
The Cubs were up 3-1 heading into the eighth, but Los Angeles loaded the bases with none out against Chicago relief pitchers Mike Montgomery and Pedro Strop.
The Cubs sent closer Aroldis Chapman to the mound, and he struck out two before giving up a two-out single to Adrian Gonzalez that scored Andrew Toles and Chase Utley to tie the game.
Chicago’s Ben Zobrist opened the bottom of the eighth with a double and Jason Heyward and pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan were intentionally walked by Blanton, setting the stage for Montero to send an 0-2 pitch over the right field wall.
Dexter Fowler followed with a solo home run.
Although Chapman blew the save, he earned the victory. Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester received a no-decision after allowing just one run in six innings. He retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced, surrendering four hits with one walk and three strike outs.
In Cleveland, Carlos Santana homered and Francisco Lindor drove in the winning run to spark the Indians to a 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays.
While the Cubs have endured the grand-daddy of US sporting title droughts, the Indians have weathered their own epic stretch of futility since last winning the World Series in 1948. Since then the Indians have lost the World Series in 1954, 1995 and 1997.
“We’re confident,” Santana said after the Indians’ second home win against the Blue Jays, but he added that Cleveland would remain vigilant as the series shifts to Toronto on Monday.
“We have to keep it up,” Santana said. “Toronto has a very good team. They can come back.”
Santana smashed a solo homer off Toronto starter J.A. Happ over the left-field wall in the second inning to open the scoring.
The Blue Jays answered in the third as Darwin Barney singled, advanced to second on a ground out and scored on a Josh Donaldson double to pull Toronto level 1-1.
But the Indians pushed home the winning run when they came to the plate in the third as Rajai Davis reached first base on a fielder’s choice, stole second, took third on a wild pitch by Happ and scored on a Lindor single to make it 2-1.