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Cubs defeat Giants, advance to National League Championship Series

cubs wrigley field (MGN)

(AP) — The Chicago Cubs are now four victories away from their first World Series berth since 1945.

The Cubs have advanced to the National League Championship Series by scoring four times in the ninth off the Giants’ imploding bullpen to earn a 6-5 victory in San Francisco. The Cubs took Game 4 after Giants starter Matt Moore held them to one earned run and two hits while striking out 10 over eight innings. San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy went through five relievers in the ninth, with each allowing at least one base-runner.

The series-winning rally began with the Giants leading 5-2. Kris Bryant led off with a single and moved to second on a walk before scoring on Ben Zobrist’s RBI double. Cubs manager Joe Maddon won a chess match with Bochy as pinch-hitter Willson Contreras poked a two-run single to tie the game. Maddon initially wanted to use the lefty-hitting Chris Coghlan as a pinch-hitter against Sergio Romo before Bochy brought in southpaw Will Smith.

Javier Baez supplied the tiebreaking single against Smith to send the Cubs into the LCS. Baez homered for the only run in Chicago’s Game 1 victory.

David Ross provided the Cubs’ first two runs with a solo shot and a sacrifice fly.

Conor Gillaspie was 4-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored for the Giants, who had won 10 straight games when facing elimination.

Hector Rondon worked a scoreless eighth to pick up the win. Aroldis Chapman closed out the victory and notched his third save of the series by striking out the side in the ninth. Smith took the loss.

The Cubs still don’t who they will host in Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday. That’s because the Dodgers have forced a fifth and deciding game in their division series by downing the Washington Nationals, 6-5 in Los Angeles. L.A. coughed up a three-run lead in the seventh before Chase Utley stroked an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to extend the series.

Andrew Toles started the two-out rally by getting hit by a Blake Treinen pitch. Pinch-hitter Andre Ethier kept the inning alive with a single before Utley allowed the Dodgers to avoid elimination.

Before that, Adrian Gonzalez belted a two-run homer and Joc Pederson had two RBIs to help Los Angeles build a 5-2 lead. But Washington tied the game by scoring three times with two out in the seventh as Jayson Werth was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded before Daniel Murphy’s two-run single knotted the score.

Murphy had four RBIs for the Nationals, who had taken the previous two games since dropping the opener. Trea (tray) Turner was the Nats’ sparkplug in Game 4, going 3-for-4 with three runs scored.

Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw was charged with five runs over 6 2/3 innings, leaving the game with the bases loaded. The three-time Cy Young Award winner and four-time ERA leader now owns a 4.83 earned run average in 15 postseason appearances.

Joe Blanton worked the eighth to pick up the win. Kenley Jansen notched his second save of the series with a perfect ninth. Treinen took the loss.

Game 5 is Thursday at Nationals Park, where the Nats will try to win a playoff round for the first time since the franchise fled Montreal after the 2004 season. Max Scherzer will start for Washington against either lefty Rich Hill or rookie Julio Urias. Scherzer lost Game 1, Hill dropped Game 2 and Urias hasn’t pitched in the series.