CHICAGO (AFP) – The Chicago Cubs are returning to the World Series for the first time in 71 years, a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers giving them a chance to end the longest title drought in North American sports.
The hard-luck Cubs haven’t won the world Series since 1908, and last played in Major League Baseball’s championship showcase in 1945.
But with the victory before 42,386 ecstatic fans at Wrigley Field, the Cubs wrapped up the National League Championship Series four games to two and will face the Cleveland Indians in the 112th World Series starting on Tuesday in Cleveland.
The Indians haven’t won a World Series title since 1948.
‘‘I thought we played one of our best games we played all year tonight, under these circumstances,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘The defense, the pitching, the hitting. That was a complete game of baseball.’’
The Cubs pounced quickly on Dodgers pitching ace Clayton Kershaw, scoring two runs in the first inning to stake Chicago starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks to an early lead.
After giving up a first-pitch single, Hendricks dominated, facing the minimum number of Dodgers hitters through 7 1/3 shut-out innings.
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo both homered off Kershaw as the Dodgers were denied their first trip to the World Series since 1988.
A Cubs team that won a major league-leading 103 regular-season games chased Kershaw after five innings. Kershaw, who pitched seven scoreless innings in a game-two win over the Cubs at Wrigley a week earlier, gave up five runs, four of them earned, on seven hits.
‘‘The Cubs’ hitters, they had a great game plan tonight,’’ said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. ‘‘There was traffic all night for Clayton. And he gave it everything he had, but when he did make a mistake, they made him pay.’’
When the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig grounded into a double play to end the game, Wrigley Field erupted as Cubs players stormed the mound to celebrate.
‘‘This is unbelievable right now,’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘Today, that might have been the best game I pitched all year. I had my fastball command, changeup, curveball, I had everything going.’’
Chicago second baseman Javier Baez delivered more heads-up defensive play, tagging Andrew Toles out to spark a double play in the first inning.
In the bottom half of the inning, Kris Bryant singled to right field to score Dexter Fowler for the first run, and the Cubs capitalized on Toles’s error in left field to score a second run on Ben Zobrist’s sacrifice fly.
It was the first time this season that Kershaw allowed two runs in the first inning and was a sign of things to come.
Addison Russell led off the bottom of the second with a double and scored on Fowler’s two-out single. Contreras homered off Kershaw in the fourth and Rizzo in the fifth.