CHICAGO — Joe Maddon waved his arms as expletives streamed from his lips. With his team staring at elimination, he left nothing unsaid before he was ejected in the eighth inning, arguing the particulars of what would be a Curtis Granderson strikeout.
For three games in the National League Championship Series, the Cubs appeared to be out of fight against the Dodgers, who positioned themselves for a series sweep. But on Wednesday night, the Cubs extended their season, hanging on for a 3-2 victory to buy one more day.
Javy Baez emerged from his postseason slumber with a pair of solo homers. And after Maddon’s stormy exit, closer Wade Davis recorded the final six outs for the save in his first appearance in the NLCS.
“Incredible,” Cubs starter Jake Arrieta said. “We’ve had to use him a lot . . . he’s willing to do anything we need.”
It did not come easy.
Hounded this week for not using Davis in high leverage spots earlier in the series, Maddon called on his closer in the eighth, his team leading 3-1. Davis fired 34 pitches to navigate his first frame, allowing a solo shot to Justin Turner that halved the Dodgers’ deficit. He also walked a pair of batters and waited as Maddon disputed what the umpires overturned and called a foul tip by Granderson after they huddled. Replays showed it wasn’t a foul tip. Umpires later admitted it was a mistake.
“I was trying not to get involved in it emotionally,” Davis said, after being forced to wait through Maddon’s eruption.
On the next pitch, Granderson struck out, and Davis survived though he worried that his elevated pitch count would burn him.
“Man, just the walks,” he said. “So many walks . . . I’ve definitely got to get better at that.”
Still, Davis took the mound in the ninth to finish off the Dodgers. On his 48th and final pitch, he got Clay Bellinger to ground into a game-ending double play. Davis, a free agent to be, had not pitched since the clinching game of the NLDS, logging the final seven outs in a 44-pitch effort. He was worked even harder on Wednesday, once again sparing the Cubs.
“When you’re standing in front of 40,000 people it’s not hard to have adrenaline,” said Davis, who insisted he was physically fine after yet another grueling outing.
Arrieta, the 2015 Cy Young Award winner, delivered a gritty performance in what might be his final start for a franchise that revived his career. He went 6 2⁄3 innings with nine strikeouts. His five walks revealed the rust that has come by pitching just twice since Sept. 26 because of an injury to his right hamstring.
Still, he departed with a two-run lead. With free agency looming, Arrieta has said that he’d take mental snapshots of every starts, hoping to savor what may be his final days in Chicago. He appeared to do just that when he was pulled in the sixth, doffing his cap at a raucous crowd.
A year ago, Baez began the postseason with a hit in each of the Cubs’ first six games. His October heroics propelled the Cubs all the way to the World Series, where they overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Indians. For the first time since 1908, a world championship came to the North Side and Baez became a face of that triumph.
But this postseason, Baez’s bat had been absent. He began Game 4 hitless in his first 20 playoff at-bats, just one short of equaling a franchise record set by Jimmy Sheckard, who went 0-for-21 to begin the 1906 World Series.
Soon, Baez’s streak would come to an end.
Willson Contreras struck first in the second inning, unleashing a towering solo shot off Dodgers lefty Alex Wood to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. The ball took off toward a the leftfield video board, right at the image of Contreras’ face. It landed 491 feet from home plate, the second longest postseason homer ever measured by Statcast.
Two batters later, Baez loudly broke out of his slump, sending a solo shot just inside the foul pole in leftfield. The ball traveled 437 feet and gave Wrigley Field a reason to roar.
The encore came in the fifth, another solo shot that he puled into the leftfield bleachers. He joined Aramis Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez, Eric Karros and Gary Matthews as the only Cubs with multi-homer games in the postseason.
Moments later, Baez heeded the urging of the crowd. He ascended the dugout steps to wave his fist in a curtain call, the clearest sign that the Cubs might have a chance to reign as champions for one more night.