CHICAGO (AP) " Miguel Montero delivered a memorable grand slam home run, Javier Baez stole home and Jon Lester turned in another steady pitching performance as the Chicago Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 in game one of their Major League Baseball NL Championship Series on Saturday night.
Montero snapped an eighth-inning tie, with two outs, with the third pinch-hit grand slam in postseason history, helping the Cubs move within three wins of their first pennant in 71 years.
In the ALCS, the Cub's fellow long-time strugglers Cleveland took an imposing 2-0 series lead over visiting Toronto with a hard-fought 2-1 win. Josh Tomlin baffled Blue Jays batters for nearly six innings and Andrew Miller blew them away as the Indians completed five straight postseason wins for the first time in their 116-year history. Teams holding a 2-0 series lead are 24-3 in the LCS under its present best-of-seven format.
Game 2 of the NLCS is Sunday night, with the Dodgers again needing a clutch performance from ace Clayton Kershaw. Major league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks pitches for the Cubs, chasing their first World Series title since 1908.
LA's Japanese starter Kenta Maeda lasted just four innings on Saturday night in his fourth straight shaky outing dating to the regular season. The Cubs jumped on him for three runs in the first two innings.
"There were a lot of pitches I left over the plate that they took advantage of," Maeda said through a translator.
Lester pitched six effective innings, and Dexter Fowler homered after making two diving catches in center field. Left fielder Ben Zobrist threw out Adrian Gonzalez at the plate.
"We've kind of proved we can overcome adversity in the game," third baseman Kris Bryant said.
Swept by the New York Mets in last year's NLCS, Chicago rebounded after Gonzalez tied it 3-3 with a two-run single in the crazy eighth.
Zobrist hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the inning before pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan was intentionally walked with runners at first and second and two outs, bringing up pitcher Aroldis Chapman's spot in the batting order.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon sent up Montero, who drove an 0-2 slider from loser Joe Blanton into the right-field bleachers for his first hit of the playoffs.
The Wrigley Field crowd of 42,376 went wild. It continued when Fowler hit Blanton's next pitch out of the park, as the Cubs rebounded from a shaky bullpen performance.
In Cleveland, Carlos Santana homered off 20-game winner J.A. Happ in the second. Toronto tied it in the third, but Francisco Lindor's RBI single in the bottom of that inning put the Indians back on track to win the second straight tense game in the ALCS.
An afterthought in August, Tomlin has emerged an unlikely October star for the Indians. He allowed one run and three hits in 5 2/3 innings for his second win of the postseason " he won the Game 3 Division Series clincher in Boston " before Cleveland manager Terry Francona handed the ball to the magnificent Miller, who is making the Blue Jays look like Little Leaguers.
The lanky left-hander struck out the side in the seventh, two more in the eighth and has 10 strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings in the series. He has not allowed a run in 16 career postseason innings.
"He's one of the best I've ever seen," said closer Cody Allen , who worked the ninth to close the three-hitter for his second straight save. "He goes out there for two innings, shuts them down and gets a lot of swings and misses."
The Indians had never been up 2-0 in four previous ALCS trips.
After sweeping Texas in the ALDS with eight homers and 22 runs, Toronto has one run and 10 hits this series.
"We didn't get destroyed or anything in these two games, but we've got our work cut out for us," Jays catcher Russell Martin said.
The series heads north to Toronto's raucous Rogers Centre for Game 3 on Monday with Cleveland's Trevor Bauer slated to face Marcus Stroman.
This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings