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Baez homers twice, Cubs edge Dodgers to avoid MLB playoffs sweep

© GETTY/AFP | Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs meet during a pitching change in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game four of the National League Championship Series, in Chicago, on October 18, 2017

CHICAGO (AFP) - 

Javier Baez blasted two home runs and the defending champion Chicago Cubs avoid being swept out of the Major League Baseball playoffs Wednesday by edging the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2.

The Dodgers still lead the best-of-seven National League Championship Series 3-1 and could advance to their first World Series since 1988 with a victory in Thursday's game five.

"We've been struggling as a team in the playoffs but we've finally gotten on track and hopefully we keep going," Baez said.

The Cubs-Dodgers winner will play either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series starting Tuesday. The Yankees lead that series 3-2 entering game six Friday at Houston.

Baez blasted his first hits of the playoffs into the outfield bleachers at Wrigley Field to snap out of his slump in impressive fashion.

"I've just been struggling a lot this series and the series before. I've been trying so hard," Baez said. "I just said, 'Today don't try to go so hard,' and that's what happened."

Baez and Willson Contreras blasted solo homers in the second inning to put the Cubs ahead 2-0, but Cody Bellinger answered in the third for the Dodgers with a solo homer of his own to halve Chicago's lead.

Baez responded with another solo homer in the fifth inning, boosting the Cubs ahead 3-1. The Dodgers had not trailed so late in a game in the playoffs.

Chicago brought on relief ace Wade Davis in the eighth inning but the first batter he faced, Dodgers slugger Justin Turner, blasted a solo homer to pull Los Angeles within 3-2.

Yasiel Puig walked and an emotional moment followed when Dodgers batter Curtis Granderson argued a third-strike, claiming he tipped the ball, and had an umpire's call overturned.

That sent heated Cubs manager Joe Maddon out of the dugout to complain and he was ejected, begging for consideration of a video replay that is not approved for such situations.

Davis struck out Granderson cleanly for the second out of the eighth but Yasmani Grandal walked to send potential tying run Puig to second base.

Chase Utley, hitless in his previous 23 times at bat in the playoffs, came to the plate for the Dodgers and struck out to end the threat.

In the ninth, Davis issued a one-out walk of Chris Taylor to put the potential tying run on base again but Bellinger grounded into a game-ending double play.

"We're in a position to win or go home so we brought in the closer to make sure everything is good," Baez said.

© 2017 AFP