Baseball: Baez homers twice, Cubs edge Dodgers to avoid sweep

Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez its a solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning in game four of the 2017 NLCS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. (USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 19 October 2017
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Baseball: Baez homers twice, Cubs edge Dodgers to avoid sweep

CHICAGO: 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.


Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

Updated 21 min 26 sec ago
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Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

  • Portuguese superstar has moved to Italian giants in deal worth nearly $120 million
  • Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid

LONDON: Love him or loathe him, you have to admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s character.
At a time of life when lesser mortals are lured by big paychecks to the likes of Qatar or China, the mercurial Madeiran has opted for what will be his biggest challenge yet at Juventus.
His career over the last decade has been played out under the cloud of the never-ending debate — “Ronaldo or Messi; who is better?”
Thankfully, that circus was quietened somewhat at the recent World Cup. Some flashes of pure brilliance aside, neither player made a big enough impact to lead their respective teams to glory and Messi’s wait for an international trophy goes on.
And, while both players are undeniably in a league of their own, the fact Ronaldo does have a European Championship title under his belt will always tip the argument toward the Portuguese — especially for those who measure greatness in statistics and trophies.
In fairness, Ronaldo’s statistics are mind-boggling. His stint at Manchester United, where he cut his teeth and started to show his potential as a great of the game, was instrumental in the club winning three Premier League titles and their third European crown. His staggering 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid saw him become the Spanish giant’s record goalscorer on his way to winning everything under the sun.
But the Premier League and La Liga are leagues in which attacking footballers flourish. With the dawning of wall-to-wall TV coverage, they have both been transformed to entertain the billions of people who tune in every week — and in this day and age, goalscoring superstars win you fans, not defenses.
The art of defending has all-but disappeared and the culture of building a spine through a team has slowly but surely been eroded away. Nobody wants to watch an engrossing, absorbing, end-to-end goalless draw anymore — it is all about 6-5 thrillers.
But not so in Italy.
Serie A, for all its scandals and fall from grace since its heady days of the 1990s, is still an extremely difficult league to win. It is a league in which fans and managers place great emphasis on defending, on building teams from back-to-front (not the other way around) and on the mentality of “you cannot lose if you don’t concede.”
Granted, Juventus have walked Serie A for the past seven seasons; it is to be expected from one of the richest clubs in the world. But rarely have they won it at a canter. Never once have they scored anywhere near 100 goals in a season to win it — unlike Manchester City in last season’s Premier League, or Barcelona and Real Madrid almost every season in the same period.
And not once has Serie A’s top-goalscorer reached the dizzying heights Ronaldo (and Messi) hit in La Liga season after season, nor has it always been a Juventus player claiming the golden boot.
This all points to a monumental challenge for Ronaldo. On paper, he should not find it as easy to score goals in Serie A and with the marked improvement of Napoli, Roma and Lazio recently, nor will it be an easy ride for Juventus to claim an eighth scudetto in a row this year.
So, while Messi prefers to stay in one country and within his comfort zone of the defense-shy Spanish league, if a 30-something Ronaldo succeeds in Italy — or, better yet, guides Juventus to the European glory the fans crave so much — it would be his most remarkable achievement yet.
And it would put the tiresome debate over who is the greatest ever to bed, once and for all.
No contest.