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Cubs homer way past Cardinals in Game 4, advance to NLCS

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The Cubs have taken down their rivals in their first-ever postseason meeting, and will move on to the NLCS.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Cubs had never won a playoff series at Wrigley Field before. The 1908 World Series came before Wrigley's construction began, and the 2003 NLDS victory -- the only playoff series the Cubs had won since Wrigley opened -- came on the road in Atlanta. That has finally changed, though, thanks to an onslaught of homers from Chicago's young, powerful lineup, as the Cubs defeated their longtime rivals, the Cardinals, and moved on to the NLCS.

The Cubs took a risk by saving Jon Lester for a possible Game 5, but it ended up working out, as Jason Hammel was just productive enough in his three innings, and Joe Maddon's mishmash of former starters currently earning their keep out of the bullpen did the rest. They weren't perfect, but they did enough to keep the Cards at bay, with a little help from the kids.

Javier Baez went deep in the second off St. Louis' starter John Lackey to put the Cubs up 4-2. Anthony Rizzo, one of the old men Chicago these days at 25, put the Cubs back up 5-4 after the Cardinals had briefly tied it up. Then came the biggest dinger of them all: a towering Kyle Schwarber shot that only went 418 feet because it was stopped by the top of the video board it nearly flew over. That didn't end up being necessary as far as the win went, but it sure was pretty, and emotionally it was certainly the dagger Cubs' fans needed to see.

The Cubs' NLCS opponent is unknown, as the Mets and Dodgers are still wrapping up their series: they will play a decisive Game 5 on Thursday. Either way, Chicago will be facing a team with a World Series drought of their own: neither is as severe as the Cubs' 106-year run, no, but the Mets haven't won since 1986 and the Dodgers have been banner-less since 1988.

The Cardinals are done for in their first playoff series of the year, and while that's a bit of a rarity for them -- the last time came in 2009, and before that, 2001 -- it's not entirely unexpected. They lost top starter Carlos Martinez to a shoulder injury right before the playoffs began. Yadier Molina was not himself thanks to his thumb, exited Game 3 early, and did not start Game 4. The Cardinals became the first 100-win team since 2011 thanks to tremendous depth in the regular season, but that didn't carry over into the postseason.

It's a bit of bad luck for them in terms of timing -- this was the first-ever meeting between the Cubs and Cardinals in the playoffs, and while St. Louis is the overall leader in this lengthy feud, it has to sting to drop that first match-up. There will be other opportunities for both sides in the future, though: the Cardinals are the Cardinals, and the Cubs are as young as they are talented.