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The Cubs slugged their way back to home-field advantage in Game 4

Thursday’s Say Hey, Baseball includes the Cubs tying up the NLCS and the Indians advancing to the World Series.

NLCS - Chicago Cubs v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Four Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

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The Cubs were in a tough —but not impossible — predicament entering Wednesday night’s game against the Dodgers. They were down 2-1, had lost home-field advantage in the process, and had been shutout in consecutive games. It turns out that all of those were temporary issues, as Chicago scored 10 runs in Game 4 to tie the series up, get home field back, and reminded the baseball world that their offense hadn’t gone anywhere: It’s just that Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill are really, really good.

The Dodgers might have forgotten that last bit, too, as it’ll be Kenta Maeda starting Game 5 in Los Angeles on Thursday. Kershaw would be set up to pitch on short rest for Game 5 if the Dodgers chose to go that route, and that in turn would mean he would be available in relief for a Game 7, just as he was for Game 5 of the NLDS. And, on a grander scale, maybe available in a way that more closely resembles Madison Bumgarner in 2014, when he threw five innings of relief against the Royals to clinch the World Series in Game 7. That’s asking a lot, considering Bumgarner’s performances is one of the greatest in Fall Classic history, but the Dodgers won’t even be giving themselves that chance. Maeda will pitch Thursday, Kershaw will pitch Saturday, and it’ll have to be Rich Hill and the bullpen working together in Game 7, if the series gets that far.

The importance of Game 5 cannot be stressed enough for Los Angeles: The Cubs have home field once more in what is basically a best-of-three series. Chicago had the most home wins in baseball this season — Los Angeles also thrived at home, but on the road they were under .500, and they weren’t playing the Cubs in all of those games. In the same way that Game 2 was one the Dodgers basically had to win to have a real chance, Game 5 could determine the entire series. No one will be eliminated on Thursday, hence the "could" in that statement, but the difference between two chances to clinch and just trying to force another game is massive, even with Kershaw the Game 6 starter regardless of scenario.