Cubs right ‘roller coaster’ start to a thrill-ride sweep of champs

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‘Roller coaster’ Cubs sweep Dodgers with walkoff originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Unheralded Matt Duffy lined a two-out single up the middle to tie the game in the 11th. The guy who had the day off drove home the winner two batters later.

And just like that, a Cubs team that dumped its best pitcher over the winter, played its worst April in seven years and considers this season a year of transition swept the defending-champion, prohibitive-favorite Dodgers out of town with a second straight extra-inning win.

What in the name of Tuffy Rhodes is going on at Wrigley Field these days?

“It’s a huge confidence boost,” said Duffy, who has been one of the Cubs’ best hitters this side of Kris Bryant the last two weeks.

The walkoff heroics on this night belonged to Anthony Rizzo, who entered the game defensively in the 10th, and one inning later delivered the walkoff single through the vacated shortstop hole on a right-side defensive shift to drive home the winner in a 6-5 Cubs victory.

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Until this week the Cubs had won only two of their first nine series. They had lost seven of nine games entering a series against a Dodgers team that had been in three of the last four World Series and sent its top three starters to the mound in the series: Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer and Walker Buehler.

To win the series, much less sweep it, looked improbable at best — even if the Dodgers had struggled in recent series entering the game.

It also gave them 4-1 start to May after an 11-15 April that was their first losing April since 2014, with the last-place Pirates in town for three-game series starting Friday.

Nobody’s proclaiming a 100-win season and another World Series based on the last three games — and the Cubs haven’t exactly dominated the Pirates in two series so far.

“Honestly, we’re just riding a roller coaster right now,” Rizzo said. “We’re up and down, up and down. And the one thing is when we’re down we keep fighting to get back up, and when we’re up we keep grinding.”

But for now at least, the value of this series this week is hard to overestimate, especially for a team that put three more players on the injured list Monday and has played this week without banged-up center fielder Ian Happ.

“It kind of reaffirms what we believe in the clubhouse, that we’re a high quality team,” Duffy said, “and we’re capable of doing things like we did against them.

“I just saw a stat that for 68 straight three-game series they avoided sweeps. That’s a huge confidence boost and it should give us momentum."

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