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Cubs take series lead over Cardinals with six-home run explosion

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs set a major league postseason record by hitting six home runs, including back-to-back long balls by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the fifth inning, as they beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-6. Starlin Castro, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler and Dexter Fowler also went deep.

The Cubs took advantage of the wind blowing straight out at 17 mph. That wind also affected their pitcher, and Jake Arrieta looked human for the first time in more than three months. He left after giving up a home run to Jason Heyward and then hitting a batter in the sixth, but the Cubs never relinquished the lead. Soler hit his home run not long after Heyward’s to extend the Cubs' lead to three runs.

Thumbs up: Soler reached base four times. He has reached base in the first nine plate appearances of his postseason career, which shattered the previous record of five. He has two home runs, a double, a single and five walks in the series -- and he didn’t start Game 1.

The Cubs bullpen also deserves a thumbs up for the second straight game, as the weather conditions didn’t affect them. In the seventh, Travis Wood pitched around a potentially bad error by Javier Baez, who was filling in at shortstop for the injured Addison Russell. Then the much maligned Pedro Strop had a clean 1-2-3 eighth inning, aided by a nice stop by Rizzo on a hard hit grounder. Hector Rondon did give up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty in the ninth, but it wasn't enough to put the Cubs in any real danger.

Thumbs down: Miguel Montero was the only starter without a hit. He struck out three times while stranding three runners.

What’s next: Game 4 comes Tuesday afternoon (3:37 pm CST). Jason Hammel will take the mound for the Cubs, while the Cardinals haven’t named a starter yet. The Cubs have a chance to win a playoff series for the first time since 2003, when they advanced to the NLCS before losing to the Marlins in seven games. Hammel struggled in the second half of the season and wasn't named the official starter until Monday. He’ll have a short leash if things don’t go well.