It took 21 innings for the Chicago Cubs bats to finally wake up, and they did so in a big way Wednesday night in Los Angeles for NLCS Game 4.
The Cubs finally got on the board in the 4th inning against Los Angeles Dodgers rookie southpaw Julio Urias as Ben Zobrist put down a bunt single. Next, Javy Baez singled, moving Zobrist to second. Then at the plate was rookie catcher Wilson Contreras who abruptly singled to left, scoring Zobrist. Baez took third and Contreras reached second on a throwing error by left fielder Andrew Toles. Jason Heyward was back in the starting lineup and came to the plate. Heyward grounded out to second, scoring Baez and moving Contreras to third. Then came Addison Russell, who has been mired in a horrible postseason slump. Russell rocked a Urias pitch 401 feet to right center for a two run home run and put the Cubs up 4-0.
The mound matchup between the Dodgers Urias and the Cubs John Lackey was the 5th most lopsided age differential of starting pitchers in playoff history. Urias was the youngest pitcher to start a game at 20 years and 68 days. Lackey who will be 38 this weekend, started the game for his 22nd career playoff appearance, the most among active pitchers.
The momentum changing play of the game came in the bottom of the 2nd inning as the Dodgers Adrian Gonzalez was thrown out at the plate on a Toles single. Gonzalez appeared to have snuck the tips of his fingers across home plate before he was tagged in the face by Contreras. The call on the field was an out, but after replay the play stood and Lackey got out of potential trouble.
The Cubs added an insurance run in the top of the 5th when the much chastised Anthony Rizzo blasted a home run to right field, two pitches after missing a few feet right of the right field foul pole. Rizzo on the night finished 3 for 5 with 3 RBI and 2 runs scored. Rizzo had just 2 hits in the NLCS prior to game 4 and the Social Media Managers were calling for Rizzo to be benched. Aren’t Cubs fans glad Joe Maddon manages the Cubs and not those naysayers?
The game got a bit dicey for the Cubs in the bottom of the 5th inning as Lackey walked the first two batters he faced. Maddon came out and pulled him for lefty Mike Montgomery. Lackey was none to pleased as Maddon made his way to the mound to take him out.
Montgomery gave up a hit to Chase Utley and then got Corey Seager to strike out swinging with the bases loaded and now one out. Next up was Justin Turner who a night earlier had a big home run, Turner hit a one hopper up the middle that deflected off the glove of Montgomery and veered past the Russell at the shortstop position. Two runs ended up scoring on a play that looked like may have been an inning ending double play. Montgomery got out of trouble by getting the next 2 batters to ground out in the infield to end the scoring inning with a score of Cubs 5 and Dodgers 2.
The Cubs poured it on in the top of the 6th and added 5 runs as Dexter Fowler added an RBI, Rizzo knocked in 2 and Baez added RBIs in the inning.
The Cubs bullpen finished off the last 4 innings without giving up any runs and securing the 10-2 victory and tying the series at 2-2
The pivotal Game 5 is Thursday night and the Cubs will have their ace lefty Jon Lester on the mound against the Dodgers Kenta Maeda. Both pitchers started game 1 that the Cubs ended up winning 8-3.
After social media and Chicago sports talk radio had some Cubs fans clamoring to replace Rizzo and Russell in the lineup, both hitters busted out of their post season slumps and contributed in a huge way. Slumps happen in baseball and are magnified in the playoffs since each series has bigger ramifications as teams advance. 21 innings without a run scored was on the mind of most Cubs fans, but scoring 10 runs on 13 hits in game 4 hopefully calmed down the masses.