Cubs even NLCS 2-2 as bats break out for 10-2 win over Dodgers

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Addison Russell reacts after hitting a two-run home run in Game 4 Wednesday at Dodger Stadium. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ORG XMIT: NLCS163

LOS ANGELES – If this is the way it’s going to be the rest of the way, Cubs fans are in for the postseason thrill ride of their lives. Or in need of prescription-strength Dramamine by Sunday.

A 10-2 victory by the Cubs at Dodger Stadium in Game 4 Wednesday night evened the National League Championship Series at two games apiece, assuring a return to Wrigley Field for a Game 6 on Saturday night.

But that’s the only thing that seems remotely assured as this series heads to a pivotal Game 5 Thursday night, considering the way it has played out so far – not to mention the drama surrounding the looming Clayton Kershaw.

“It’s been a pretty interesting series to this point,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s two out of three right now. I think it’s great. I think it’s great for baseball. It’s very exciting stuff.”

On this night it was all Cubs from the fourth inning on, against 20-year-old rookie left-hander Julio Urias and the Dodger bullpen.

“It’s huge,” said Addison Russell, whose two-run homer in the fourth capped a four-run inning – after 21 consecutive scoreless innings through Wednesday’s third.

“Especially [Anthony] Rizzo and I with pretty big nights,” said Russell, who was 1-for-25 this postseason before the homer. “And just overall, everyone – I mean, 13 hits is huge in the playoffs.”

Rizzo, borrowing a move – and a bat – he used several times down the stretch and even Tuesday night, took teammate Matt Szczur’s same-size, different-model lumber after striking out in his first two at-bats Wednesday.

The result: three hits and three RBIs the rest of the night, including a homer leading off the fifth in his first turn with the bat.

“I’m just trying to help the team any way I can,” said Szczur, who is traveling with the team but not on the playoff roster.

“The first two at-bats weren’t so hot,” said Rizzo of the impetus for the switch on this night. “It worked.”

He was 2-for-28 with two singles and nine strikeouts during the postseason until then.

The outburst marked the biggest high for the Cubs playoff run since Miguel Montero’s pinch grand slam for the Game 1 victory in Saturday’s eighth inning.

By the time the Cub s were shut out the next two games – the first back-to-back shutouts of their lineup since 2014 — Twitter was burning up over lineup ideas, benching suggestions and calls for hitting coaches’ heads. The Cubs finally counterpunched on Wednesday.

It all started in the fourth as a snowball rolling downhill.

A Cubs lineup hitting just .185 this postseason and averaging three runs a game, got started on Ben Zobrist’s fourth-inning bunt toward third that died on the grass for a leadoff single without a throw.

Then came a bloop to left by Javy Baez, followed by a soft liner to left from Willson Contreras, and the Cubs had their first run since Saturday.

Jason Heyward drove in a run with a grounder, followed by Russell’s homer.

“It was fun to see our guys swing the bats well, a fun game to be a part of,” said starter John Lackey, who was pulled from the game with a 5-0 lead after walking the first two batters in the fifth – angry enough to be seen muttering an expletive as manager Joe Maddon emerged from the dugout to get him.

“Up five runs, yeah,” he said. “I was pretty surprised.”

As angry as he seemed?

“It was a great team win,” he said. “Glad to see our offense [respond].”

Someone followed up with a question about Maddon having joked in the past about fear of taking Lackey out of games, and Lackey cut the question off in midsentence.

“There’s no joking about that,” he snapped. “How I feel personally is irrelevant right now. Great team win. Good to see our guys swing the bats well.”

But these are the games Lackey was signed to pitch. He’s ranked sixth all-time with 22 postseason starts.

“You can keep pushing,” he said. “I’m not going to tell you want you want.”

As the series turned to Thursday, the big question involved whether the Dodgers would bring ace Kershaw back on short rest for Game 5 – which would presumably give them the option of using him out of the bullpen in a possible Game 7.

But Dodger manager Dave Roberts insisted his starter in the Game 1 loss, Kenta Maeda, would start Thursday.


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