Just ask Ron Cey, getting close to a title just isn’t good enough

SHARE Just ask Ron Cey, getting close to a title just isn’t good enough

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 — As the wacky organist at Dodger Stadium warmed up with ‘‘Heat Wave’’ (it was 88 degrees) and the fresh 1909 hit, ‘‘By the Light of the Silvery Moon’’ (sun was dropping, moon was coming) and the Turtles’ ‘‘Happy Together’’ (these Dodgers are such a family!), the Cubs had to stop and wonder: What’s happening here?

Are we unwitting stooges in a Hollywood rom-com? Without the rom?

The Cubs do not need another close-but-no-cigar season.

Not now. Not ever.

Their sudden offensive surge in the fourth inning of Game 4 of this National League Championship Series was like a laundry room dryer explosion propelling a giant hairball out of the vent. Five hits! Four runs! With so many more to come!

‘‘This is us,’’ relieved manager Joe Maddon said.

It was like a Heimlich maneuver performed on a roomful of choking diners. Out flew so much Cubs angst that Addison Russell, whose two-run homer capped the early scoring, nearly fell over with joy as he circled the bases.

It started with Ben Zobrist’s 50-foot bunt single, followed by Javy Baez’ clean single to left, then Willson Contreras’ RBI single, then Russell’s masterpiece two-run blast, followed in the fifth inning by Rizzo’s angry homer over the right-field wall.

Having lost two games in a row and scoring zero runs while doing so had been like a bad thought bubble over a cartoon character’s head. A bubble that read: Mommy!

What Maddon said before the game was not soothing to the nervous: ‘‘At the end of the day, man, it’s always wonderful to be involved in the National League Championship Series, to be able to play here at Dodger Stadium.’’

Joe is to be admired for his cool, his philosophical joie de vivre that harkens back to the Transcendentalists, or at least, Gomer Pyle.

But he may be questioned for his (understandable) lack of Cubs historic desperation. He has only been at the helm for two years, you know.

Indeed, it was at this ‘‘wonderful’’ spot that the Cubs were swept out of the 2008 NLDS. It was here in rage that one Cub smashed a water pipe, flooding the dugout, an acting-out that Cubs management tried to smooth over with a $4,000 payment to the Dodgers. It would have taken $40 million to appease Cubs fans.

A 10-2 victory last night is a new start.

Maybe you’ll remember Ron Cey, former third baseman known as ‘‘The Penguin.’’ Basically a career Dodger, the waddling Cey played for the Cubs in the mid-1980s and was part of the heartbreaking 1984 team that inexplicably lost to the Padres in the NLCS.

Now a community speaker for the Dodgers, Cey recalls that moment sadly, saying it’s his second-biggest disappointment.

‘‘I really think our ’84 club was the best in the National League,’’ he said. ‘‘And I think we would have been a better matchup with Detroit, who won the world championship that year.’’

Number 1 disappointment?

‘‘The Dodgers lost the World Series to the Yankees in 1978 on a controversial call in Game 4.

It changed the complexion of the whole series. It was called incorrectly and now would have been overturned. And we would have walked away with that championship.’’

Well, sorry. That’s kind of like the tag at the plate the Cubs Willson Contreras made on Adrian Gonzalez in the third inning. Out! Safe? No . . . out on review.

But here’s what’s key to Cey’s tale.

‘‘I think that anybody that gets this close has a great deal to feel good about. But once you get here, coming away with anything less than a world championship is just awful.’’

But hope never dies. Rizzo’s homer in the fifth inning gave the Cubs six hits and five runs in just nine at-bats. Clot removed!

Rizzo, who entered the game with a .077 postseason batting average, struck out his first two times up. This was beyond embarrassing. This was burn-your-bat time.

The Marucci brand ‘‘Rizz Custom Cut-M’’ black bat he was kissing on the cover of the Oct.3 ESPN Magazine didn’t get lit on fire, but it did get the heave-ho.

Rizz took one of teammate Matt Sczuzr’s bats for his third time at the plate, and — bam! — tater time. He followed with two more hits, and two more RBI, using Szczur’s bat.

‘‘I’ve done it a few times,’’ said Rizzo of using his pal’s bat, which is the same weight and size as his, just a different model. ‘‘First two at-bats weren’t too hot.’’

But now he’s aflame.

To review: the Cubs got a lofty 13 hits and 10 runs. Are they cured? Hardly.

Nothing is guaranteed. Being tied at 2-2 means this is a three-game playoff.

First team to two, wins.

Hit it!

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Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

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