Javy Baez belts 2 HRs, Wade Davis guts 6-out save as Cubs stay alive
It took what could be the final 111 pitches Jake Arrieta throws as a Cub.
Maybe even the final 48 Wade Davis had in his worn-down right arm this month.
And they certainly couldn’t have done it Wednesday night without the two-time power of Javy Baez, who returned to the lineup to slug his way out of a slump with two home runs as the Cubs clawed to a 3-2 victory over the Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series – assuring at least enough baseball life to fight another day.
“I’ve been struggling a lot this series and the series before so I’ve been trying a lot, trying so hard,” said Baez, whose first homer came two batters after Willson Contreras hit one off the left-field video board and gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the second.
“Today I just said, `Let it go and don’t try too hard,’ and that’s what happened.”
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Cody Bellinger got one back for the Dodgers with a solo homer in the third – one of just three hits allowed by Arrieta – and Baez added another off Dodger starter Alex Wood in the fifth to make it 3-1.
The second homer – making him the fifth Cub to hit two in a playoff game – earned Baez a curtain call by the suddenly electrified Wrigley crowd.
A year after earning NLCS co-MVP honors, Baez was 0-for-20 this postseason before Wednesday.
“Just give him credit for sticking with it,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It was a very difficult start for the postseason for him. But that’s what he can do.”
The Cubs trail 3-1 in the best-of-seven series with one more to play at Wrigley Field, on Thursday, tasked with beating Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw to send the series back to Los Angeles.
“Good luck to him, man,” Baez said of the Dodgers’ three-time Cy Young winner.
Only one team in major-league history has ever come all the way back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series: Theo Epstein’s Red Sox in 2004 against the Yankees in the ALCS.
“It’s happened once. Let’s make it happen twice,” Albert Almora Jr. said.
For all the power the lineup produced on three swings – Contreras’ 491-foot shot was the longest postseason homer in the three years Statcast has measured them – the major drama in this one came down to pitching.
In likely his final start at Wrigley Field before becoming a free agent in a few weeks, Arrieta came up big in his biggest game of the year – striking out nine in 6 2/3 innings and handing a 3-1 lead to the bullpen.
“I thought the movement on his pitches was spectacular,” Maddon said. “He needed to pitch as deeply as he did for us to get that win.”
The intensity ramped up to levels that haven’t been seen yet this postseason at Wrigley when Davis took over in the eighth.
It was Davis’ first appearance in six days, since throwing 44 pitches to get the final seven outs in Game 5 of the first round in Washington.
Justin Turner greeted him with another video-board homer leading off the eighth and removing all margin for error.
Davis got through the eighth but not before walking two and expending 34 pitches – then walked another with one out in the ninth before getting Bellinger on a game-ending double play that left the dangerous Turner standing on deck.
Davis needed 48 pitches and certainly is out for Game 5, Maddon said. He would appear to be at least doubtful for a potential Game 6 at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, too.
“We had to win,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who struck out three times (16 this postseason). “It definitely feels good to get a little momentum going. Obviously, we have a long way to go in the series. It’s one step in the right direction.”
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