keyboard_arrow_uptop

The Chicago Cubs, facing a potential 3-1 hole against a team with the best pitcher on the planet still in play for one more game, finally drew breath in Los Angeles. For 21 straight innings the Cubs' offense was suffocated by Rich Hill, Clayton Kershaw, and the rest of the Dodgers' pitching staff. Then a few soft hits found holes before Addison Russell, who entered the game with a batting average that started with a zero, pierced through the Los Angeles marine layer and Dodgers pitching with one swing. The Cubs would follow with one run in the fifth and five more in the sixth, putting the game out of reach in the series’ first true laugher.

Some notes from Game 4 …

Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, and the Cubs break out

We were waiting for this game from the Cubs, some a little more nervously than others. Anthony Rizzo, who was looking tentative at the plate before Game 4, busted out of his slump with a fifth-inning solo shot that punctuated a strong 3-for-5 night for the big lefty. Ben Zobrist and the aforementioned Addison Russell also recorded strong multi-hit games, all positive signs for a team that was desperately needing their offensive production.

Julio Urías can’t finish off Javier Báez and Willson Contreras

The key hits the Cubs got ahead of the Russell home run came on two-strike counts, as Julio Urías struggled to put away Javier Báez and Willson Contreras. They both hit singles and Russell hit a fastball on the outer third out to center, giving the Cubs a commanding 4-0 lead. Urías started strong, using up only 12 pitches in the first inning, but he ended up tossing a lot of extra pitches in the second after Chase Utley tried and failed to bare-hand a Corey Seager flip, resulting in an error. The Cubs had keyed in on Urías by the time the fourth inning rolled around and Dave Roberts lifted him.

John Lackey gets shaky

Lackey provided steady, dependable innings for the Cubs all season, but he got shaky in the fifth and Joe Maddon was quick with the hook, lifting the fiery righty after 4-plus innings. The quick hook has been something of a trend with the Cubs in the NLCS. Their starting staff was a strength throughout the regular season, but Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, and Lackey haven’t worked more than six innings in the NLCS.

Adrian González is out at home in the bottom of the second

It was a tight play, one whose significance decreased as the night wore on and the Cubs built and extended their lead. The throw from Jason Heyward was lacking in oompf and accuracy, but it was still just barely enough to make it close against the statuesque Adrián González. The replays looked as though he could’ve been called safe, but the umpires ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the out call that was made on the field.

***

The series is locked up now with the Cubs finally getting their bats going and with Clayton Kershaw still looming. It all sets up the kind of drama that makes Game 5 feel big with the potential for Kershaw pitching in an elimination game should the Dodgers win tonight.