Facing a 2-1 deficit in the NLCS, the Chicago Cubs bounced back in a big way Wednesday night, dismantling the Dodgers 10-2 in Los Angeles. Six different Cubs drove in runs, including Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell, who each went 3-for-5 with a homer and busted out of their slumps in a big way.
“I don’t want to get too carried away because I was at the Bartman game as a fan in 2003 and this is an emotional topic for me – even though other than the Cubs, I style myself a fairly serious at times sports journalist,” CBSSports.com columnist Bill Reiter told John Jastremski, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “But this was a huge must-win, and Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell (got out of their slump). Rizzo is a stud, an MVP candidate, and Russell has been great this year. Those dudes were hitting like .072 and .042 in the postseason entering this game. But three hits each, a home run each, Rizzo drives in three, Russell drives in two – they didn’t just win; the Cubs’ bullpen didn’t just lock it down; this was a situation where the Cubs’ swagger came back. You could feel it in the clubhouse afterward. The bats woke up. If I am the Los Angeles Dodgers, even though it’s now a best-of-three series, I’m very, very nervous because you’re going to see a different Cubs team these next three games.”
Game 5 is Thursday at 8 p.m. ET, with Jon Lester squaring off against Kenta Maeda. For Chicago, it’s nice having your ace on the hill, but if the Cubs mash like they did in Game 4, it doesn’t matter who pitches.
“All those guys waking up, but especially Rizzo because of the protection that it offers to Kris Bryant and the fact that he’s got to be an engine for driving in runs – I think it’s huge,” Reiter said. “After the game, he was like, ‘You know what? I haven’t been very good. This feels like such a relief. It feels like I’m back,’ He’s not just saying it. He’s not just spitting words. This is a guy who hasn’t been himself. He was after this performance. I think it’s really good news for the Cubs, and I think it’s really bad news for the Dodgers.”
Reiter agrees with Dave Roberts’ decision to pitch Maeda in Game 5 and save Clayton Kershaw for Game 6 on Saturday.
“If he pulls a fast one and puts Clayton Kershaw on the mound (Thursday), it is a colossal mistake,” Reiter said. “You have to pitch him one more time. Give him full rest.”
Either way, the Cubs now have momentum on their side. Their offense woke up, they have their ace on the hill in Game 5, and they took back home-field advantage.
If the Cubs do not get to – and win – the World Series, Reiter does not know what he or the city of Chicago will do.
“I know real pain,” he said, thinking back to Bartman and 2003, “and this will be hard. This will be a more difficult loss than that was. This is a bigger deal because this is by far the greatest Cubs team in the history of the Cubs. I can give you all the key stats and reasons, but just take my word for it. (This is) the best Cubs team we’ve seen in three generations. If they can’t get it done, especially with Boston out and Texas out, if they can’t get it done, I’m going to drink myself into oblivion and not watch baseball for seven years.”