No matter how good you are, no matter how poor you are, you will have hot streaks and cold streaks. The ceilings and floors might differ, but in this game, no one is truly consistent.
The Chicago Cubs are an excellent team the best team in baseball, perhaps but they had run into one of those cold streaks.
Antony Rizzo, the team’s MVP candidate, couldn’t hit; Addison Russell, the team’s young All-Star shortstop, couldn’t hit; Dexter Fowler, the team’s talismanic lead-off man, couldn’t hit. They weren’t the only ones scuffling.
The Cubs’ pitching was solid and the team’s prodigious defense was good, but Chicago found themselves trailing 2-1 in the NLCS because they, as a collective, couldn’t hit.
There was no clear-cut remedy to the problem, and the burden of being the team with the best chance to win the franchises’ first World Series since 1908 certainly wasn’t helping.
All the Cubs’ coaches and players could do was stay true to the tenets of success that helped them post the best offense in the National League and win 103 games this season all they could do was cross their fingers and hope the bats started clicking again.
After 21 scoreless innings, the bats clicked Wednesday night a 13-hit onslaught leading to a 10-2 victory over the Dodgers and it turned around the National League Championship Series in a significant way.
The Cubs and Dodgers are now tied at 2-2 in the series. The NLCS is now a three-game series, and the Cubs can enter those pivotal contests with confidence and moxie.
It started as most redemption stories do; incremental progress, unassuming and understated.
It started with a bunt in the top of the fourth, with 20-year-old Julio Urias cruising and the Cubs continuing to scuffle. Ben Zobrist 4-for-26 heading into the contest placed the ball perfectly along the third-base line, giving the Cubs their first hit of the night.
Then another single, and then another the Cubs were on the board. After a fielder’s choice brought home another run, Russell, who had been dropped to the No. 8 spot in the order and was nursing a 1-for-25 stretch in the postseason, smashed a 94 mile-per-hour fastball on the outside corner of the plate.
Rizzo turned on a 3-2, 98 mile-per-hour fastball from the impossibly slow Pedro Baez with two outs in the fifth inning, burning the Dodgers reliever whose pitch didn’t get far enough inside 5-0.
The rout was on.
Fowler broke out of his slump, delivering a no-out RBI single in the sixth. Rizzo added two more RBI one out later. Javier Baez saw two more cross the plate after a sacrifice fly and a throwing error.
Rizzo, who entered the game 2-for-26 at the plate in the postseason, had three hits and three RBI. Russell had a three-hit game too, driving home two more. Fowler had two hits, as did Zobrist.
The Cubs’ bats had began to heat up and they capitalized on the Dodgers pitching mistakes, first on fastballs, then on change-ups and sliders.
It’s hard to see them going quiet again.
Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down in a few swings, the best-hitting lineup in the National League has found a groove, parting the clouds and shifting momentum in the series. Baseball is fickle like that.