Run for the Ring: NLCS Game 4
This game might as well be known as The Bunt Heard ‘Round the World.
A lot happened in between Games 1 and 4 of the 2016 National League Championship Series, but there’s not much to catch you up on. After Miguel Montero’s grand slam (and Dexter Fowler’s homer) in the 8th inning of Game 1, the Cubs didn’t score again until the middle of Game 4 in Los Angeles. They were shut out in back-to-back games, first by Clayton Kershaw and then by former Cub Rich Hill.
The Cubs managed a grand total of 6 hits and 1 extra-base hit in that time and the offensive drought reached 21 scoreless innings until Ben Zobrist stepped to the plate to lead off the 4th inning.
The wily veteran dropped a perfect bunt down the third-base line off Dodgers young lefty Julio Urías, a perfect surprise by the Cubs’ cleanup hitter and exactly what the offense needed to wake up from its mid-autumn slumber.
Javy Báez followed with a single, Willson Contreras singled home Zobrist and Jason Heyward drove in another run on a groundout. Then Addison Russell stepped to the plate and deposited Urías’ offering into the bleachers for a 2-run shot and just like that, the Cubs had a 4-0 lead and the floodgates were open.
They went on to put 10 runs up on the Dodgers, including a homer from Anthony Rizzo and a 5-run 6th inning that even saw pitcher Mike Montgomery single and score on a Rizzo basehit.
Entering play in Game 4, Rizzo was hitting .077 in the postseason while Russell came in at just .042. They combined for 6 hits and 5 RBI in Game 4.
To help break him out of his slump, Rizzo traded in his own lumber for a bat from teammate Matt Szczur, who was in L.A. but not on the active roster for the series. Rizzo had broken one of his bats the previous night on a bloop single in the 9th inning. He struck out in his first two trips to the plate in Game 4 with one of his new bats, so he opted to try something new and borrowed Szczur’s equipment for luck.
“I knew he had it when he got in the box,” Szczur said at the time. “I looked at Tommy La Stella and said, “Watch, he’s gonna get a knock right now.’ And then he hit the homer.”
The Cubs finished the game with 13 hits and 3 walks from a lineup that couldn’t muster any defense against Dodgers pitching in the previous two games. But one perfectly timed, perfectly executed bunt from one of the oldest players on the roster was enough to put the offense back on track and they never looked back.
Here’s how the two teams lined up that fateful Oct. 19 night in L.A.:
Dexter Fowler – CF
Kris Bryant – 3B
Anthony Rizzo – 1B
Ben Zobrist – LF
Javy Báez – 2B
Willson Contreras – C
Jason Heyward – RF
Addison Russell – SS
John Lackey – P
Chase Utley – 2B
Corey Seager – SS
Justin Turner – 3B
Adrián González – 1B
Josh Reddick – RF
Joc Pederson – CF
Yasmani Grandal – C
Andrew Toles – LF
Julio Urías – P
- Urías became the youngest pitcher to start a postseason game at 20 years, 68 days old.
- While the Cubs evened the NLCS at 2-2 with the Game 4 win, the Indians had already put the finishing touches on an ALCS victory earlier in the day, beating the Blue Jays in Game 5.