By Bruce Levine–
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — After a second straight shutout loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday in Game 3, all hands on the Cubs’ deck knew something different needed to be done. The pressure was mounting in the National League Championship Series, with Dodgers pitchers beginning to look like reincarnations of Sandy Koufax and ace left-hander actually looming at least once more in the series.READ MORE: 3 Men Injured In River North Parking Garage Shooting, One Identified In Video As Rapper Lil Reese; Officer's Gun Also Accidentally Discharged
So Cubs catcher Miguel Montero had a suggestion.
“Maybe we need to play a smaller game,” he said after the Game 3 loss left the Cubs down 2-1 in the series.
“You know, take some walks, hit the ball to the other side. Something to change our focus, mix it up.”
In Game 4 on Wednesday, Montero’s words resonated with veteran teammate Ben Zobrist. After the Cubs were no-hit by Dodgers rookie left-hander Julio Urias for three innings, Zobrist laid a bunt down the third-base line for his team’s first base hit. That bunt single would ignite a four-run rally, which sparked an offense that had been dormant and led to an eventual 10-2 win for the Cubs at Dodger Stadium, evening the NLCS, 2-2.
Finally, it was back to the basics for Joe Maddon’s men.
“That is our team,” Maddon said. “You really saw our team out here today. How about a bunt that got the whole thing going from our No. 4 hitter?”
Although the breakout games fro the previously slumping Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell — each went 3-of-5 and homered — will get the headlines, Zobrist’s bunt and Jason Heyward’s RBI groundout that plated the game’s second run and moved a trail runner up were crucial in turning the tide of the game.READ MORE: At Least 29 People Wounded In Weekend Gun Violence In Chicago, 5 Killed
The old-time baseball plays helped the Cubs get the elephant out of the room that was a 6-for-60 combined showing in Games 2 and 3.
“You know I thought about it before,” Zobrist said about laying the bunt down to lead off the game-changing fourth inning.
“It just felt that spot in the game was the right time. After we hadn’t got any hits to that point, it’s like, ‘It’s time.’ I just figured it was time to lay one down.”
Heyward had made a big play earlier. In the second inning, he threw Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez out at the plate when he tried to score on a two-out single to right field by Andrew Toles. Heyward’s throw was slightly up the first-base line, but rookie catcher Willson Contreras made a nice snag and was ruled to have tagged Gonzalez on the chin just before his hand touched the plate, though that came amid some debate.
That preserved a scoreless tie and sparked the Cubs. Then their offense took care of the rest in a breakout Game 4.
“You have to give them credit,” Heyward said. “They pitched great the last couple of games. We just wanted to come out and have good at-bats. I feel like today we stopped putting on too much pressure and had some fun.”
With the series knotted 2-2, the Cubs have reclaimed home-field advantage. The win Wednesday also ensured there will be more baseball played at Wrigley Field this year, with Game 6 shifting back to Chicago. First comes a pivotal Game 5 at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, when the Cubs will start left-hander Jon Lester and the Dodgers are expected to counter with right-hander Kenta Maeda.
“It is good to have momentum,” Heyward said. “It is good to keep the home team from having some momentum here. We appreciate having it on our side now. It gives us a little breathing room.”MORE NEWS: MISSING: Kyrin Carter, 12, Has Autism, Last Seen In Hammond, Indiana
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.