Cubs’ bats wake up, slug past Dodgers 10-2 in NLCS Game 4 to even up series

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After getting shut out in back-to-back games in the NLCS against the Dodgers, the Cubs’ woke up with a vengeance in Game 4 at Dodger Stadim on Wednesday evening. The offense banged out eight runs and 10 hits to take a convincing 10-2 victory to even the NLCS at 2-2.

Dodgers starter Julio Urias was humming through the first three innings, going toe-to-toe with postseason veteran John Lackey. With a scoreless tie through the first third of the game, it looked like it’d be a nailbiter.

The Cubs’ offense, though, awoke from its slumber in the top of the fourth. Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez hit back-to-back singles to open up the frame. Willson Contreras singled to left field to plate Zobrist. Both Baez and Contreras advanced on the bases when Andrew Toles made a poor throw. The struggling Jason Heyward came up and missed on several pitches down the middle, ultimately grounding out weakly to first base, but at least it brought another run in to make it 2-0. Addison Russell, who had been having just as miserable a postseason, followed up with a well-struck two-run home run to center field, doubling the lead to 4-0. Anthony Rizzo tacked on one more leading off the fifth, drilling a solo homer to right-center off of reliever Pedro Baez.

The Dodgers answered in the bottom half of the fifth. Lackey walked Toles and pinch-hitter Andre Ethier, forcing manager Joe Maddon to bring in lefty Mike Montgomery to face pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick, replacing lefty Chase Utley. Kendrick singled to left field, loading the bases. Montgomery was able to strike out Corey Seager, giving him light at the end of the tunnel. Justin Turner then hit a comebacker to Montgomery who, if he had fielded it cleanly, likely would’ve had an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play. Instead, it deflected off of his glove, past Russell at shortstop and into left field. Toles and Ethier both scored, cutting the lead to 5-2. Montgomery saw his way out of the inning from that point, though, getting Adrian Gonzalez and pinch-hitter Enrique Hernandez to ground out.

In the top of the sixth, the Cubs doubled their run output with a five-spot. It started when Russell reached on an infield single. Maddon, questionably, had Montgomery hit for himself rather than a pinch-hitter, but as fate would have it, Montgomery sliced a single to left, putting runners on first and third. Dexter Fowler came up and singled to right, plating Russell. Kris Bryant drew a walk to load the bases. Then, Rizzo came through again with a single to right, plating two. Ben Zobrist hit a light tapper in front of home plate, but it was far enough in front to make a tough play for catcher Yasmani Grandal. Zobrist reached on a call that was overturned, scoring the Cubs’ 10th run and their fifth of the inning. Baez flied out and Contreras grounded out to send the game to the bottom half of the sixth.

Montgomery worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth, getting a strikeout and two ground outs. He gave way to Carl Edwards, Jr. in the seventh, who issued a two-out walk to Seager, then left with left hamstring tightness after being tended to by trainer Ed Halbur. Lefty Travis Wood entered and walked Turner before getting Gonzalez to fly out, sending the game into the eighth.

Pedro Strop took over in the bottom of the eighth. He struck out Carlos Ruiz, got Pederson to fly out to right, and ended the inning with a Grandal ground out.

The ninth was Hector Rondon‘s. The right-hander struck out Toles to start the inning. Yasiel Puig then chopped a single past second baseman Baez, but Rondon bounced back to get Kendrick to fly out to right field and Seager to ground out, finalizing the 10-2 victory. It’s the worst postseason loss the Dodgers have suffered at Dodger Stadium.

With the series tied at two games apiece, the Dodgers and Cubs will meet again for NLCS Game 5 on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs while the Dodgers will counter with Kenta Maeda. The series is guaranteed to return to Wrigley Field for at least Game 6, possibly Game 7.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.