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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.

Bryce Harper played some third base in an intrasquad game

Bryce Harper third base
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Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.

Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.

Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”

Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.

Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.