Rizzo, Cubs snap out of doldrums, even NLCS at 2 games apiece

Rookie Willson Contreras nearly threw a ball from behind home plate into the left field stands before batting practice.

Javier Baez stepped out of the box and took a deep breath before hitting a single into left field in fourth inning.

And Anthony Rizzo was all smiles and fist pumps after breaking out of his postseason slump while using Matt Szczur’s bat.

The loose, productive manner that earned the Cubs 103 victories during the regular season returned Wednesday night when they needed it most during their World Series-or-bust mission.

After going scoreless in their last 21 innings, the Cubs started to break out of their doldrums with Ben Zobrist’s bunt single. Rizzo punctuated the offensive renaissance with three hits and three RBIs that enabled the Cubs to coast to a 10-2 victory over the Dodgers and even this best-of-seven National League Championship Series at two games apiece.

“We were due to break out,” Dexter Fowler said. “It was a matter of time.”

With the victory, the Cubs assured themselves of a Game 6 at Wrigley Field, where they will face three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.

The only cause for concern for the Cubs occurred when reliever Carl Edwards Jr. left with left hamstring tightness after throwing a pitch to Corey Seager with two out in the seventh.

But any tension stemming from their scoreless streak, their 5-for-57 performance against left-handers in this series and the lack of production from the middle of the order was alleviated.

The most encouraging development was the breakout of Rizzo, who was 2-for-28 before ripping a home run off reliever Pedro Baez to start the fifth. Rizzo barely missed hitting a homer a few pitches before.

Rizzo highlighted a five-run sixth when he ripped a line drive into right field for a two-run single and pumped his fist in exultation.

“He doesn’t owe me anything,” said Szczur, who lent his bat to Rizzo before his last at-bat Tuesday, which resulted in a broken-bat single.

Meanwhile, Zobrist was 4-for-27 before placing his bunt single down the third-base line off 20-year-old left-hander Julio Urias in the fourth.

After missing a chance to score in the second, the Cubs maintained their poise as Baez took a few extra seconds out of the box before moving Zobrist to second with his single.

The affable Contreras showed his defensive presence in the first when he picked Justin Turner off second base with Adrian Gonzalez at the plate to end the inning.

With Ross and Miguel Montero batting a collective 2-for-17 in the postseason, manager Joe Maddon opted for Contreras in Game 4 and succeeded when the rookie singled in Zobrist.

Addison Russell, whom Maddon has been defending despite a 1-for-25 start, smacked a two-run homer to center field to cap the rally and then showed plenty of emotion in a jubilant dugout.

Despite a 5-0 lead, Maddon was taking no chances when he pulled starter John Lackey after he walked two batters to start the fifth. Lackey looked at Maddon in disbelief as left-hander Mike Montgomery took over.

Montgomery allowed a two-run single to Turner that grazed off his glove. The play could have been a double play if he had fielded the ball cleanly or let it roll to Russell.

The Cubs were the beneficiaries of instant replay in the second after home plate umpire Angel Hernandez called out Gonzalez trying to score on an Andrew Toles single in the second. Gonzalez slid his hand under the tag of Contreras but the call stood upon review.

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