Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo uses teammate Matt Szczur’s bat to bust out of slump
Reserve outfielder Matt Szczur did not make the Chicago Cubs’ playoff roster for the National League Championship Series, but his bat did.
After striking out in his first two at-bats of Game 4 Wednesday night, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo switched bats, hauling Szczur’s lumber — which he has done on a number of occasions this season — to the plate against Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez in the fifth inning.
Rizzo, mired in a two-for-29, nine-strikeout playoff slump, crushed a full-count Baez fastball over the center-field wall for a solo home run.
He used Szczur’s bat again in the sixth, when his laser of a two-run single to center keyed a five-run inning, and in the eighth, when he singled to left, part of a 13-hit outburst that propelled the Cubs to a 10-2 victory that evened the best-of-seven series against the Dodgers, two games apiece.
“He’s done that a few times, grabbed my bat,” Szczur said. “It’s the same weight and size, just a different model. So he just grabbed one.”
Rizzo pointed at Szczur on his way to first base on his homer and said after the game that he was inspired by a television feature story, which ESPN aired again Wednesday, about Szczur’s bone-marrow donation to a 15-month-old girl in Ukraine in 2009, while Szczur was a football and baseball player at Villanova.
“The first two at-bats weren’t so hot, and Szczur came out today with a nice feature about him giving his bone marrow, so all the things were just adding up,” said Rizzo, a cancer survivor. “I hit well with his bat, so he has hits in it. Same size, just a different model and different name, and it worked.”
Szczur did not know that Rizzo’s bat switch was mentioned on the national telecast during the game, and he seemed surprised when reporters began questioning him about it in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium.
But as glad as he was that his bat contributed to a potentially season-turning Cubs win, Szczur said he would not seek any kind of compensation from Rizzo.
“He doesn’t owe me anything,” Szczur said. “Tony’s picked me up at dinner quite a few times.”
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