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Of all Cubs' big hits against Dodgers, biggest might have been a bunt

Of all Cubs' big hits against Dodgers, biggest might have been a bunt
Chicago Cubs outfielder Ben Zobrist lays down a bunt single against the Dodgers to open the fourth inning of Game 4 of the NLCS Wednesday. (Harry How / Getty Images)

Momentum can be fickle and fleeting in the postseason, where a game, a series and ultimately a season can turn on one pitch, one hit, one play.

For the 2004 Boston Red Sox, it was the Dave Roberts' stolen base that sparked a ninth-inning comeback against the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

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The Red Sox became the first team to erase a three-games-to-none deficit and win a seven-game series and went on to sweep St. Louis for their first World Series championship since 1918.

The 2016 Chicago Cubs, who are looking for their first championship since 1908 and first World Series berth since 1945, hope to reflect on Ben Zobrist's bunt single in the fourth inning of Game 4 of the National League Championship Series as a similar catalytic event.

The Cubs were shut out in Games 2 and 3 and hitless through three innings of Game 4 when Zobrist led off the fourth with a perfect bunt off Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias.

That sparked a four-run rally that snapped a 21-inning scoreless streak and started a 15-inning stretch in which the Cubs busted out for 18 runs on 25 hits. After going 2 for 16 (.125) with runners in scoring position in the first three games, Chicago went 10 for 31 (.323) with runners in scoring position in Games 4 and 5.

"I believe in my team, I like what I've seen the last couple of games," said Cubs catcher Miguel Montero, whose pinch-hit grand slam gave Chicago an 8-4 win in Game 1. "The confidence is building, and we feel better about ourselves. The hitters are starting to feel a little sexy at the plate, which is great."

Caffeinated Contreras

Chicago's last two wins were keyed by first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Addison Russell and second baseman Javier Baez, who combined for 14 hits, including three homers, and 12 runs batted in.

But rookie catcher Willson Contreras has made significant if not splashy contributions, hitting .412 (7 for 17) with three RBIs in nine playoff games, including an RBI single in Game 4 and a pinch-hit single in a five-run eighth inning in Game 5.

"He's working good at-bats," Cubs Manager Joe Maddon said. "He's doing the proverbial taking-what-the-pitcher-gives-him and using the whole field. And you've got to love the energy he plays with."

That energy was on display Thursday night, when Contreras raised his hand while running to first after his single. As the game ended, Contreras had an animated discussion with umpire Alfonso Marquez, arguing about ball-strike calls.

"Willson tends to be temperamental," Maddon said. "You don't want to coach the aggressiveness or the instinct out of somebody. You just have to continue to speak with him because he's passionate about everything he does. He's passionate about his morning coffee."

Good to go

Baez, who is batting .371 (13 for 35) with four doubles, a homer and seven RBIs in the playoffs and has made several superb defensive plays, gave the Cubs a scare in the eighth inning Thursday night when he hobbled back to second after a three-run double.

But Baez remained in the game after receiving medical attention and expects to play in Game 6.

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"I'm good," Baez said. "I just think I over-ran [second base] a little bit. I felt something in my ankle, but I'm fine, 100%."

Slow lane

While Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez's pace, or lack thereof, between pitches has been known and maligned for years in Los Angeles, his extensive workload this postseason has carried the issue onto a national stage with a spotlight shining.

This season, Baez averaged 30.2 seconds from receiving the ball to delivering it, according to fangraphs.com. For his career, he's at 29.9 seconds. Only two men in the 10-season history of PITCHf/x data have taken longer.

"You know, Pedro's very methodical," Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said. "But we've talked about the pace of play and trying to kind of speed that up. Our guys make no excuse about how fast or slow a guy works."

Roberts noted that Baez's pitches weren't "as bad as the line score" from Thursday night, when he was charged with five runs and recorded two outs. The time Baez takes tends to mask his results, sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse. In Game 5, Roberts pulled him after 27 pitches, his total this series of 88 in three outings approaching that of Rich Hill, a starter.

"For me, it was a matter of not trying to extend him too much, when I felt the game got to a certain point," Roberts said. "To get him up over 30 pitches didn't make sense, and I wanted to get a fresh arm in there."

Short hops

The Cubs will have to clear one, and possibly two, difficult hurdles to close out the Dodgers. They have hit .093 (4 for 43) with no runs, 12 strikeouts and three walks in the series against left-handers Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, who are scheduled to start Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7. … The team that has scored first has won the first five games of the series. … The top of the eighth inning Thursday night, in which the Cubs batted around and scored five runs, took 32 minutes, 23 seconds to complete.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com; Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

pedro.moura@latimes.com; Twitter: @pedromoura

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