LOS ANGELES -- As Anthony Rizzo moved into the on-deck circle to take some dry swings ahead of his fifth-inning leadoff at-bat, Matt Szczur found himself doing a double-take from the dugout. Rizzo, after striking out his first two times up, had Szczur's bat in hand.Szczur turned to Tommy La
LOS ANGELES -- As Anthony Rizzo moved into the on-deck circle to take some dry swings ahead of his fifth-inning leadoff at-bat, Matt Szczur found himself doing a double-take from the dugout. Rizzo, after striking out his first two times up, had Szczur's bat in hand.
Szczur turned to Tommy La Stella and offered a prediction.
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"Watch," he said. "Tony's going to get a knock right now."
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Six pitches later, after Rizzo's 300-something-foot foul ball and a near walk, Szczur's bat made contact with a 99-mph Pedro Báez fastball and crushed it into the right-field stands. It was one of two home runs hit by the Cubs en route to a 10-2 rout of the Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, and for Rizzo, it removed a weight from his shoulders.
"He's done it before," Szczur shrugged afterward. "He just gets knocks with my bat."
Though Szczur is not on the Cubs' postseason roster, he had a collection of bats resting in the visiting dugout bat rack anyway. His bat is the same model as Kris Bryant, and is the same weight as Rizzo's. The distinctions, Szczur explained, are subtle: a slightly different size barrel and handle. And, of course, it featured another name.
After using the piece of wood to connect for his third career postseason home run, Rizzo brought it back out with him for his final two at-bats of the night. He singled both times.
"I've done it a few times, especially later on in the year," Rizzo said. "I hit well with his bat. He has hits in it."
It was Szczur's bat, for instance that had been behind Rizzo's multi-homer game in Milwaukee on Sept. 6.
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Before Wednesday's home run, not only had Rizzo not gone deep this postseason, but he had only two hits in 28 at-bats. That, of course, begs the question of whether there's a hearty thank you coming from the first baseman after the slump-busting assist from his teammate's equipment stash.
A free dinner perhaps?
"He doesn't owe me anything," Szczur laughed. "Tony has picked me up with dinner quite a few times. He can use my bat all the time."
Jenifer Langosch has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2007.