LOS ANGELES -- Matt Szczur may not have any gear left when he goes home. Not only did Anthony Rizzo take one of Szczur's bats on Wednesday, which resulted in three hits, including a home run, but Cubs teammate Addison Russell swiped a pair of leggings.
Russell wore the new undergarments again on Thursday, and, once again, he homered to help the Cubs post an 8-4 victory over the Dodgers and take a 3-2 lead in the National League Championship Series, putting Chicago on the cusp of its first World Series berth since 1945.
Russell could use that. Last year, he didn't play in the NLCS because of a hamstring injury suffered in the NL Division Series against the Cardinals. He now is the ninth player in Cubs history to homer in two or more consecutive postseason games, and is the second-youngest shortstop in Major League history to do so. The youngest was the Dodgers' Corey Seager, who homered in Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS this year.
Wednesday's performance definitely helped Russell relax on Thursday.
"I feel like my at-bats haven't been that bad this whole postseason, but you stick to your work ethic and you believe in yourself and you stay confident," he said. "There's a little frustration there, but it's a different type of frustration. It's a frustration where you know you have the stuff to get the job done, but you want to help produce for your team and for your offense. That's where I was kind of struggling a little bit with that frustration.
"My confidence is up, and [Wednesday] was a great night, pushing me forward to today and I just have to try to carry it over to Saturday."
On Saturday, the Cubs and Dodgers will play Game 6 at Wrigley Field. If Chicago wins, it's in the World Series for the first time since 1945. At 22, Russell doesn't have much of a sense of the team's long history. This is his second season in the big leagues.
Cubs pitcher Jon Lester was 22 when he made his Major League debut 10 years ago.
"I remember my first full season playing in September and October," Lester said. "It's a different feeling. You're used to having that month off in the Minor Leagues. I think last year was an adjustment period for a lot of guys and look where we are."
After going 1-for-24 in the postseason, Russell is 5-for-10 in the past two games, with two home runs and four RBIs. He struck out in his first two at-bats on Thursday, then launched a two-run homer off Joe Blanton with one out in the sixth.
For the second straight day, Russell and Szczur played catch with a football in the outfield at Dodger Stadium. Russell was just looking for some way to loosen up before the game. Szczur, in case you didn't know, isn't on the Cubs' playoff roster. He's staying with the team because of his contributions earlier in the year.
And his magic touch.
"Addy is pretty relaxed all the time," Szczur said. "I think his laid-back attitude is what makes him a great baseball player. He doesn't get up too high, he doesn't get down too low."
Right now, Russell is just right.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.