Na­tion­als not done yet

Stras­burg gem gives of­fence time to take off at Wrigley Field

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Stephen Stras­burg gave Washington ev­ery­thing he had, and it was more than enough.

So much for all those ques­tions about heart and char­ac­ter.

Stras­burg shook off an ill­ness and pitched seven dom­i­nant in­nings, Michael A. Taylor hit a late grand slam and the Na­tion­als beat the Chicago Cubs 5-0 on Wednesday to send their NL Di­vi­sion Se­ries to a de­ci­sive Game 5.

“I just fo­cused on one pitch at a time and going as long as I could,’’ Stras­burg said.

Mo­ments after Sean Doolit­tle closed out Stras­burg’s first ca­reer play­off win, the fo­cus shifted to the fi­nal game of the se­ries in Washington on Thursday night. Kyle Hen­dricks starts for the World Se­ries cham­pion Cubs after throw­ing seven sharp in­nings in a 3-0 vic­tory over Stras­burg in Game 1.

Washington man­ager Dusty Baker was non-com­mit­tal when asked about his starter, with Gio Gon­za­lez and Tan­ner Roark the most likely can­di­dates.

“You know, who­ever it is, I hope they pitch like Stras did to­day,’’ Baker said. No kid­ding. Stras­burg got sick after his ter­rific per­for­mance in the play­off opener on Fri­day, and the Na­tion­als had planned to go with Roark even after a per­sis­tent rain washed out Game 4 on Tues­day. That led to a flurry of com­ments and crit­i­cism about whether the ace had the right stuff to pitch in big mo­ments.

But Stras­burg felt bet­ter when he woke up Wednesday and told Baker he wanted the ball. That was all Baker needed to hear.

“I could see the fo­cus and de­ter­mi­na­tion in his eyes, you know what I mean, when he came in the of­fice and we talked to him,’’ the man­ager said. “You know, he’s a man of few words, but the words he said, you know, gave us ev­ery in­di­ca­tion that he was ready.’’

Stand­ing tall as clouds of mist rolled through Wrigley Field, Stras­burg struck out 12, al­lowed three hits and walked two.

The as­so­cI­ated Press

The na­tion­als’ Michael a. Taylor hits an eighth-in­ning grand slam on Wednesday evening at Wrigley Field.

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