An­other dis­mal fin­ish for Na­tion­als as Cubs move on to face L. A.

Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS EXTRA - Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ CST_ sox­van. Email: dvan­schouwen@sun­ DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN

WASH­ING­TON — Say this for the Na­tion­als. They did it up big and tall, fail­ing in the post­sea­son yet again in Wash­ing­ton — mon­u­men­tal fash­ion with an­other cave for their tar­nished his­tory books.

“We didn’t play a very good game,’’ Na­tion­als man­ager Dusty Baker said. “We still bat­tled to the end.’’

It all be­came un­hinged in the four- run fifth in­ning of the Cubs’ de­ci­sive 9- 8 Game 5 vic­tory Thurs­day in the NLDS.

“That was one of the weird­est in­nings I’ve ever seen,’’ Baker said. “We gave away at least three or four runs. We had a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties. It was a se­ries of bad events.’’

With ev­ery­thing seem­ingly in good hands with a 4- 3 lead and twotime Cy Young win­ner Max Scherzer trot­ting in from the bullpen to bridge the mid­dle in­nings to the Nats’ sev­enth-, eighth- and ninthin­ning re­liev­ers, flight sched­ules for Los An­ge­les where the NLCS be­gins Satur­day at Dodger Sta­dium were get­ting checked in and around D. C.

Es­pe­cially af­ter Scherzer, the Na­tion­als Park crowd roar­ing with ev­ery strike, re­tired Kris Bryant and An­thony Rizzo to open the fifth.

“I’ve never seen Max have an in­ning like that,’’ Baker said.

But then, Will­son Con­tr­eras reached on an in­field sin­gle and pinch- hitter Ben Zo­brist hit a bloop sin­gle to left, and Ad­di­son Russell drove them both in with a dou­ble to put the Cubs in front 5- 4.

That’s when things be­gan to turn Hal­loween- sea­son spooky for the home team. When Scherzer fell be­hind 2- 0 to Ja­son Hey­ward, Baker put him on with an in­ten­tional walk. Scherzer struck out Javy Baez, but catcher Matt Wi­eters — who had an event­ful in­ning he won’t for­get soon — couldn’t block Scherzer’s slider, and Baez was safe on a dropped third strike. What’s more, Wi­eters’ throw to first went into right field, al­low­ing Russell to score.

Wi­eters took the end of Baez’s bat off his mask on Baez’s back­swing, lob­bied for in­ter­fer­ence but lost that ar­gu­ment. Then Wi­eters reached in and com­mit­ted catcher’s in­ter­fer­ence on pinch hitter Tommy La Stella to load the bases, and Scherzer hit Jon Jay on the foot, scor­ing a run and giv­ing the Cubs a 7- 4 lead.

That all added to four runs ( two earned) on three hits, a walk and a lot more junk.

In the sixth, left fielder Jayson Werth mis­played a Russell liner into an RBI dou­ble, adding to the Nats’ folly and the Cubs’ run to­tal.

And just af­ter they chipped away at an 8- 4 Cubs lead by scor­ing in the sixth, sev­enth and eighth in­nings — get­ting to within a run on Jose Lo­ba­ton’s RBI sin­gle against Wade Davis — Lo­ba­ton got picked off first by Cubs catcher Con­tr­eras to end the in­ning with the ty­ing run on sec­ond. It took a re­play chal­lenge and a snap throw by Con­tr­eras and ag­gres­sive tag by first base­man An­thony Rizzo to get him, but still. Not there, not then. Those mis­plays only dropped and dragged the Na­tion­als’ trou- bled post­sea­son past through­out the sta­dium, where fans held hope that this 97- win team, built to break the old, bad habits, would get it done.

The Na­tion­als lost Game 5 of the NLDS on their home field to the Dodgers last sea­son. In 2014, the Gi­ants won an 18- in­ning marathon in Game 2 and went on to a World Se­ries ti­tle. In 2012, they blew a 2- 0 se­ries lead against the Car­di­nals, giv­ing up four runs in the ninth in­ning of Game 5.

And on Thurs­day, they were in deep dan­ger of see­ing a vis­it­ing team cel­e­brate on their field for the sec­ond year in a row.

“It hurts af­ter what we’ve been through this sea­son,’’ Baker said.

Na­tion­als ace Max Scherzer is dis­ap­pointed af­ter giv­ing up a two- run dou­ble to Ad­di­son Russell in the fifth in­ning. | PA­TRICK SMITH/ AP

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