IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL

An­other crazy night from th­ese Cubs has us back to be­liev­ing

Chicago Sun-Times - - CUBS EXTRA - RICK TELANDER Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ rick­te­lander. Email: rte­lander@sun­times.com

WASH­ING­TON — Get the ski gog­gles out and keep ’ em out! The cham­pagne was fly­ing Thurs­day night af­ter the Cubs won a crazy Game 5 of the NLDS that lasted about as long as their im­pend­ing 3,000- mile plane trip from here to Los An­ge­les will. Was there doubt? Yes, there was. When your solid start­ing pitcher, Kyle Hen­dricks, gives up five hits, in­clud­ing two home runs, and four runs in the sec­ond in­ning, you have to fig­ure it might not be the Cubs’ night.

Maybe win­ning the World Se­ries last year was enough for the fran­chise, and it was time for ev­ery­body to head for beaches and watch the rest of the tour­na­ment on TV, um­brella drinks in hand.

That all seemed pos­si­ble early on. It seemed pos­si­ble late, as the ten­sion wore on and on.

The Cubs were be­hind, then ahead, then way ahead, then threat­ened with doom as the Na­tion­als chipped away at the lead.

It all ended with the 9- 8 vic­tory, and the move- on to a sec­ond straight NLCS against the Dodgers start­ing Satur­day.

But this game — oh, man, there was noth­ing the man­agers and pitch­ing coaches and catch­ers and in­field­ers and um­pires couldn’t meet and talk about, through all the drama, on and on. There was video to be re­viewed. Calls to be ques­tioned. Even the out­field­ers got to­gether and jaw­boned. And why not? Even ob­scure Leonys Martin came in to play cen­ter field.

As the play­ers danced around the fi­nal pitcher, ex­hausted Wade Davis, the great joy was laced with re­lief. It seemed like ev­ery­body who rode a bus to the ball­park played. “All hands on deck,” was the mantra from both Cubs man­ager Joe Mad­don and Na­tion­als man­ager Dusty Baker. Hey, even Kyle Sch­war­ber hacked his way out of the fans’ doghouse, crank­ing an off- the- wall pinch- hit sin­gle in the sev­enth in­ning.

“It’s ei­ther ex­ul­ta­tion or be­ing a bug on a wind­shield,” Mad­don said of close­out games.

Baker, this game’s splat­tered bug, got philo­soph­i­cal be­fore­hand, pon­der­ing his con­tin­ued drive.

“What keeps me go­ing is the quest for ex­cel­lence, the thrill of com­pe­ti­tion,” he said. “Plus, there’s a few things I want to ac­com­plish in life. And un­til I fig­ure out why the lows of los­ing don’t match the highs of win­ning, then I’ll prob­a­bly be a man­ager for a while.”

What does a man­ager do when his closer, a de­pend­able guy like the Cubs’ Davis, sud­denly gets wild and starts walk­ing guys and giv­ing up hits? How about when he throws a pitch that sails high over catcher Will­son Con­tr­eras’ glove in the eighth in­ning and al­most kills home- plate ump Jerry Layne? All part of the may­hem. All over now, be­cause, bless­edly, this marathon is over. And on go the Cubs.

There are so many things in the game that could have hap­pened but didn’t, or had odd twists, that the event will be a hot- stove fa­vorite for months. Even the four huge- headed “pres­i­dents” who race around the warn­ing track at Na­tion­als Park were fan­ning the peo­ple into near hys­ter­ics in the ninth in­ning.

It was fit­ting that Na­tion­als su­per­star Bryce Harper was the last out, strik­ing out on Davis’ 44th pitch of the evening. The Cubs swarmed Davis like hon­ey­bees around their queen. How of­ten does a team give up 14 hits and still win? How of­ten does a team go be­hind by a 4- 1 score and come back to win?

How of­ten, let’s be hon­est here, does a team get as lucky as the Cubs, with the op­po­nent mak­ing so many blunders in one in­ning — the fifth, in this case — that they win one like this?

Some­how, the Cubs did. And it’s all bub­bly now.

Cubs catcher Will­son Con­tr­eras be­gins to cel­e­brate af­ter Bryce Harper strikes out swing­ing against Wade Davis for the last out of the NLDS on Thurs­day. | PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/ AP

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