They beat Na­tion­als in riv­et­ing Game 5 to set up NLCS rematch with the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Bill Shaikin

WASH­ING­TON — Maxwell M. Scherzer would de­liver. He would stran­gle the en­emy, slay the curse, van­quish the evil spir­its of Oc­to­bers past.

The bullpen gate swung open, and the con­queror ran onto the field at Na­tion­als Park, ser­e­naded by a joy­ous ova­tion. If the mighty Scherzer could not pitch the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als out of the first round of the play­offs for once in the life of this fran­chise, who could? Maybe no one. The Na­tion­als de­ployed the pre­sump­tive Na­tional League Cy Young Award win­ner in re­lief, and sel­dom has a move back­fired in such an ut­terly bizarre fash­ion. On an evening packed with the weird and the du­bi­ous, Scherzer pitched an in­ning so crazy it was un­prece­dented in ma­jor league his­tory.

The Chicago Cubs put up four runs on him, the runs that put them ahead for good, in a 9-8 vic­tory over the Na­tion­als in the fifth and fi­nal game of the Na­tional League di­vi­sion se­ries.

The Cubs scored more runs in Game 5 than they had in the first four games, com­bined. They also sur­vived their man­ager’s mis­cal­cu­la­tions, then sweated out the Na­tion­als get­ting the go-ahead run to the plate in three of the fi­nal four in-


Bring on the rematch. For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, the Dodgers will play the Cubs in the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries, with the win­ner ad­vanc­ing to the World Se­ries.

“They’ve been the best team since Day 1,” Cubs pitcher Jon Lester said of the Dodgers. “The roles are re­versed. We were that team last year. We moved on. They’re that team this year. Hope­fully, our re­sult is the same.”

This is the third time the Dodgers have faced the same NLCS op­po­nent in con­sec­u­tive sea­sons. They beat the Philadel­phia Phillies in 1977 and 1978 and lost to them in 2008 and 2009.

When the se­ries opens Satur­day at Dodger Sta­dium, the Dodgers will start the pitcher com­monly tagged as the best on the planet, Clayton Ker­shaw. The Cubs, well, who knows?

The Cubs used their top four starters to close out the NLDS: Jake Ar­ri­eta and Jon Lester on Wed­nes­day, Kyle Hen­dricks and Jose Quin­tana on Thurs­day. It is pos­si­ble that Lackey, who did not ap­pear in the NLDS, could get the Game 1 start in the NLCS.

Quin­tana could too, for he made only 12 pitches on Thurs­day. But Cubs man­ager Joe Mad­don mis­used Quin­tana, ap­par­ently try­ing to hold him back for Game 1 and then hav­ing to rush him into the game in the mid­dle of the sev­enth in­ning, af­ter the Cubs had used three mid­dle re­liev­ers and the Na­tion­als had scored on each one.

The Na­tion­als got Bryce Harper to bat with the bases loaded and one out in the sev­enth, with a sell­out crowd dream­ing of a grand slam that would have put the home team ahead.

Harper de­liv­ered a fly ball off Quin­tana, deep but not so deep as to clear a fence. The sac­ri­fice fly made the score 9-7, af­ter which closer Wade Davis re­placed Quin­tana and un­steadily car­ried the Cubs to the fin­ish line with a seve­nout save.

Davis struck out Ryan Zim­mer­man to end the sev­enth. But he walked the first two bat­ters in the eighth in­ning, af­ter which pinch­hit­ter Adam Lind res­cued Davis by swing­ing at the first pitch and ground­ing into a dou­ble play.

Michael A. Tay­lor sin­gled home one run, cut­ting the Cubs’ lead to 9-8. Then Jose Lo­ba­ton res­cued Davis by get­ting picked off first base.

The last time Davis got seven outs? Four years ago, against the Na­tion­als, as a starter for the Kansas City Roy­als.

For an­other year, at least, the Na­tion­als will have to hear all about 1924. No Wash­ing­ton team has won a post­sea­son se­ries since then. Of greater rel­e­vance, the Na­tion­als have been elim­i­nated in the first round four times in the last seven years — three times in a full five-game se­ries, in­clud­ing this year by the Cubs and last year by the Dodgers.

“Just a gut punch,” Scherzer said. “Again.”

The Na­tion­als had Scherzer, their $210-mil­lion ace, avail­able for two in­nings on Thurs­day. They got one in­ning, an in­ning that will be re­played and rued as long as Oc­to­ber re­mains such a fickle month in Wash­ing­ton baseball.

The in­ning was the fifth. The Na­tion­als had a 4-3 lead. If they could get two clean in­nings from Scherzer, they could hand the lead to their late-in­ning re­liev­ers.

Scherzer re­tired the first two bat­ters. Then came an in­field sin­gle — on a fast­ball at 98.2 mph, the hard­est Scherzer had thrown a pitch this sea­son. Then came a bloop sin­gle. Two flukes, no real wor­ries.

Ad­di­son Russell dou­bled sharply down the third-base line, scor­ing both run­ners, and the Cubs had a 5-4 lead.

What hap­pened with the next four bat­ters was a se­quence that never had hap­pened in any of the 2.7 mil­lion half-in­nings in ma­jor league his­tory, ac­cord­ing to Baseball Ref­er­ence: in­ten­tional walk, strike­out/passed ball, hit by pitch, catcher’s in­ter­fer­ence.

The Cubs scored one on the strike­out when catcher Matt Wi­eters failed to catch strike three and then threw the ball into right field, and they scored an­other on the hit bat­ter, be­cause the bases were loaded.

The Cubs thus led 7-4, and Scherzer had given up four runs in the in­ning. Seven bat­ters had reached base against him.

In Game 3, five bat­ters reached base against him — in 61⁄3 in­nings.

The Na­tion­als gave away an­other run — left fielder Jayson Werth, in what prob­a­bly was his fi­nal game in a Wash­ing­ton uni­form, mis­played a line drive into a dou­ble — and the Cubs led, 8-4.

“We only had one clean hit to drive in a run,” said Theo Ep­stein, the Cubs’ pres­i­dent. “We scored nine. We had to find a way to get 27 outs with­out throw­ing strikes.”

bill.shaikin@la­ Twit­ter: @Bil­lShaikin

Pablo Martinez Monsivais As­so­ci­ated Press

CUBS CATCHER Will­son Con­tr­eras re­joices af­ter Na­tion­als right fielder Bryce Harper strikes out for the fi­nal out of Game 5.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais As­so­ci­ated Press

JOSE LO­BA­TON of the Na­tion­als is tagged out at first by An­thony Rizzo of the Cubs on a pick­off play to end the eighth in­ning.

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