Cubs hold off Nationals for spot in NLCS
The Chicago Cubs win whenever they need to, with whatever it takes, even a seven- out save by Wade Davis to preserve a shrinking lead and a “Did that really happen?” four-run inning against Washington’s Max Scherzer in a thriller of a Game 5.
That wild, bat- around fifth inning Thursday night for Chicago included Addison Russell’s go-ahead, tworun double, a bases-loaded hit by pitch, and a disputed dropped third strike followed by a throwing error, helping the defending World Series champion Cubs come back— and then hold on — to edge the Nationals 9-8.
And for the third year in a row, Chicago reached the NL Championship Series.
“Give the boys credit,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s one of themost incredible victories I’ve ever been part of. I know a lot of people are probably saying the same thing, but under the circumstances, in the other team’s ballpark, after a tough loss at home, to come back and do that, give our guys all the credit in the world.”
Russell drove in four runs and Davis, Chicago’s seventh pitcher, turned in his longest appearance since 2012. The Cubs trailed 4-1, then led 8- 4 and 9- 6, in a game that lasted more than 4½ hours and ended after midnight on Friday.
“It was bizarro world, there’s no question about it,” Maddon said. “But it happens. It happens this time of the year.”
Catcher Willson Contreras picked off Jose Lobaton at first base to quash a Washington threat in the eighth and Davis fanned a swinging Bryce Harper for the final out.
“It was a series of bad events,” Nationalsmanager Dusty Baker said.
Chicago, which surpassed its total of eight runs in the first four games of the NL Division Series, advanced to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will start ace Clayton Kershaw at home in Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday night.
For Maddon and the Cubs, this was their fourth consecutive victory in a win- or-be- eliminated postseason game. That includes three straight to end the 2016 World Series, when Chicago trailed the Cleveland Indians 3-1 before forcing a Game 7 won by the Cubs in 10 innings.
The Nationals, meanwhile, went one-and- done yet again: This is the fourth time in the past six years that the club won the NL East and immediately lost its opening playoff series. And this is the third time in that span that Washington bowed out with a Game5NLDS loss at home; that also happened in 2012 against the St. Louis Cardinals and last year against the Dodgers.
This one was played exactly five years to the day after the decider against the Cardinals, which the Nationals lost 9-7 in Washington.
Just like that night, the Nationals started Gio Gonzalez. Just like that night, Washington raced out to an early lead (6- 0 back then). And just like that night, Gonzalez had control problems and started giving back some of the edge.
“It really hurts, you know, to lose like that, especially after what we went through all year long, and that was tough,” Baker said.
Homers by Daniel Murphy and Michael A. Taylor — whose grand slamoffDavis backed Stephen Strasburg’s 12-strikeout masterpiece in Washington’s 5- 0 victory in Game 4 at Wrigley Field on Wednesday — gave the hosts a 4-1 lead in the second against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks.
But Gonzalez gave back two of those runs, so it was 4-3 as two-time Cy Young Award winner Scherzer entered for the fifth. He started Game 3 of this series, pushed back because of an injured right hamstring, and hadn’t come out of the bullpen since 2013 with the Detroit Tigers.
By the time Scherzer’s one inning was over, the Cubs had taken a 7- 4 lead. They scored two earned runs and two unearned runs, on the strength of three hits, one hit by pitch, one intentional walk, a catcher’s interference, and one very odd play.
What could have been a potentially inning- ending strikeout turned into a run, as Javier Baez swung and missed, but the ball went under catcher Matt Wieters’ glove and through his legs. When Wieters collected the ball, he threw it into right field for an error, then appeared to argue that the play should have been ruled over because Baez’s follow-through carried the bat into the catcher’smask.
But the Nationals wasted some opportunities.
In the eighth, with two on and no outs, pinch-hitter AdamLind hit into a double play. Later in that inning, againwith twomen aboard, Lobaton was nailed by Contreras’ snap throw for the third out — Lobaton was originally ruled safe, a call that was overturned on replay.
In the seventh, Ryan Zimmerman was up as the go-ahead run with two men on, but Davis struck him out.
GAME 1 STARTERS ANNOUNCED » Astros ace Dallas Keuchel opposes Yankees right- hander Masahiro Tanaka in the opener of their AL Championship Series at Minute Maid Park. It’s a rematch of the 2015 wild-card game, when Keuchel dominated in a 3- 0 Yankees loss.
Tanaka pitched three-hit ball over seven innings in a 1- 0 Game 3 win against Cleveland during the ALDS. He has a 1.50 ERA over two career playoff starts.