Cubs hold off Na­tion­als for spot in NLCS

The Mercury News Weekend - - SPORTS -

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.

Amer­i­can League

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.

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