Nats beat Cubs 5-0, force Game 5 in NLDS

The Progress-Index - - SPORTS - By Jay Cohen The As­so­ci­ated Press

CHICAGO — Stephen Stras­burg shook off an ill­ness and all doubts about his met­tle while pitch­ing seven dom­i­nant in­nings, Michael A. Tay­lor hit a late grand slam and the Washington Na­tion­als beat the Chicago Cubs 5-0 on Wed­nes­day to send their NL Di­vi­sion Se­ries to a de­ci­sive Game 5.

The teams packed up at Wrigley Field and headed back to Washington for Game 5 Thurs­day night. Kyle Hen­dricks starts for the World Se­ries cham­pion Cubs after throw­ing seven sharp in­nings in a 3-0 vic­tory over Stras­burg in Game 1. Gio Gon­za­lez is the likely starter for the Na­tion­als, with Max Scherzer lurk­ing in the bullpen.

Stras­burg got sick after his ter­rific per­for­mance in the play­off opener on Fri­day, and the Na­tion­als had planned to go with Tan­ner Roark even after a per­sis­tent rain washed out Game 4 on Tues­day. That led to a flurry of com­ments and crit­i­cism about whether the ace had the right stuff to pitch in big mo­ments.

But Stras­burg felt bet­ter when he woke up Wed­nes­day and told man­ager Dusty Baker he wanted the ball with Washington’s sea­son on the line.

That was all Baker needed to hear.

Stand­ing tall as clouds of mist rolled through the old ball­park, Stras­burg struck out 12, al­lowed three hits and walked two in his first ca­reer post­sea­son win. He pitched well enough to win Game 1, too, giv­ing up three hits and fan­ning 10 in seven in­nings, but a pair of un­earned runs sad­dled him with the loss.

This time, an­other costly er­ror for Chicago brought home Washington’s first run, and Tay­lor broke it open with a grand slam off Wade Davis in the eighth.

Chicago wasted a gutsy per­for­mance from Jake Ar­ri­eta and solid re­lief by Game 2 starter Jon Lester in its first home play­off loss since Game 4 of the World Se­ries last year. NL MVP Kris Bryant struck out four times, and the de­fend­ing champs went 0 for 6 with run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion.

Ar­ri­eta walked five in four in­nings in his re­turn from a ham­string in­jury, but lim­ited Washington to an un­earned run and two hits. Lester got the Cubs all the way to the eighth, pick­ing off Ryan Zim­mer­man be­fore de­part­ing after Daniel Mur­phy’s twoout sin­gle.

But Chicago’s bullpen fal­tered from there. Carl Ed­wards Jr. walked two in a row and threw ball one to Tay­lor be­fore he was re­placed by Davis. Tay­lor then drove a 1-1 pitch into the bas­ket over­hang­ing the brick wall in right field for his first ca­reer homer in the play­offs.

Ryan Mad­son worked the eighth and Sean Doolit­tle fin­ished the three-hit­ter, giv­ing the NL East cham­pi­ons a chance to avenge years of play­off heartache.

Washington also made it to the play­offs in 2012, 2014 and 2016 and fell in the first round each time, in­clud­ing fiveg­ame losses to St. Louis in 2012 and Los An­ge­les last sea­son.

The Na­tion­als jumped in front in the third, tak­ing ad­van­tage of a Chicago er­ror for the sec­ond straight game. Trea Turner dou­bled with one out for his first hit of the se­ries and ad­vanced on a wild pitch. Jayson Werth struck out look­ing be­fore Ar­ri­eta walked Bryce Harper, putting run­ners on the cor­ners.

Ryan Zim­mer­man, who leads the Na­tion­als with four RBIs, fol­lowed with a slow roller to short­stop. Ad­di­son Rus­sell charged the ball, but he couldn’t bring it in.

It was Chicago’s sixth er­ror of the se­ries, and re­liever Brian Duensing picked up an­other one on an er­rant throw in the ninth. Left fielder Kyle Sch­war­ber com­mit­ted two er­rors on one play in Game 3, set­ting up Washington’s only run in a 2-1 loss.

[CHARLES REX ARBOGAST/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS]

Washington Na­tion­als’ Michael Tay­lor (3) hits a grand slam against the Chicago Cubs on Wed­nes­day dur­ing the eighth in­ning of Game 4 of the Na­tional League Di­vi­sion Se­ries in Chicago.

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