Cubs find them­selves in fa­mil­iar spot

West Hawaii Today - - Sports - BY AN­DREW SELIG­MAN

CHICAGO — Jon Lester had the roar­ing crowd shak­ing Wrigley Field to its foun­da­tion.

Turns out, his rare pick­off late in the game was about all the Chicago Cubs gave their fans to cel­e­brate.

With a chance to knock the Na­tion­als out of the playoffs, the de­fend­ing World Se­ries champions got shut down by an ail­ing Stephen Stras­burg in a 5-0 loss on Wednesday.

That sends their NL

Di­vi­sion Se­ries back to Washington for a de­ci­sive Game 5 on Thursday. Lose that one, and the Cubs can forget about an­other pa­rade.

“I don’t think any­body likes hav­ing their backs against the wall,” Lester said.

But the Cubs have been there, done that and come away with the big­gest prize of all.

They trailed 3-1 against the In­di­ans in the World Se­ries last fall, only to bring home their first cham­pi­onship since 1908. To do that, they had to win Games 6 and 7 in Cleve­land. And that ul­ti­mately meant pulling out a rain-in­ter­rupted, 10-in­ning clas­sic to set off a cel­e­bra­tion more than a cen­tury in the mak­ing.

They’ll send Kyle Hen­dricks to the mound for Game 5, hop­ing he can turn in an­other dom­i­nant out­ing after win­ning the opener. Na­tion­als man­ager Dusty Baker would not say who will start for Washington, with Gio Gon­za­lez or Tan­ner Roark likely to get the ball.

The win­ner heads for Los Angeles to play the Dodgers in the NL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries be­gin­ning Saturday.

“We’ve had our backs against the wall,” Cubs starter Jake Ar­ri­eta said. “We had a chance to go up 2-0 there, came up a lit­tle short. Won Game 3 here, with a chance to put it away tonight. We have to deal with the cir­cum­stances and put it be­hind us and come out ready to play to­mor­row night.”

The Cubs, of course, were hop­ing it wouldn’t come to this. But their tough­ness is be­ing tested again after Stras­burg an­swered ques­tions about his.

He shook off an ill­ness and struck out 12 while pitch­ing three-hit ball over seven in­nings.

Other than a long fly to left by Ad­di­son Rus­sell in the sec­ond that al­most cer­tainly would have been a two-run homer had the wind not knocked it down, the Cubs never threat­ened.

Rus­sell also booted a grounder to short­stop by Ryan Zim­mer­man with two outs in the third, al­low­ing Trea Turner to score the first run.

Ar­ri­eta, lim­ited down the stretch be­cause of a strained right ham­string, held Washington to an un­earned run and four hits in four in­nings. But he walked five and threw 90 pitches.

It was Lester who gave the fans a rare chance to cheer.

He took over for Ar­ri­eta and re­tired his first 10 bat­ters be­fore walk­ing Zim­mer­man with one out in the eighth. Then, the left­hander did some­thing no one had any rea­son to an­tic­i­pate.

De­spite his well-doc­u­mented is­sues throw­ing to first and hold­ing run­ners, Lester picked off Zim­mer­man.

That drew the loud­est cheers of the game. But in a flash, the Na­tion­als si­lenced them.

Daniel Mur­phy chased Lester with a sin­gle, and the Cubs’ trou­bles mounted from there.

Carl Ed­wards Jr., who gave up a ty­ing, two-run homer to Bryce Harper in Game 2, seemed to have trou­ble grip­ping the ball in the wet con­di­tions. He walked An­thony Ren­don and Matt Wi­eters to load the bases, then missed badly out­side on the first pitch to Michael A. Taylor.

At that point, man­ager Joe Mad­don brought in closer Wade Davis. The move back­fired when Taylor drove a 1-1 fast­ball to the bas­ket in right field for a grand slam. Just like that, it was 5-0.

Now, the se­ries goes back to Washington. The Cubs find them­selves in a fa­mil­iar po­si­tion, try­ing to avoid elim­i­na­tion when they al­ready had a chance to close out this se­ries at home.

“It was just last year,” Ed­wards said. “We can’t re­ally not think about last year. We came back as a team. We came back as one. That’s some­thing we’ve been do­ing all year long.”

Chicago Cubs re­lief pitcher Wade Davis re­acts as Washington Na­tion­als’ Michael Taylor rounds third base with a grand slam.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.