Stephen Stras­burg

The Day - - SPORTS - By JAY COHEN AP Sports Writer

pitches the Na­tion­als to a 5-0 win over the Cubs in Game 4 of the NLDS. Michael Tay­lor’s grand slam in the 8th seals it.

Chicago — Stephen Stras­burg gave Washington ev­ery­thing he had, and it was more than enough. So much for all those ques­tions about heart and char­ac­ter.

Stras­burg shook off an ill­ness and pitched seven dom­i­nant in­nings, Michael A. Tay­lor hit a late grand slam and the Na­tion­als beat the Chicago Cubs 5-0 on Wed­nes­day to send their NL Di­vi­sion Se­ries to a de­ci­sive Game 5.

“I just fo­cused on one pitch at a time and go­ing as long as I could,” Stras­burg said.

Mo­ments after Sean Doolit­tle closed out Stras­burg's first ca­reer play­off win, the fo­cus shifted to the fi­nal game of the se­ries in Washington on 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.

Washington man­ager Dusty Baker was non-com­mit­tal when asked about his starter, with Gio Gon­za­lez and Tan­ner Roark the most likely can­di­dates.

“You know, who­ever it is, I hope they pitch like Stras did to­day,” Baker said. No kid­ding. Stras­burg got sick after his ter­rific per­for­mance in the play­off opener on Fri­day, and the Na­tion­als had planned to go with 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 Baker he wanted the ball. That was all Baker needed to hear.

“I could see the fo­cus and de­ter­mi­na­tion in his eyes, you know what I mean, when he came in the of­fice and we talked to him,” the man­ager said. “You know, he's a man of few words, but the words he said, you know, gave us ev­ery in­di­ca­tion that he was ready.”

Stand­ing tall as clouds of mist rolled through Wrigley Field, Stras­burg struck out 12, al­lowed three hits and walked two. The No. 1 over­all pick in the 2009 draft has 22 Ks in 14 in­nings in the se­ries, al­low­ing only a pair of un­earned runs in the sixth in the opener.

“I like to think that any game that I pitch is the most im­por­tant game,” Stras­burg said. “That's just how I tried to go into Game 4, and now we get a chance for a Game 5.”

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.

“We just have to be of­fen­sively a lit­tle bit bet­ter to­mor­row,” Cubs man­ager Joe Mad­don said. “They have been re­ally good. We have been re­ally good. Lis­ten, they got a grand slam. Oth­er­wise, it's kind of like the same game both sides.”

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 Wade 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.

“I was kind of numb, just run­ning around the bases,” Tay­lor said. “Hon­estly, I didn't think it was go­ing to get out the way the wind was blow­ing in.”

Ryan Mad­son worked the eighth and 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 five-game losses to St. Louis in 2012 and Los An­ge­les last sea­son.

“Once you get out there, that stuff doesn't re­ally mat­ter,” Tay­lor said. “What we did last year doesn't help or hurt us once we're in be­tween the lines. We'll just go out there and play our game.”

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.

“It's two heavy­weights go­ing at it,” Lester said. “We're go­ing to the last round. We're go­ing to fig­ure it out. We've got Game 5 so it should be ex­cit­ing TV. It should be ex­cit­ing in our club­house.”

“You know, who­ever it is, I hope they pitch like Stras did to­day.” DUSTY BAKER, WASHINGTON MAN­AGER, WHEN ASKED WHO WOULD PITCH GAME 5 FOR THE NA­TION­ALS TO­DAY


Washington’s Michael Tay­lor watches his grand slam take flight against the Cubs dur­ing the eighth in­ning of Game 4 of a Na­tional League Di­vi­sion Se­ries on Wed­nes­day in Chicago. The Na­tion­als won, 5-0, to force a de­ci­sive Game 5 tonight in Washington.

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