By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) --
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.
bat-around fifth inning Thursday night for Chicago included Addison
Russell’s go-ahead, two-run 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 the most 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.
“I’ve always known
he’s got a lot of mettle in his soul,” Ben Zobrist, who scored two runs for
Chicago, said about Davis. “The guy just shows up. He’s got ice in his
The same could be
said for all of the Cubs.
They trailed 4-1,
then led 8-4 and 9-6, in a game that lasted more than 41Ú2 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.”
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.
“Just trying to
stay focused and confident in the end,” Davis said.
surpassed its total of eight runs from 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.
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 Game 5 NLDS 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 was a series of
bad events,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “It really hurts, you know,
to lose like that, especially after what we went through all year long, and
that was tough.”
Homers by Daniel
Murphy and Michael A. Taylor -- whose grand slam off Davis 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.
"Huge. You look out
there and you see Scherzer up there and you think, ‘One of the best, if not
the best, pitcher out there on the mound,” Russell said. “You kind of have
to change your game plan, your approach.”
By the time
Scherzer’s one inning was over, the Cubs had taken a 7-4 lead, and Russell
had delivered the biggest hit. Chicago 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’s
“This game’s cruel
sometimes,” Scherzer said. “Just the way things can happen.”
The play was not
reviewable under the challenge rules.
“When the ball gets
past him,” plate umpire and crew chief Jerry Layne said, “in my judgment he
didn’t have any more opportunity after he had a chance to field the ball.
There was no further play that could have been made on it.”
“The graze of the
helmet didn’t have anything to do, in my judgment, with anything at all,
with that particular play,” he said. “I got together and found everybody was
in agreement. That’s what we went with.”
Russell made it 8-4
in the sixth on an RBI double when left fielder Jayson Werth tried to make a
sliding catch but whiffed.
Werth said he lost
the ball in the lights.
“It feels,” he
said, summing up the night for Washington, “like if it could go wrong, it
That season is over
for him and his team. The Cubs, though, will play on.
“We’ve been through
it. And in those situations, we tend to start believing we’re going to get
the job done,” Zobrist said, “even if it doesn’t look like we are."