Friday, October 13th, 2017

NLDS 2017 Game Five: An Evening of Mood Swings and a Foot That Left the Bag

For a series defined by outstanding pitching performances, Game Five was an anomaly. Fly balls lost in the lights. Too many walks. Wild pitches. Video replays. If there's a Chicago Cubs or Washington Nationals fan who isn't suffering from stomach ulcers or high blood pressure this morning, they clearly forgot to watch last night's series-deciding game.

Simply stated, the Cubs outlasted the Nationals, 9-8, to advance to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) and a rematch against the Los Angeles Dodgers. This year the Dodgers have earned home-field advantage.

The Cubs grabbed an early lead, 1-0, but quickly surrendered four runs in the bottom of the second. After trailing 4-1, the Cubs answered with two runs in the top of the third and drove Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez from the game. Washington's ace, Max Scherzer, entered the game to start the fifth inning as a reliever on short rest. That's when the game ran off the rails.

To say Scherzer (who may earn the National League's Cy Young Award in 2017) pitched one inning, allowed three hits, one walk and surrendered four runs (only two earned) fails to adequately describe the frame. Scherzer made quick work of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. With two outs, Willson Contreras and Ben Zobrist singled. Addison Russell doubled to score two. Scherzer intentionally walked Jason Heyward. Javier Baez struck out (but could easily have been called for interference) but advanced to second base on the dropped third strike. Russell scored. Tommy LaStella reached first on catcher's interference and loaded the bases. Jon Jay was hit by the pitch and scored Heyward. Bryant popped out to end the inning.

Leading 7-4 in the sixth, Zobrist walked then Russell double when Jason Werth lost the fly ball in the lights. The Cubs would add one more run in the top of the seventh. The Nationals scored two in the sixth, one in the seventh and one more in the eighth.

The outcome of championships should not hinge upon the results of video review, but a manager's challenge squashed a Nationals rally with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Jose Lobaton singled to drive home the eighth run. Contreras fired a ball down to Rizzo at first base. Lobaton was initially called safe, but after a review from MLB headquarters, the call was overturned after determining his foot broke contact with the bag momentarily.

Wade Davis, the Cubs' closer, recorded seven outs to lock down the save. His final victim, Bryce Harper, fanned to end the game.

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