CI Recap (NLDS Game 5) – Cubs 9, Nationals 8: Bats Wake Up, Bullpen Hangs On As Cubs Advance to NLCS

After dropping Game 4 to the Nationals at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, the Cubs were back in D.C. Thursday night to play the fifth and deciding game in this back-and-forth NLDS. Kyle Hendricks got the start for Chicago but didn’t make it past the 4th inning, forcing Joe Maddon to go to the bullpen early. The relievers struggled but ultimately did just enough, as the Cubs were able to hang on for a 9-8 victory to advance to their third consecutive NLCS (box score).

Why The Cubs Won

It took until the fifth game of the series but the Chicago offense finally broke out. After scoring a combined eight runs in the first four games, the Cubs exploded for nine against the Nationals. They had a good approach at the plate and continued to tack on runs throughout the game, all of which turned out to be necessary.

Addison Russell had a big game and provided the big blow in a crazy 5th inning that saw the Cubs retake the lead. Russell’s two-out double down the left field line drove in two runs to make it 5-4 and give Chicago a lead it would not relinquish.

Key Moments

With Chicago holding a 1-0 lead, The Nationals got to Hendricks in the bottom of the 2nd. Noted Cubs killer and all-around unlikable person Daniel Murphy hit a home run to lead off the inning and tie the game. Consecutive singles followed to put runners at first and second for Michael A. Taylor, who deposited a Hendricks pitch into the seats in left to give Washington a 4-1 advantage.

After cutting the deficit to 4-3 in the 3rd, the Cubs retook the lead in the 5th off starter-turned-reliever Max Scherzer thanks to some #weirdbaseball. Scherzer retired the first two in order, but the next seven Chicago batters proceeded to reach via single, single, double, intentional walk, dropped third strike, catcher’s interference and hit by pitch. By the time the craziness was over, the Cubs were up, 7-4.

The Cubs were clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the 8th when Willson Contreras once again showed why he is such a difference-maker behind the plate. The Nationals had runners at first and second with two outs and Wade Davis was struggling with his command. With the game teetering on the edge, Contreras fired to first and picked off Jose Lobatón to get the Cubs out of the inning and end the Washington threat.

Stats That Matter

  • After confounding the Nationals in Game 1, Hendricks got hit pretty hard in this one. The Professor left a lot of his pitches up and over the plate and it showed in his final line: 4 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. His stuff was still pretty good, as evidenced by the seven strikeouts, but too many elevated pitches brought an early end to his night.
  • As he did last postseason with Aroldis Chapman, Joe Maddon turned to his stopper to work multiple innings to close out a playoff game. He didn’t have great command and got away with some hangers, but Wade Davis came through for his manager, as he went 2 1/3 innings, allowing one run on two hits and two walks. Davis also struck out three, none of which were bigger than his punchout of Bryce Harper for the 27th and final out of the game.
  • The Cubs used eight pitchers in the game (Hendricks, Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop, Mike Montgomery, Carl Edwards Jr., Jose Quintana, Davis) and all eight walked at least one batter.
  • Chicago pitching had just one 1-2-3 inning in the game: the 9th.

Bottom Line

The pitching struggled mightily and there were some questionable bullpen decisions by Maddon but it worked out in the end, as the Cubs won a crazy Game 5 to advance to their third straight NLCS. This is what everyone hoped for when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over just six years ago, so enjoy the moment.

On Deck

In a rematch of last season’s NLCS, the Cubs will once again take on the Dodgers for the right to advance to the World Series. Game 1 is Saturday in Los Angeles and will start at 7 p.m. CT on TBS. The starting pitchers have yet to be announced.

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