WASHINGTON -- Three down, eight to go. That's the countdown for Cubs' wins in their bid to repeat as defending World Series champions. They needed to rally Thursday night against the Nationals and Max Scherzer with a bizarre fifth inning that checked nearly every item in the box score to post a 9-8 Game 5 victory and clinch the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile.
WASHINGTON -- As the Nationals begin this offseason -- which came much sooner than they expected -- the biggest question looming will be the status of manager Dusty Baker.
Washington will not stand to lose much to the free-agent market, with nearly all the crucial members of the team under contract for next season. The exception is Baker, who just reached the end of his initial two-year contract. Baker has said he wants to continue managing. Nats general manager Mike Rizzo said before the start of the postseason that he expected Baker to return next season and that they would work on a deal once the season was over.
WASHINGTON -- In the solemn Nationals clubhouse and amid the rowdy celebration taking place on the other side of Nationals Park on Thursday night, everyone tried to find the right words to describe the pivotal fifth inning of the Cubs' 9-8 victory, which clinched their third straight trip to the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World.
WASHINGTON -- The clubhouse had been prepared for a celebration. Temporary carpet had been installed on the floor and plastic was rolled up on the walls, ready to be unveiled to withstand a champagne celebration that would have washed away the disappointments of years past. Instead, the Nationals sat inside trying to make sense of it all, how such a promising season could end so abruptly once again.
The Nationals spent all season insisting this year's team was different. They were battle tested from this run of four division titles in six seasons. They entered the postseason with their deepest and most talented roster, put together devoid of any clear flaws. But October continued to be cruel to Washington. The latest blow came in the form of a 9-8 defeat at the hands of the defending World Series champion Cubs, who eliminated the Nationals in Game 5 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile on Thursday night.
WASHINGTON -- As he tried to make sense of it all, with tears forming in his eyes, Jayson Werth kept coming back to one phrase.
"I can't believe we lost that game," he repeated after the Nationals' heartbreaking 9-8 loss to the Cubs on Thursday in the decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile.
There was a play in the midst of the wackiness of Game 5 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile that's almost certainly going to be lost to history. After all, it came in the midst of aces struggling in relief, a dropped third strike that led to a run after an errant throw, and however it was that you'd describe the entire fifth inning. What will be lost in the Cubs' dramatic victory to advance to the NL Championship Series presented by Camping World will be Daniel Murphy's sixth-inning double, because from the outside, it looked straightforward.
Those were the only sounds echoing throughout the Nationals' clubhouse in the aftermath of their 9-8 loss to the Cubs on Thursday night in Game 5 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile.
WASHINGTON -- As the Nationals dealt with another painful early exit from the postseason, it was seemingly difficult for them to pinpoint exactly why they were not able to fulfill their mission and expectation to dethrone the defending World Series champions and finally experience the thrill of advancing to the National League Championship Series.
"It was a series of bad events," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said after a season filled with legitimate Fall Classic aspirations concluded with Thursday night's wacky and eventful 9-8 loss to the Cubs in Game 5 of the NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Wieters' first career bunt hit a thing of beauty
By Jessica Kleinschmidt |
Postseason baseball is crazy -- that's what makes it great. During Game 5 of the NLDS presented by T-Mobile, the Nationals made sure to answer back from the Cubs' quick-scoring first inning.
During the bottom of the second with no outs, Daniel Murphy smacked a solo shot over the fence. Anthony Rendon singled and Matt Wieters follow it with a beautiful bunt (the first of his career) that landed perfectly down the third-base line. Let's not forget the minor detail that Wieters was batting left-handed against a shift when this occurred.
Washington can't muster another comeback vs. reigning WS champs
By Oliver Macklin
WASHINGTON -- All they could do was watch from the dugout as the sea of blue jerseys rushed their home turf in celebration. It was a feeling all too familiar for a Nationals team that has been unable to escape the ghost of playoffs past.
In one of the most erratic, roller-coaster rides of a game many of the Nationals said they had ever experienced, Washington fell to the Chicago Cubs, 9-8, on Thursday night in the deciding Game 5 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. The game lasted four hours and 37 minutes, making it the longest nine-inning postseason game on record.
Oliver Macklin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter at @basebollie. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
DYK? Facts, figures from wild NLDS Game 5
By David Adler, Andrew Simon and Matt Kelly
It was long, grueling, dramatic and historic. When the dust settled at Nationals Park late Thursday night -- technically in the early hours of Friday morning on the East Coast -- the Cubs had outlasted the Nationals, 9-8, in Game 5 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
NLDS Game 5: Dusty Baker postgame interview
Q. Are you surprised on that stage that your team played kind of a sloppy game?
DUSTY BAKER: Yeah, I mean, we didn't play a very good game. We still battled till the end, and you know, we had far too many walks and they end up scoring in a hot mess. That was probably one of the weirdest innings I've ever seen with the third strike and then Baez hits Wieters on the backswing.
Because of Tuesday's rain in Chicago that forced a postponement of Game 4 of the NLDS presented by T-Mobile, the Cubs and Nationals are coming in hot to Thursday's Game 5 (8 p.m. ET on TBS) -- traveling to Washington to play a game less than 24 hours after their previous game at Wrigley concluded.
Before we get swept up in the storylines of Thursday's pivotal Game 5, let's take a look back at the great moments of the first four games that have led up to this.
CHICAGO -- Twice before he had been prevented from pitching in the postseason -- due to an innings restriction in 2012 and an injury in '16 -- and yet here was Stephen Strasburg, nearly unable to pitch in a playoff game when his team needed him most. His name had become a punching bag for the past 24 hours as he caught criticism for the perception that he was not tough enough to pitch when he was sick.
CHICAGO -- Michael A. Taylor has been described as both an impressive five-tool talent and a late bloomer. Over the course of the past year, he has displayed the power of perseverance and proven he still should be considered a significant future asset for the Nationals.
Mark Bowman has been an Atlanta-based reporter for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Stras' gem one of best performances while ill
By Michael Clair |
Stephen Strasburg originally wasn't going to start the must-win Game 4 of the NLDS presented by T-Mobile on Tuesday due to an illness and/or mold. But after the game was postponed due to rain, the Nationals' star pitcher was recovered enough to take the mound. And he was brilliant.
Strasburg pitched seven shutout innings, giving up just three hits and striking out 12 as he dazzled with his fastball and befuddled with his changeup.
By Andrew Simon, David Adler, Manny Randhawa and Matt Kelly
One Game 5 was set up Wednesday. Another was settled.
Stephen Strasburg overcame an illness to stave off elimination, with help from a Michael A. Taylor grand slam, and the Nationals shut out the Cubs, 5-0, at Wrigley Field in Game 4 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. Washington will try to advance to the NL Championship Series presented by Camping World for the first time in club history on Thursday at Nationals Park, with the Dodgers waiting in the wings.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Nats-Cubs NLDS Game 4: In Real Life
The Nationals beat the Cubs, 5-0, in Game 4 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. The victory evened the series at two games apiece and forced a winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS.
MLB.com was on the scene in and around Wrigley Field.
There were a few extra "players" on the field during Game 4 of the NLDS presented by T-Mobile on Wednesday. The Nats took their positions on defense, but in between Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy, several pigeons perched on the field as the team took on the Cubs. And they looked like they were too comfortable to move.
CHICAGO -- In Game 1 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile, it was the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg who stymied the Cubs, but Chicago eventually rallied for a win. On Monday, it was Max Scherzer, who was dominant, yet once again, the Cubs came through late.
The Cubs survived four errors, a baserunning gaffe and a dominant outing by Scherzer to post a 2-1 come-from-behind victory on Anthony Rizzo's tiebreaking bloop RBI single with two outs in the eighth inning. The win gives Chicago a two games to one lead over the Nationals in the NLDS.
CHICAGO -- They lingered on the mound for longer than usual, with Max Scherzer attempting to talk his way into staying in, even after manager Dusty Baker had emerged from the dugout. Scherzer had just given up his first hit of the day, a one-out double from Ben Zobrist in the seventh, and Baker faced a crucial decision in a one-run game.
However, with an eye on the next hitter and considering Scherzer had thrown 98 pitches coming off an injured hamstring, Baker decided to pull his ace from the game. The move did not pay off as the Cubs scored in the seventh and eighth innings to steal a 2-1 victory in Game 3 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile.
Mark Feinsand, executive reporter for MLB.com, has covered the Yankees and MLB since 2001 for the New York Daily News and MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
DYK? Facts, figures from Monday's games
By Matt Kelly, Daniel Kramer, Manny Randhawa, Joe Trezza, Andrew Simon and Chad Thornburg
It was a busy day for playoff action with four games on the schedule Monday. Both the Astros and Dodgers punched their tickets to the League Championship Series by finishing off the Red Sox and D-backs, respectively.
The Cubs, meanwhile, gained a 2-1 edge over the Nationals with a come-from-behind win in Chicago, and the Yankees won in the Bronx to even their series against the defending American League champion Indians.
Max Scherzer was sensational for the Nationals against the Cubs in Game 3 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. The Cubs won, 2-1, but Scherzer held the defending World Series champions hitless for the first 6 1/3 innings, striking out seven along the way.
Scherzer departed in the seventh with a 1-0 lead after allowing a double by Ben Zobrist to break up the no-hit bid. One inning earlier, however, Jon Jay made a strong bid for the Cubs' first hit. He smoked Scherzer's first pitch of the sixth to deep center field.
WASHINGTON -- For nearly two games, the Nationals' offense had been dormant. Facing a potential 0-2 National League Division Series hole, and in need of a spark after 16 listless innings, the Nats watched Bryce Harper rise to the occasion like he has so many times in the past.
In the eighth inning of Saturday night's Game 2, Harper launched a mammoth game-tying and series-changing two-run homer off Carl Edwards Jr., which sent the 43,860 fans at Nationals Park into a frenzy. Ryan Zimmerman followed with a go-ahead three-run homer to punctuate a five-run eighth inning that led the Nationals to a 6-3 victory over the Cubs. Washington's improbable comeback tied the NLDS presented by T-Mobile at a game apiece, with the series heading to Wrigley Field in Chicago today.