Magic is in the Air: Cubs Return to NLCS After Epic Game 5 Win

Joe Thomas

WASHINGTON, D.C.– If you were having flashbacks to Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, trust me, you were not alone. The Chicago Cubs started their postseason run in Washington D.C last Friday night and finalized their date with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS late Thursday night in our nation’s capital. There were many great NLDS match-ups, including the Yankees knocking out the Indians in five games, but this series brought an intensity unlike any other.

There was not one game that wasn’t intense in this series. In game one, the Cubs were at their sharpest as ace starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks didn’t allow a single run while the bullpen finished the job later on in the game. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo–better known as Bryzzo–drove in the lone three runs of the game to give the Cubs a 1-0 series lead and become the first team in the postseason to win a game on the road.

Game two was nearly a must win for the Nationals. After the Cubs jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the 4th, the bats from both teams, along with Nationals fans, went quiet. It wasn’t until the 8th inning when Washington finally got rolling. On a 3-1 count with a runner on, former MVP Bryce Harper sent a moonshot to right field igniting the Nationals faithful and effectively tying the game. Minutes later, Ryan Zimmerman launched a three run homer to left field, which ended up being the game winning hit as the Nationals evened the series to one game a piece.

In game three the Cubs were silenced for the greater portion of the game until the seventh inning. Prior to Albert Almora Jr.’s game-tying single, Ryan Zimmerman proved to be clutch again with an RBI double following Kyle Schwarber’s costly error in left field.  Anthony Rizzo’s game tying bloop single into left field, now known as the “Respect Me” hit, allowed Leonys Martin to score, which served as the game winning run for Chicago.

Game four presented miserable conditions at Wrigley Field after a rainout the night before with rain coming down throughout the night and wind swirling around in the outfield. The key play in the game was Michael A. Taylor’s grand slam in the 8th inning off of Wade Davis, giving the Nationals a five run lead at the time. The Cubs could not adapt to the conditions and were shutout by Steven Strasburg and the Washington Nationals 5-0 heading into a do-or-die game back in Washington.

Last night, the Chicago Cubs faced elimination from the playoffs for the first time since last year’s Fall Classic, and we all know how that turned out. While the Cubs hoped to continue on their road to a repeat championship, the Nationals were looking to win their first playoff series in franchise history. After four playoff appearances since their relocation from Montreal, they still have not been able to make it to the NLCS. That could have changed last night, but the Cubs had other plans.

After taking an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Nationals turned up the heat. Daniel Murphy, who had endured struggles of his own early on in the series, finally made solid contact and sent one way out of Nationals Park. A few batters later, the Nationals hero from game four, Michael A. Taylor stepped up to the plate and received a loud roar from the crowd only to send another bomb out of the park to widen the lead. All of a sudden, Washington had a three run lead, but it did not take the Cubs long to get right back into the game.

In the top of the third, the Chicago Cubs cut the lead to one after an Addison Russell groundout and a wild pitch thrown by Gio Gonzalez. Two innings later, the Cubs offense got the boost they were looking for. Nationals manager Dusty Baker decided to pitch usual starter and former CY Young award winner Max Scherzer against the heart of Cubs lineup. After he racked up two straight outs, the Cubs put together one of the most epic two out rallies in NLDS history. Max Scherzer gave up four runs, ultimately giving the Cubs a three run lead. The Cubs added one more run in the 6th inning after Addison Russell reached on a double after Jayson Werth completely missed a line drive left of his glove. With still ⅓ of the game left, the Nationals had plenty of time to mount a comeback.

Washington slowly but surely got back into the game, though, as they added two more runs in the bottom half of the sixth: one because of a wild pitch and the other due to a Daniel Murphy double. Later in the seventh inning, both teams had a run come across the plate, leaving two innings for the Nationals to make a comeback.

After finishing off the 7th inning, Cubs closer Wade Davis came back in the 8th hoping to get the final six outs of the game. The Nationals were able to add one run off of a Michael A. Taylor’s single, but the biggest play of the inning came on defense. With Ryan Zimmerman on first, Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras realized that he was way off the bag after every Wade Davis pitch, therefore he gunned a strike down to Anthony Rizzo who applied the quick tag. At first, it seemed clear that Zimmerman beat the throw; however,it appeared after further review that he very briefly was off the bag in mid-air when Rizzo tagged him. Therefore, Cubs manager Joe Maddon requested that they review the play in New York. After a very lengthy review, Zimmerman was called out at first, ending a huge scoring threat in the 8th. That play wasn’t just the most important play of this game, but perhaps was the most important defensive  play of the series.

After surpassing his maximum number of pitches thrown in a game this season (34), Davis finished off the Nationals by striking outformer MVP Bryce Harper. The Chicago Cubs could finally breathe.

The Chicago Cubs are currently on their way to Los Angeles to face off against the Dodgers, who had the best record in the regular season and dominated the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS. The Cubs have not named their starter for Game 1, but the Dodgers will send another former CY Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw, to the bump. Make sure to stay with The Forest Scout for full previews for both the NLCS and ALCS in what should be two very entertaining series.