The Chicago Cubs eliminated the Washington Nationals 9-8 in Game 5 of the National League Division Series (GameTracker) on Thursday. The Cubs now move on to the NL Championship Series, in which they'll play the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Nationals, meanwhile, head home for winter.
Here's what you need to know about the game.
A tilt-a-whirl game
This was an insane, sloppy, entertaining game. The Nationals led 4-1 after two, then later trailed 8-4 heading into their part of the sixth. The two sides would continue trading blows from there. The Nationals would make it 8-6 through six. Then the Cubs made it 9-6 in the seventh before the Nationals answered with a run in each of the seventh and eighth innings. Entering the ninth, it was a 9-8 affair and the game felt wide open.
Consider that the two sides combined to use 14 pitchers. That they combined for 23 hits. That the Nationals' backup catcher was picked off first base to end the eighth inning. That Wade Davis was brought in for a seven-out save despite having not recorded so much as a six-out appearance all season. That Davis overcome certain fatigue to somehow hang onto the lead -- it wasn't pretty, but he nonetheless was able to retire Bryce Harper to end the game, and the Nationals season.
This was, in other words, an at-times ugly game to watch and a near-constant thrilling one to experience.
Nats melt down by the rarest of sequences
Baseball is an old sport in which new sequences still do happen -- but when they do, they're notable. One such new sequence took place in the top of the fifth inning.
The Cubs saw four consecutive batters reach: one by an intentional walk, one on a passed-ball strikeout, one on catcher's interference, and the fourth on a hit-by-pitch. Those four events have never happened before in the same half-inning, at least not in the more than 2.7-million half-innings in Baseball Reference's database:
The fact that only five games -- not innings, games -- have ever had all four events. That's not in the same half-inning, that's not in a row, none of it. The Cubs somehow pulled that off, seemingly for the first time in the history of the sport. That's cool. And wild.
Possible blown call went against Nationals
By the way, that passed-ball strikeout? Expect to hear talk about whether the play was correctly officiated by the umpiring staff. The batter, Javier Baez, hit the catcher, Matt Wieters, in the mask with his follow-through. Yet the umpires allowed play to continue, and that cost the Nationals. Wieters and Dusty Baker tried explaining what had happened, but to no avail.
For more on that play,.
Another odd part about the above sequence? It came with two outs against Max Scherzer, who could well win the NL Cy Young Award.
Scherzer entered in the top of the fifth inning and dispatched Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo with little trouble. From there, the wheels came off -- not because Scherzer was allowing hard contact, but because everything broke against him. Scherzer finished his night having officially allowed three hits and four runs (just two earned). He struck out a batter and walked another.
Hendricks' streak ends
We haven't addressed Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks much. He had a rough night, getting knocked around to the tune of nine hits and four runs in seven innings. As it turns out, Hendricks had held the opposition to two runs or fewer in seven consecutive postseason starts. If he'd done that again on Thursday, he would've tied the longest such streak in history. Alas, that record will remain Curt Schilling's and Curt Schilling's alone:
Kyle Hendriks: 2 R or fewer in 7 straight postseason starts, one shy of longest streak all-time set by Curt Schilling (1993-02).— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) October 13, 2017
Baez throws out Turner
In the first inning, Trea Turner reached base on a grounder that Javier Baez had no play on. Later on in the frame, Turner tried scoring from third on a ball hit to Baez. That, ladies and gentlemen, did not go well for the Nationals. Instead, Baez was able to make a strong throw home and Willson Contreras was able to apply an in-time tag to keep Turner from scoring:
Replay comes under fire after crucial pickoff
Believe it or not, the Wieters passed-ball incident wasn't the only controversy involving a Nationals catcher. Backup Jose Lobaton, who entered late, was picked off first base to end the eighth inning via replay., but it boils down to how you view the spirit of the rule. If you think players should be called out for disengaging with the bag at all, then the umps got it right; if you don't, then they didn't. Either way, Nationals fans will be thinking about this one all winter long.
Cubs move on, starter questions in tow
Next on the docket for the Cubs? The NLCS against the Dodgers. Game 1 will take place on Saturday night from Los Angeles. The Dodgers will tap Clayton Kershaw for that start. The Cubs, well … that's less certain.
Joe Maddon used Jose Quintana in relief in Game 5, and started Kyle Hendricks. Neither is going to be available for the subsequent Game 1. Likewise, both Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester seem out of the question after appearing for prolonged outings on Wednesday. That leaves John Lackey, who has not appeared this postseason, as the most likely candidate.
On the season, the Cubs were 2-4 against the Dodgers. Should history repeat itself, the Cubs will fail to repeat as World Series champions.