The Chicago Cubs are headed back to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) after beating the Washington Nationals 9-8 on Thursday.
Chicago joined the New York Yankees as road warriors winning decisive game fives. Joe Maddon was forced to stretch his bullpen to the brink in Thursday's marathon of a game, but closer Wade Davis gutted out a seven-out save to secure the win.
Michael A. Taylor did his part for the Nationals, becoming the first player in postseason history to have consecutive games with at least four RBIs, but his towering second-inning home run off Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks was not enough to get the Nats to the NLCS.
The Cubs will now battle the well-rested Los Angeles Dodgers for a chance to make it back to the World Series.
CUBS' MAGIC STILL LINGERS
North Chicago rejoiced last year when the Cubs erased 108 years of longing with a come-from-behind World Series win. They used a mixture of young talent, solid pitching and a heavy dose of Aroldis Chapman to get the job done.
Chapman is gone, so too is leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler, but this Cubs team proved Thursday, on the road, that they still have some magic fairy dust left over from last year.
This Cubs team seem to be missing the same spark and depth as last year, but they have been impressive this season trying to repeat as champions.
MAX SCHERZER SHOULD NOT HAVE PITCHED
The reigning National League (NL) Cy Young award winner did not start until game three due to a nagging hamstring injury. He allowed just one run in 6.1 innings in that start, so it appeared the injury was behind him.
Dusty Baker decided to use Scherzer in relief Thursday, in what became one of the sloppiest innings of the postseason. Scherzer retired Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to start the inning, but he did not record the third out until after the Cubs had scored four runs. The Cubs batted around the order in the inning, scored on a Matt Wieters throwing error and scored a run when Scherzer hit Jon Jay with the bases loaded.
Even if Scherzer had pitched lights out and helped the Nats win the game, he would not have been available early against the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks had just done the same thing with Robbie Ray and it put Arizona behind from the start. Scherzer should have been held out of this game.
ADDISON RUSSELL, WILSON CONTRERAS STEP UP
Russell entered game five with more than twice as many strikeouts (seven) as hits (two) in 14 at-bats this series. But he made up for the slow start with two key hits Thursday.
Russell doubled in the fifth inning off Scherzer, scoring two runs to help the Cubs take the lead. He then doubled again in the sixth inning, scoring Ben Zobrist. Russell ended the day two-for-four with a walk and four RBIs. The Cubs will need him to remain hot against the Dodgers.
Contreras went one-for-three with two walks and two runs scored Thursday after entering the game with two hits in 11 at-bats. Contreras went on a power surge during the second half of the regular season. The Cubs could use some more of that moving forward to support Bryant and Rizzo.
RUSSELL'S CRUCIAL HIT
Russell hit a two-run double off Scherzer.
CUBS AT DODGERS
The Cubs will face the Dodgers in the NLCS. Los Angeles will start Clayton Kershaw in game one on Saturday, as they try to reach the World Series for the first time since 1988.
|Giggs: Bale will feature for Wales in China Cup|
|Serena releases statement after skipping media following Miami loss|
|England bowled out for 58 in 130-year Test low|
|Maradona: Messi doesn´t have to prove himself by winning World Cup|
|Cavs tally worst defensive half of season against Raptors|
|McIlroy, Johnson stunned on day one in Austin|
|Cristiano Ronaldo hasn´t asked to leave Real Madrid amid China links – Perez|
|Oakland Athletics allowing fans to pick price of tickets, all proceeds to charity|
|Ginobili: Spurs not expecting Kawhi Leonard to return this season|
|Trout, Angels brass confident Shohei Ohtani will be a star|
|Osaka wanted to impress Serena with stunning Miami Open win|
|Manchester United apply for professional women´s team|
|Bolt hopes fellow Jamaican breaks his world record|
|Bolt a fan of Ronaldo, but compares his talent to Messi´s|
|Outstanding Osaka knocks out Williams in Miami opener|
|Del Potro ´tired´ heading into Miami Open|
|Heynckes definitely leaving at end of season, claims Ze Roberto|
|Joshua tells Wilder to be ´realistic´ in negotiations|
|Shaw issue a distraction from Manchester United´s failures, says Neville|
|Hamsik withdraws from Slovakia squad|
|RFU backs Jones despite awful Six Nations|
|Hamilton eyes Melbourne pole record, 100 club for Vettel? - Australian GP in numbers|
|Griezmann backs Pogba to prove doubters wrong for France|
|Sanchez ´expected something better´ from Manchester United move|
|WATCH: Thomas conjures up great escape in Austin|
|Javi Martinez in the dark over Spain squad omission|
|Jones should have managed England workload - Flood|
|Giggs feeling the tension ahead of Wales debut|
|Juventus confirm Alex Sandro thigh injury|
|Hart praises ´loyal guy´ Southgate amid World Cup axe fears|
|Windies singing in the rain as they clinch World Cup spot|
|I miss Morata, says recalled Costa|
|I can improve even more at Manchester City - Bernardo Silva|
|Neymar will be fit for the World Cup, insists Ronaldo|
|Costa thinks Griezmann will stay at Atletico Madrid|
|Third DRS zone added for Australian Grand Prix|
|Ferdinand worried by England´s World Cup striker options|
|Hamilton an F1 great - Fittipaldi|
|Stam leaves Reading after wretched run|
|Neymar is great, we´ll see if he joins Real Madrid – Asensio|
|Appalling racism must stop - Inglis|
|Maguire tips ´nightmare´ Vardy to replace injured Kane|
|Red Bull duo: Mercedes still the team to beat|
|Wait and see - Root refuses to confirm new-ball role for Broad|
|Malcom ready to leave Bordeaux and chase Bayern ´dream´|
|Surprised Smith says Rabada appeal verdict draws ´line in the sand´|
|Asensio insists Zidane was not unfair to him|
|Griezmann wants future resolved before World Cup|
|F1 2018: Hamilton v Vettel - the race for five titles|
|Nocerino wants Conte return after Italy´s World Cup ´disaster´|
|Celtics capitalise on Thunder meltdown, Harden scores 42 points|
|Jason Day hungry to reclaim top ranking: My game is close|
|Iconic 2002 World Cup haircut was media distraction, reveals Ronaldo|
|New Zealand star Taylor fit for day-night Test|
|Teenager Anisimova to face Muguruza in Miami|
|McIlroy credits Wayne Rooney for improved putting|
|Stokes return a ´huge boost´ for England – Root|
|Wright: Difficult for Liverpool sensation Salah to resist Real Madrid|
|Yaya Toure yet to report for international duty, confirm Ivory Coast|
|Masters favouritism could hinder Woods, Thomas claims|
|I wish I could still play with him – Ortiz on Red Sox addition Martinez|
|Morrison confirms plans to play for Jamaica|
|Warriors target Friday return for Curry against Hawks|
|Starc and Marsh set to play at Newlands|
|Red alert: Richard Sherman ´excited´ to be a 49er|
|Germany should be proud to have Sane, says Tah|
|Bertrand out of England friendlies with back injury|
|Optimistic McIlroy ´crossed that line´ with Bay Hill win|
|Young backs Mourinho over Shaw treatment|
|BVBolt? Athletics great scores header while training in Dortmund kit|