Bryce Harper swung and missed for strike three and Cubs catcher Willson Contreras tossed his glove and mask and joined a hug-fest of gray uniforms around closer Wade Davis on the pitcher’s mound at a shocked Nationals Park.
The Cubs beat the Nationals 9-8 to win their National League Division Series in five games. After the game, the Cubs headed to Los Angeles to get ready for a rematch with the Dodgers for the National League pennant.
The Cubs are going to their third consecutive National League Championship Series and in hopes of getting a chance to win their second consecutive World Series. The Cubs rebounded after a loss at home in Game 4.
“We had to turn the page quickly,” outfielder Jason Heyward said, goggles firmly in place as champagne in streams around the visitors’ clubhouse. “We lost in Chicago, but we didn’t have a choice. We had to turn the page. Hats off to our pitching staff.”
The Cubs fell behind 4-1 after two innings. They took a 7-4 lead in what might be the most bizarre fifth inning in team history. They led 9-7 after seven innings.
They scored four runs off the National’ Max Scherzer, the leading candidate for the NL Cy Young, who was pitching in relief. And in their four-run inning, reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant made two outs.
Cubs closer Wade Davis got the final seven outs, retiring the top of the Nationals’ order - Trea Turner, Jayson Werth and Harper - in order. He got help when Contreras picked up Jose Lobaton off first base to end the eighth inning. Lobaton was called safe, but when the Cubs challenged, it was ruled on replay review that first baseman Anthony Rizzo got the tag on Lobaton.
The Diamondbacks and the Braves are the only other teams to score four runs in an inning against Scherzer this season.
Scherzer started the fifth by getting two quick outs -Bryant on a grounder and Anthony Rizzo on a fly - but then the circus began. The big knock was Addison Russell’s two-run double down the left field line - off a changeup - that gave the Cubs a 5-4 lead.
In all, the inning was a single, single, double, intentional walk, wild pitch, catcher’s interference and a hit by pitch.
“Huge, huge,’’ Russell said about having a big inning against Scherzer. “You see Scherzer out there and you think he’s one of the best. And he’s coming in in the middle of the game. You have to change your game plan, your approach. I just wanted to get something over the plate. Just trying to move the runners and ended up driving in two runs.’‘
How crazy was the game?
“It’s the second-craziest,’’ Rizzo said. “Second to Game 7 of the World Series last year. I don’t know. We just had fun. It had home runs, passed balls, catcher’s interference - just an all-around crazy game.’‘
Said outfielder Albert Almora Jr.: “It was about like the World Series Game 7 last year. This was special, very special. I wasn’t nervous. I was just eager. We had the utmost confidence we were going to win.’‘
Davis was the pitching story of the game. He was the last pitcher in a thin bullpen and he got seven outs for the first time in game since Aug. 24, 2013 - as a starter for the Royals against the Nationals.
“I didn’t think about being tired or anything like that,’’ Davis said. “I was just focused on getting the hitters out. They are a tough lineup. It’s like pitching against the Yankees and the Red Sox (when they dominated in the American League East).’‘
Contreras’ pickoff of Lobaton was huge, Davis said.
“It saved me,’’ Davis said. “It saved pitches. It saved everything. It gave me time to reset.’‘
The pickoff review was an obvious call, manager Joe Maddon said.
“You have to trust your guys on the field,’’ Maddon said.
The Cubs offense woke up for Game 5.
“We scored a lot of runs on outs and awkward kinds of plays,’’ Maddon said. “It was one of those will-to-win situations.’‘
The Cubs used all their pitching and their Game 1 starter for the NLCS in Los Angeles could be John Lackey going against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
“We haven’t talked about it,’’ Maddon said. “He’s definitely in the mix, no question.’‘
For now, Maddon was going to enjoy the champagne and be thankful for a long flight to Los Angeles.