They’ll face off against the Dodgers starting on Saturday.
Well...um...that sure was something.
But to get to the actual action, it started terribly for the Nationals from practically the first pitch. Gio Gonzalez got the start, with the understand that Max Scherzer could replace him after a few innings if things got messy, and things got messy pretty fast.
Gonzalez looked okay (if not fantastic) and Kyle Hendricks kept things together for Chicago even though he looked shaky. So entering the second, the Cubs were still up by one, and then Hendricks stopped being able to keep things together.
A Daniel Murphy solo homer tied it, then Anthony Rendon and Matt Wieters made it on base only to be immediately sent back to the dugout by a three-run Michael A. Taylor home run that put Washington up 4-1.
Those runs wouldn’t be a buffer for long though, as in the top of the next inning Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, and Albert Almora all got on base thanks to a double and two walks, respectively. Addison Russell drove Bryant home and a wild pitch by Gonzalez allowed Contreras the same courtesy. That would be the end of his night on the mound.
Hendricks kept runs off the board in the third and fourth, and Nationals reliever Matt Albers managed to do the same for the half inning he pitched in the bottom of the third.
And then, the top of the fifth inning. Oh god, that fifth inning. Nationals fans, if you don’t want to re-live this avert your eyes now.
Max Scherzer had come in in a relief role for Washington, and got two outs to start the inning. Then Contreras singled, and Ben Zobrist came into the game and did the same. If you didn’t know what was coming, that all seems fine.
Then, Addison Russell doubles to bring both Contreras and Zobrist home so it’s 5-4. Which in the grand scheme of things still doesn’t seem so bad! But then they intentionally walk Jason Heyward, which still only puts guys on first and second so should be fine.
But then — and this was pure chaos in case you weren’t watching — Javy Baez “strikes out” except it’s a dropped third strike so it’s not a strike out at all and he makes it to first because Matt Wieters loses sight of the ball and also got hit in the head with Baez’s backswing. While that was happening, Addison Russell advanced to third and Heyward went to second.
Wieters, for some reason, couldn’t make a throw to first and that went awry, so Russell scored and Heyward took his place at first with Baez now on second. BUT THEY WEREN’T EVEN DONE YET.
Wieters committed catcher’s interference which Tommy La Stella a base, which is when Scherzer hit Jon Jay with a pitch so Heyward came home, but that was the last of the damage. Kris Bryant popped out and the Nationals finally got out of things after letting up four runs.
The Cubs went through Brian Deunsing and Pedro Strop in relief in the bottom of the fifth without letting up any runs, and Kintzler almost managed to do the same in the top of the next inning but of course the way things were going for the Nationals that was never going to happen. He got two quick outs but then walked Zobrist and Addison Russell doubled him home. 8-4, Chicago.
Washington started their first mini-rally in the bottom of the sixth, chasing Strop after he walked Jayson Werth. With Mike Montgomery in the game, Bryce Harper doubled to right field and then Zimmerman also walked. Werth scored and Harper advanced on a wild pitch. 8-5.
Daniel Murphy doubled to score Harper (why they were still pitching to Murphy at this point is unknown) and it was 8-6. The Cubs then intentionally walked Rendon to load the bases, but it didn’t amount to anything as Wieters flied out.
Being within two runs wouldn’t last long for the Nationals, as in the very next inning, Kyle Schwarber and Jon Jay both made it on base and then Bryant let Schwarber score on a fielder’s choice grounder. 9-6.
In the bottom of the inning, Carl Edwards Jr. was put into the game for the Cubs but lasted only one batter as he was pulled after walking Taylor. Turner and Werth made it on base against Jose Quintana, and Bryce Harper came to the plate with the bases loaded and only one out. He hit a ball that at first glance looked like it could have the lift to get over the fence, but was then obviously short. Taylor scored though, 9-7.
Ryan Madson went three-up-three-down in the top of the eighth, a rarity for the Nationals in the game. Which allowed the Nationals to get within one run in the bottom of the inning. Thanks to two walks to start things off, followed by a double play, Taylor was once again able to get another run for the Nationals. 9-8, heading into the ninth.
It wouldn’t matter though. Sean Doolittle got three outs in a row for the Nationals, but Wade Davis got the same for the Cubs. Davis completed a seven out save, which is as much a reason as any that the Cubs held on. They were basically out of pitching, so he had to do it.
With a 9-8 win, the defending champions are on to the NLCS to face the Dodgers. And the Nationals go home knowing they were once again this close from winning a playoff series.