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.
|Hart ready if England come calling - Dyche|
|Ryder Cup 2018: An honour and a burden - the unique challenge of captaincy|
|Hibino beats Bouchard again at the Tashkent Open|
|Falcons lose Ricardo Allen for season|
|Mbappe three-match ban stands following appeal|
|Tomic wins first Tour-level match since Wimbledon in Chengdu|
|Ryder Cup diary: Scoreboard shocker, captains tight-lipped|
|Mourinho will spawn lots of managers - Lampard|
|Furyk outlines Woods´ Ryder Cup motivation|
|Tiger doesn´t scare Team Europe - Bjorn|
|Ryder Cup 2018: Team USA profile|
|Woods winning ´incredibly special for golf´, says Poulter|
|Grealish commits to Aston Villa with five-year deal|
|Ryder Cup 2018: Four reasons why Team USA will win|
|Herrera ready for return - Mourinho|
|Bellew determined to prove doubters wrong against Usyk|
|Lewandowski and Boateng´s professionalism impresses Kovac|
|WATCH: Sheepish Murray comically drops commemorative plate in China|
|Cech: Arsenal have forgotten how to win Premier League titles|
|Lemar must adapt to Atleti style, says Simeone|
|Toulon to appeal suspended points penalty|
|AFE rejects Miami plan for Girona-Barca|
|Messi and Ronaldo to decide world´s best young player|
|Ryder Cup 2018: Talisman Poulter key to European hopes|
|Pogba hits out at critics who ´create drama´|
|Barcelona to appeal Lenglet red card|
|Ryder Cup 2018: Team Europe profile|
|Patriots´ Gronkowski threatened to retire if traded to Lions|
|Ryder Cup 2018: Four reasons why Europe will win|
|Tigres and Monterrey condemn violence that leaves fan in intensive care|
|Williams baffled by coach´s claim he sent her US Open final signals|
|Ryder Cup 2018: A sporting spectacular you cannot afford to miss|
|Cricket Australia closes investigation into Moeen claim|
|Zlatan impressed by ´MVP´ singer|
|Modric hoping to complete FIFA and UEFA double at Best Awards|
|Mickelson never doubted Woods would win again|
|Woods looked like Tiger of old in 80th PGA Tour win|
|Chelsea were too slow against West Ham - David Luiz|
|Tottenham star Kane acknowledges sub-par start|
|Rashid signs one-year all-format deal with Yorkshire|
|Brady and Patriots crash to back-to-back defeats|
|Gundogan looking forward to ´real test´ against Liverpool|
|Cubs move closer to clinching NL Central|
|Valverde bewildered by Lenglet red card as Barca boss questions VAR|
|Cronk a ´long shot´ to play in NRL Grand Final|
|Cleary re-signs with Panthers until 2024|
|Bills stun Vikings, Chiefs QB Mahomes impresses again|
|Tiger feels he can surpass Snead´s record after 80th victory|
|Ronaldo mentally stronger than others, says Allegri|
|MLS Review: Ibrahimovic scores as Galaxy end seven-game skid, Dallas reclaim top spot in west|
|Rose told Woods it was ´about time´ after win|
|Dustin Johnson regains number one ranking|
|Pogba: Sanchez will deliver at Man United|
|Federer, Zverev help Europe defend Laver Cup|
|I couldn´t sit or stand – Tiger Woods reflects on back woes after ending drought|
|Snead´s record in sight – Tiger Woods´ 80 PGA Tour wins|
|Nicklaus, Magic Johnson, McIlroy and Kane – Sports stars celebrate Tiger´s Tour win|
|Tiger Woods season in review: Tour Championship win caps remarkable comeback|
|49ers fear QB Garoppolo suffered torn ACL|
|World of golf is proud of Woods – Rose|
|WATCH: Tiger followed by incredible sea of fans at East Lake|
|Three takeaways from the 2017-18 PGA Tour season|
|Mbappe shows off signed Pele shirt|
|Tiger timeline: Woods´ fall and rise|
|Spieth´s breakthrough, Garcia´s Masters moment - Events between Tiger´s triumphs|
|Tiger Woods: I was close to tears on the last hole|
|Woods earns first win since 2013; Rose claims FedEx Cup|
|Pogba implores Manchester United to ´attack, attack, attack´|
|Valverde, Busquets and Vidal criticise Lenglet dismissal|
|Tiger Woods: The stunning statistics|