Chicago Cubs clinch NLDS, beat Washington Nationals 9-8

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Fans on Clark Street celebate Cubs NLDS win

Fans on Clark Street in Wrigleyville were ecstatic when the Cubs beat the Nationals in a thriller of a Game 5. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Chicago Cubs won the National League Division Series, beating the Washington Nationals 9-8 in Game 5.

The Chicago Cubs win whenever they need to, with whatever it takes, even a seven-out save by Wade Davis to preserve a shrinking lead and a "Did that really happen?" four-run inning against Washington's Max Scherzer in a thriller of a game.

That wild, bat-around fifth inning Thursday night for Chicago included Addison Russell's go-ahead two-run double, a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, and a disputed dropped third strike followed by a throwing error, helping the defending World Series champion Cubs come back - and then hold on - to edge the Nationals 9-8 and reach the NL Championship Series for the third year in a row.

Russell drove in a total of four runs, and Davis, Chicago's seventh pitcher, turned in his longest appearance since 2012. The Cubs trailed 4-1, then led 8-4 and 9-6, in a game that lasted more than 4 hours and ended after midnight on Friday.

Catcher Willson Contreras picked off Jose Lobaton at first base to quash a Washington threat in the eighth and Davis fanned a swinging Bryce Harper for the final out.

Chicago, which surpassed its total of eight runs in the first four games of the NL Division Series, advanced to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will start ace Clayton Kershaw at home in Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday night.

For manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs, this was their fourth consecutive victory in a win-or-be-eliminated postseason game. That includes three straight to end the 2016 World Series, when Chicago trailed the Cleveland Indians 3-1 before forcing a Game 7 won by the Cubs in 10 innings.

The Nationals, meanwhile, went one-and-done yet again: This is the fourth time in the past six years that the club won the NL East and immediately lost its opening playoff series. And this is the third time in that span that Washington bowed out with a Game 5 NLDS loss at home; that also happened in 2012 against the St. Louis Cardinals and last year against the Dodgers.

This one was played exactly five years to the day after the decider against the Cardinals, which the Nationals lost 9-7 in Washington. Just like that night, the Nationals started Gio Gonzalez. Just like that night, Washington raced out to an early lead (6-0 back then). And just like that night, Gonzalez had control problems and started giving back some of the edge.

Homers by Daniel Murphy and Michael A. Taylor - whose grand slam off Davis backed Stephen Strasburg's 12-strikeout masterpiece in Washington's 5-0 victory in Game 4 at Wrigley Field on Wednesday - gave the hosts a 4-1 lead in the second against Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks.

But Gonzalez gave back two of those runs, so it was 4-3 as two-time Cy Young Award winner Scherzer entered for the fifth. He started Game 3 of this series, pushed back because of an injured right hamstring, and hadn't come out of the bullpen since 2013 with the Detroit Tigers.

By the time Scherzer's one inning was over, the Cubs had taken a 7-4 lead. They scored two earned runs and two unearned runs, on the strength of three hits, one hit by pitch, one intentional walk, a catcher's interference, and one very odd play.

What could have been a potentially inning-ending strikeout turned into a run, as Javier Baez swung and missed, but the ball went under catcher Matt Wieters' glove and through his legs. When Wieters collected the ball, he threw it into right field for an error, then appeared to argue that the play should have been ruled over because Baez's follow-through carried the bat into the catcher's mask.
Russell made it 8-4 in the sixth on an RBI double when left fielder Jayson Werth tried to make a sliding catch but whiffed. The lead was 9-6 when Washington got one run in the seventh on Harper's sacrifice fly, and one in the eighth on Taylor's RBI single.

But the Nationals wasted some opportunities. In the eighth, with two on and no outs, pinch-hitter Adam Lind hit into a double play. Later in that inning, again with two men aboard, Lobaton was nailed by Contreras' snap throw for the third out - Lobaton was originally ruled safe, a call that was overturned on replay.

In the seventh, Ryan Zimmerman was up as the go-ahead run with two men on, but Davis struck him out. That was part of an 0 for 4, three-K night for the first baseman who had a resurgent season, leading the Nationals with 36 homers and 108 RBIs.

That season is over for him and his team. The Cubs, though, will play on.

Cubs fans ecstatic over NLDS win in Wrigleyville

Cubs fans in Wrigleyville were ecstatic with the wild win in the early hours of Friday morning. Wrigleyville exploded in cheers after the final out.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a congratulatory statement, saying, "Congratulations to the entire Cubs organization on advancing to the National League Championship Series for the third straight year, and congratulations to the Washington Nationals on a great season! This series, and particularly this incredible nail-biter of a game, was another unforgettable chapter in an always exciting season. All of Chicago is looking forward to what's in store for the rest of October. Let's go Cubs!"

While some diehard Cubs fans will make the trip to D.C., some headed to the Park at Wrigley Thursday night to watch the game on the big screen.

Other fans headed to Murphy's Bleachers and other watering holes in Wrigleyville to witness glory. Bars rolled out the red carpet, anticipating good turnout. Bar owners said they're prepared for a crush of fans, particularly if the Cubs take an early lead.

Throughout the playoffs the fire marshal has been making the rounds, ensuring bars are not exceeding capacity. Bar owners said they have additional measures in place Thursday night.

"For all clinch games, we use all plastic. No cans, no bottles, nothing over the bar other than everything poured into plastic cups," said David Strauss, co-owner of Sluggers.

"We've got our security ready to go. We just want a really fun atmosphere for our customers, and we want to see us going on to the NLCS for the third year in a row," said Patrick Curth, manager of Murphy's Bleachers.

Earlier in the day, Cubs fans were optimistic despite the Game 4 defeat. It is in their nature to hope, and hope for the best.

"It wasn't our night last night. Maybe the weather had something to do with it. But we'll see if they can pull it off again," said Matthew Menard, a Cubs fan.

"Hoping for a win. Hoping for a Game 5 win. We need that," said Mike Ficaro, another Cubs fan.
Ficaro was one of the thousands of disappointed Cubs fans who watched Game 4 in person.

"Sitting in the outfield, it was a great atmosphere, until that grand slam went. Then the game started to clear out," he said.

WLS-TV contributed to this report.

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sportsChicago CubsCubsbaseballMLBWashington Nationalswrigley fieldChicagoWrigleyville
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