Nationals come up a run shy in Game 5 again, eliminated by Cubs
WASHINGTON -- In a game with more bizarre twists and turns than nearly any in recent postseason history, the Washington Nationals ended the night with the most familiar and painful of results. After leading early and trailing in the middle innings, the Nats fought back within a run but fell short, 9-8, to the Chicago Cubs in the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS.
The Nationals looked like they may have had the decisive rally going in the eighth inning, with two on and two out, having already trimmed the deficit to one. But Jose Lobaton was picked off first base on a play where he was initially called safe, then called out on replay, extinguishing the threat.
Gio Gonzalez gave up a leadoff double in the top of the first to John Jay, who later came around to score, but stranded the bases loaded to limit the damage to a single run. The Nationals tied it up in the top of the second on Daniel Murphy’s solo blast to right, then took a 4-1 lead as Michael A. Taylor swatted a pitch at his shoulders over the left-center field wall for a three-run shot. The home run came in his very next at-bat following his eighth inning grand slam in Game 4 Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.
The Nationals led 4-3 when Dusty Baker called upon reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer for the fifth inning, which started innocuously enough before devolving into a debacle. Consecutive two-out singles from Willson Contreras and pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist set up a two-run double inside third base from Addison Russell. Baker elected to intentionally walk Heyward, after which Javier Baez struck out, but the third strike glanced away from Matt Weiters. His throw trying to get the runner was late and wide, allowing another run to score. Pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella then reached on a catcher’s interference to load the bases and John Jay was hit by a pitch to force in a run, pushing Chicago’s lead to 7-4.
The Cubs tacked on another run in the eighth on another bizarre play, as Jayson Werth appeared to have Russell’s two-out liner squared up. But Werth lost track of the ball as he went into a slide and whiffed on it entirely as it rolled all the way to the wall, Zobrist coming around to score all the way from first to make it 8-4.
The Nats cut the deficit in half in the sixth with a two-out rally of their own, as Werth scored on a wild pitch and Murphy delivered an RBI-double to score Bryce Harper to make it 8-6. But the Cubs stretched the lead to three once more in the top of the 7th, as Kris Bryant beat out the back end of a potential inning-ending double play ball.
The Nats got closer again with a run in the bottom half, as Bryce Harper batted as the potential go-ahead run with one out and the bases loaded. But he could only muster a sacrifice fly off Jose Quintana, trimming the gap to 9-7 before Wade Davis struck out Zimmerman to end the frame.
In the eighth, Taylor came through again with a two-out, RBI single back through the box to score Murphy. But after Lobaton singled to put the go-ahead run on base, he was back-picked by Contreras at first base. Initially called safe, he was ruled out on replay, which showed his foot slip off the bag after beating the throw back to first.
The Nationals went in order in the ninth, as Davis locked down the seven-out save.