Bill Murray and the 5 biggest keys to the Cubs' thrilling Game 3 victory over Nationals

Bill Murray and the 5 biggest keys to the Cubs' thrilling Game 3 victory over Nationals

The Cubs have the script for October 2017 and they intend to follow it: Get no-hit for the first 5-6 innings, then storm back and take down the Nationals' top pitchers.


That's exactly what the Cubs did in their 2-1 Game 3 victory over the Nationals, putting Bryce Harper and Co. on the ropes with Game 4 set for Tuesday night.

Here are the 5 biggest keys to the game:

Bill Murray: Hype Man

Bill Murray sang the 7th Inning Stretch and like the typical showman he is, he got the 42,445 fans in attendance all kinds of riled up. In classic Harry Caray fashion, he told the Cubs to get some runs.

And they did.

The Cubs responded to Murray's call in the bottom of the seventh when Ben Zobrist broke up Max Scherzer's no-hitter with one out, lining the right-hander's 98th pitch off the Under Armour door in left-center.

That was it for Scherzer, as Dusty Baker brought in left-hander Sammy Solis to face Kyle Schwarber.

Joe Maddon countered with Albert Almora Jr. who laced the sixth pitch of his at-bat past a diving Trea Turner, tying the game and delivering an epic reaction:

That was Almora's first postseason hit in 15 tries and it couldn't have come at a bigger time for the 2017 Cubs.

The next inning, Anthony Rizzo played hero on a two-out bloop single, driving in Leonys Martin with the game-winning run.

Defense wins championships...

Maddon opted to get another left-handed bat in the lineup against Scherzer, who is as wicked as they come against right-handers. Which meant Javy Baez was on the bench, instead of starting his 20th straight Cubs postseason game at second base.

That move almost came back to haunt the World-Series-winning manager, as Ben Zobrist dropped Bryce Harper's groundball in the third inning, putting runners at first and third with two outs for NL MVP candidate Anthony Rendon. Rendon smoked a 99.1 mph liner to the warning track in right-center, but Jason Heyward was able to fight through the sun and make the running catch.

In the fourth, after Jayson Werth walked, Matt Wieters drove one to a similar spot as Rendon in right-center, but this time it was Jon Jay who made the running grab, covering a long distance and lunging at the last second for the grab.

Zobrist later atoned for his defensive miscue with a diving stop to get Trea Turner to lead off the eighth inning.

...until it doesn't

Kyle Schwarber - in the lineup for his offense against Scherzer - became the goat as Monday afternoon turned into evening. 

First he dropped Daniel Murphy's tailing flyball in the sixth inning, then Schwarber kicked it - literally - and Murphy wound up on third base with two outs. 

That led Maddon out of the dugout to remove Jose Quintana, who was working on a two-hitter and had just set down six Nationals in a row. Pedro Strop came in and immediately served up a two-out RBI double to the same warning track in right center where Jay and Heyward made their spectacular catches.

Just like that, it's 1-0 Nationals with their ace on the mound, showing no signs of that hamstring injury and had not yet given up a hit at that time.

The Cubs' defense may have been the best in baseball history in 2016, but it was very nearly their Achilles' heel in Game 3 of the NLDS, committing four errors.

About that hammy...

So...Scherzer's hamstring looked to be OK, eh??

Scherzer "tweaked" his hamstring eight days before his Game 3 start and the injury forced him out of Games 1 and 2 of this best-of-five series. He had to push his pre-start bullpen back several days, but wound up throwing on Saturday with no issues.

Scherzer met with the media Sunday afternoon and insisted he was good to go 100 pitches if need be.

He then went out and silenced the doubters, taking a no-hitter through 6.1 innings before Zobrist drilled a double off the wall in left field.

CJ's redemption

Carl Edwards Jr. was saddled with the loss Saturday as he became just another of the poor souls tasked with trying to get Bryce Harper out and instead becomes the victim of a tape-measure shot.

But Edwards responded by carving through the heart of the Nationals order Monday night, including a strikeout of Harper:

That kept the game tied 1-1, giving Anthony Rizzo a chance to play the hero.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Jed Hoyer breaks down Cubs renovated pitching staff


Cubs Talk Podcast: Jed Hoyer breaks down Cubs renovated pitching staff

Between more power in the rotation and more strike-throwing in the bullpen, the Cubs were decisive in how they wanted to remake their pitching staff entering the 2018 season.

GM Jed Hoyer sits down with David Kaplan to explain the thought process of the front office over the winter.

Take a listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Where does the Cubs lineup rank in MLB?


Where does the Cubs lineup rank in MLB?

It's that time of the year — a week out from Opening Day where all the predictions and rankings come through.

The latest coming through the baseball world is's Anthony Castrovince creating a list of the Top 10 lineups in baseball in 2018.

The Cubs come up lower than I expected — sitting sixth.

Here are Castrovince's rankings:

1. Houston Astros
2. New York Yankees
3. Washington Nationals
4. Boston Red Sox
5. Cleveland Indians
6. Chicago Cubs
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
8. Minnesota Twins
9. St. Louis Cardinals
10. Oakland A's

We broke down our own rankings of the Top 10 lineups in Major League Baseball:

Here's how I would rank the top lineups:

1. Houston Astros
2. Washington Nationals
3. Chicago Cubs
4. New York Yankees
5. Cleveland Indians
6. Boston Red Sox
7. Arizona Diamondbacks
8. Milwaukee Brewers
9. St. Louis Cardinals
10. Minnesota Twins

The Astros should be atop everybody's list.

The Nationals may actually be an underrated powerhouse offense, even with Daniel Murphy currently injured. Once he returns, you're looking at probably the best 1-6 of any lineup in baseball with Adam Eaton and Trea Turner (two premier leadoff-type hitters) setting the table for Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Murphy (three MVP candidates) and Ryan Zimmerman cleaning things up.

The Cubs may not have the sheer strength and power of the Yankees, but the Chicago lineup is deeper and more well-rounded. Regardless of who leads off and who plays on a given day, this Cubs team will batter opposing pitchers on a nightly basis and feature what very well could be three MVP candidates — Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras.

The Yankees would see a boost here if Brett Gardner shows no signs of aging at 34 and Greg Bird finally stays healthy.

The Indians are stacked, but don't quite boast as much depth 1-9 as the other lineups ahead of them with Tyler Naquin, Roberto Perez and Bradley Zimmer projected to make up the bottom-third of the order.

The Red Sox feature a dynamic young core despite a lineup that is coming off something of a down 2017 campaing. Adding J.D. Martinez to the mix is an incredible boost, as is a full season of phenom Rafael Devers.

The Diamondbacks have Paul Goldschmidt and a few question marks — including how the new humidor will affect the way the ball jumps in the dry Arizona heat. 

With new additions like Lorenzo Cain and former Marlins outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, the Cubs' main division rivals (Brewers, Cardinals) see a jump in lineup rankings.

The Dodgers are noticably absent given the injury to Justin Turner. Without him anchoring the order for the first month or so, this lineup absolutely needs Chris Taylor to turn in a repeat performance after a breakout 2017.