WASHINGTON, D.C. — Holy. Cow.
Have you digested all that?
Game 5 of the NLDS turned into an absolute classic, taking 4 hours and 37 minutes to play with 14 different pitchers combining to throw 377 pitches in Washington D.C.
The end result is this:
Updated status: pic.twitter.com/LtFsVKmK8N— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) October 13, 2017
The Cubs are headed to their third straight National League Championship Series after outlasting the Washington Nationals 9-8.
The Cubs are now 5-1 under Joe Maddon when facing elimination in October.
First, take a deep breath, get out of your glass case of emotion, and then try to wrap your head around the 5 biggest things from an epic night of baseball:
Big game experience
It's an overblown storyline, but it's a fact. The Cubs have experience in wacky, edge-of-your-seat, bite-all-your-nails-off-until-your-fingers-bleed October baseball games. And they somehow keep finding ways to come out on top of them.
I don't know how, in reality. Some of it is definitely luck and the breaks going your way. But the players deserve credit, too, for somehow keeping their wits about them and getting the job done juuuuust enough to win.
Max truly is mad
Cubs fans were absolutely not feeling good about things when Max Scherzer was announced as the new pitcher for the fifth inning. Ditto when he retired Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo as the first two hitters.
But then baseball happened. The weird, quirky, nonsensical sport that has imbedded itself into American culture happened.
Here's a summary of the inning that changed the fortunes of the Cubs' season:
— With two strikes on him, Willson Contreras fought to put the ball in play and reached on an infield single.
— Ben Zobrist pinch-hit, fought off some tough two-strike pitches, then blooped one into shallow left for a single.
— Addison Russell jumped on Scherzer's first offering and grounded a ball just inside the third base line for a two-out, two-run double.
— Jason Heyward was intentionally walked.
— Javy Baez reached on a dropped third strike, Russell scored on Matt Wieters' errant throw to first base.
— Pinch hitter Tommy La Stella reached on catcher's interference.
— Jon Jay was hit with a pitch, plating another run.
— Bryant finally ended the inning with a pop out to shortstop.
The inning had everything, and it had everybody triggered:
I am willing to bet never before in baseball history have four batters in a row reached on this sequence of events. https://t.co/0BFLtU5V1a— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 13, 2017
Scherzer's final line: one inning pitched, three hits, four runs (two earned), one walk, one strikeout.
And one L.
Time for fall break
The Professor is about take his fall break. But he'll be back next week.
Kyle Hendricks didn't have his A stuff Thursday night, giving up four earned runs on nine hits, a walk and two homers across four innings. He did strike out seven Nationals and only allowed Washington to score in one inning, but it was a grind to even get through four innings.
This wasn't the same Professor we saw in Game 1, when he patiently lulled the Washington hitters to sleep.
But it was enough to get by and eat up some outs and that's what the Cubs truly needed. Hendricks found ways to shut the door on Nationals rallies at just the right time, allowing his team back into the game.
I don't have any cute, catchy sub-head for the Wade Davis category, because he wouldn't want it any other way.
Maddon called on his guy to close out the game, bringing the closer in in the seventh inning with two on and two out.
Davis responded by striking out Ryan Zimmerman to escape the seventh-inning jam. He walked the first two hitters of the eighth inning before getting pinch-hitter Adam Lind to ground the first pitch of the at-bat into a double play.
But then, naturally, the guy in the next bullet came to the plate.
Still, Davis got the job done by the skin of his teeth and pitched the Cubs to the NLCS.
It was his longest outing (both in terms of pitches thrown and outs recorded) since August 2013, when he was still working as a starting pitcher.
Michael F. Taylor
(The F is for "freakin.")
The young Washington outfielder did his best to carry his team the last two nights, following his backbreaking grand slam in Game 4 with a three-run shot in the second inning of Game 5. That second blast seemed to be a dagger for the Cubs early on, but that was long before things got weird. Like really, really weird.
Taylor became the first player ever to drive in a combined seven runs on back-to-back plate appearances in the postseason and became a hero in our nation's capital for it.
But Taylor wasn't done in the second inning. He started the seventh-inning rally with a leadoff walk and scored a run. Then he drove in another run in the eighth off Davis, trying to singlehandedly will his team back into the game.
All hands on deck
Maddon has used four starting pitchers the last two games and yet still John Lackey couldn't get in either game.
Here is a list of the pitchers used by Maddon and how many outs they accounted for:
Brian Duensing: 2
Pedro Strop: 3
Mike Montgomery: 1
Carl Edwards Jr.: 0
Jose Quintana: 2
Maddon also used Zobrist, Tommy La Stella and Kyle Schwarber as pinch-hitters and Leonys Martin as part of a double switch.
In the last two nights, the only guys who didn't enter either game were backup catcher Alex Avila and Lackey.
Like Maddon said, there is no Game 6, and he managed like it.
Cubbie occurrences? Nahh
But Nattie occurrences? Maybe...
The Nationals will head into 2018 — the final year of Bryce Harper's contract — still having not won a postseason series.
That makes four failures in four tries for the Nats since 2012, the year they shut Stephen Strasburg down because they wanted to prioritize his arm health and figured they'd have plenty of postseason runs in years to come.
Thursday's game was absolutely crazy and sloppy. Cubs fans are used to seeing some of those wacky occurrences happen against them, but that's all changed now with a 108-year championship drought ended.
Instead, it was the Nationals who looked star-crossed, making mistakes all over the field and essentially handing the Cubs the game on a silver platter.
The end result is what figures to be another loooong winter in D.C. breaking down this specific missed opportunity.
But we live in Chicago, and Cubdom only need worry about one thing: