Stephen Strasburg

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Strasburg spins gem, Taylor hits grand slam to force Game 5 vs. Cubs

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Strasburg spins gem, Taylor hits grand slam to force Game 5 vs. Cubs

CHICAGO (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg shook off an illness and all doubts about his mettle while pitching seven dominant innings, Michael A. Taylor hit a late grand slam and the Washington Nationals beat the Chicago Cubs 5-0 on Wednesday to send their NL Division Series to a decisive Game 5.

The teams packed up at Wrigley Field and headed back to Washington for Game 5 Thursday night. Kyle Hendricks starts for the World Series champion Cubs after throwing seven sharp innings in a 3-0 victory over Strasburg in Game 1. Gio Gonzalez is the likely starter for the Nationals, with Max Scherzer lurking in the bullpen.

Strasburg got sick after his terrific performance in the playoff opener on Friday, and the Nationals had planned to go with Tanner Roark even after a persistent rain washed out Game 4 on Tuesday. 

That led to a flurry of comments and criticism about whether the ace had the stuff to pitch in big moments.

But Strasburg felt better when he woke up Wednesday and told manager Dusty Baker he wanted the ball with Washington's season on the line.

That was all Baker needed to hear.

Standing tall as clouds of mist rolled through the old ballpark, Strasburg struck out 12, allowed three hits and walked two in his first career postseason win. He pitched well enough to win Game 1, too, giving up three hits and fanning 10 in seven innings, but a pair of unearned runs saddled him with the loss.

This time, another costly error for Chicago brought home Washington's first run, and Taylor broke it open with a grand slam off Wade Davis in the eighth.

Chicago wasted a gutsy performance from Jake Arrieta and solid relief by Game 2 starter Jon Lester in its first home playoff loss since Game 4 of the World Series last year. NL MVP Kris Bryant struck out four times, and the defending champs went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.

Arrieta walked five in four innings in his return from a hamstring injury, but limited Washington to an unearned run and two hits. Lester got the Cubs all the way to the eighth, picking off Ryan Zimmerman before departing after Daniel Murphy's two-out single.

But Chicago's bullpen faltered from there. Carl Edwards Jr. walked two in a row and threw ball one to Taylor before he was replaced by Davis. Taylor then drove a 1-1 pitch into the basket overhanging the brick wall in right field for his first career homer in the playoffs.

Ryan Madson worked the eighth and Sean Doolittle finished the three-hitter, giving the NL East champions a chance to avenge years of playoff heartache.

Washington also made it to the playoffs in 2012, 2014 and 2016 and fell in the first round each time, including five-game losses to St. Louis in 2012 and Los Angeles last season.

The Nationals jumped in front in the third, taking advantage of a Chicago error for the second straight game. Trea Turner doubled with one out for his first hit of the series and advanced on a wild pitch. Jayson Werth struck out looking before Arrieta walked Bryce Harper, putting runners on the corners.

Ryan Zimmerman, who leads the Nationals with four RBIs, followed with a slow roller to shortstop. Addison Russell charged the ball, but he couldn't bring it in.

It was Chicago's sixth error of the series, and reliever Brian Duensing picked up another one on an errant throw in the ninth.

Left fielder Kyle Schwarber committed two errors on one play in Game 3, setting up Washington's only run in a 2-1 loss.

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Stephen Strasburg now to start Game 4 against the Cubs

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Stephen Strasburg now to start Game 4 against the Cubs

What an emotional rollercoaster.

It was announced Tuesday that Stephen Strasburg would not be taking the mound in an already delayed Game 4 because he was feeling "under the weather" and that Tanner Roark would be starting. 

With the news of Strasburg reportedly declining, much criticism was heaped upon the Nats organization and Strasburg.

Well, jump forward to Wednesday afternoon and it seems like Strasburg is feeling up to it now.

According to a source of MLB Network's Joe Morosi, Strasburg is expected to take the mound at 4:08 p.m..

Nats GM Mike Rizzo spoke with the Sports Junkies Wednesday morning and said that they were confident in going with a healthy Roark instead of a depleted Strasburg in a do or die game.

Rizzo also noted that all hands were on deck for Game 4 against the reigning World Series champions.

Well, it seems as if a depleted Strasburg is feeling better. The Nationals announced around 1 p.m. that he would be their starting pitcher in tonight's game.

After all this back and forth, let's just go get a win. 

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Is Strasburg soft? The Junkies' E.B. asks for Nats fans

Is Strasburg soft? The Junkies' E.B. asks for Nats fans

UPDATE: According to sources of MLB Network's Joe Morosi, Stephen Strasburg is now expected to start Game 4 against the Cubs.

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Is Stephen Strasburg soft? That's the question everyone has been asking since hearing the news that Stephen Strasburg reportedly declined pitching in Game 4 because he was feeling "under the weather."

Wednesday's game against the Cubs is do or die, and with the gift of a rain delay in Tuesday's game, it would have be the perfect setup for Strasburg to pitch again.

When asked about the teams decision, GM Mike Rizzo naturally backed up his team and his players, saying it's the best decision all around. For the Sports Junkies' Eric Bickel, he wanted the real answer as to why a major leaguer would turn the opportunity down, sick or not.

"Fans have the right to question why this guy won't at least attempt to put his balls on the line," Bickel said.

To that, Rizzo had this response.

"He is attempting to put his balls on the line. He went out and threw a bullpen and said [to] Mike Maddux [our] pitching coach, "I'll give ya everything I have. I don't know how much it is."

And we made the decision we want 100 percent Tanner Roark, who won 15, 16, and 13 games over the last three years he was a starter over a depleted Stephen Strasburg.

Click above to watch the full clip of the Junkies interview with Mike Rizzo where he explained in depth his teams reasoning behind their decision.