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:
tfw you do what Bill Murray tells you to do. pic.twitter.com/xZCll32MxH— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) October 9, 2017
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.
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:
Carl Edwards, Jr., Disgusting 95mph Cutter. 😳 pic.twitter.com/8ucesjzFRI— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 9, 2017
That kept the game tied 1-1, giving Anthony Rizzo a chance to play the hero.