Cubs win epic Game 5 to eliminate Nats, earn NLCS rematch with Dodgers

The Cubs came from behind, and closer Wade Davis got the final seven outs in Thursday's 9-8 victory in Washington.

WASHINGTON – If this is what the rest of October has in store for the Cubs, buckle up for another wild ride.

And maybe even November.

In an epic, strange, often ugly Game 5 of their National League Division Series against the Nationals, the Cubs came from behind to win 9-8 and clinch a third consecutive trip to the National League Championship Series.

“We’re not done yet, either,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said.

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Catcher Willson Contreras celebrates as Bryce Harper strikes out to end the game.

If manager Joe Maddon wanted the Dodgers – as he suggested when asked about them in August – he’s got them.

Game 1 is Saturday in Los Angeles, with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw staring the Cubs in the face and, probably, Jose Quintana going for the Cubs – the same Quintana who came out of the bullpen in the seventh inning for a nail-biter appearance that likely doubled as his between-starts side session.

Game 5 was anything but routine from start to electric finish – with Cubs closer Wade Davis striking out Nats superstar Bryce Harper to close out his third inning of work on this night and send the Cubs into another raucous celebration.

“This is the most fun I’ve had playing in a baseball game,” said Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, who drove in four runs, including a two-run double during the Cubs’ big fifth-inning comeback. “It ranks right up there with winning the World Series after being down three [games to] one. … Just to see the energy, the flow within the dugout was – I get chills just talking about it. It was awesome.”

The Cubs moved to within eight victories of a championship defense.

The hard-luck Nationals were bounced from the first round for the fourth time in six seasons.

Who knew Todd Ricketts was a baseball savant to rival Casey Stengel and Bob Costas when he joined the team for their trip to Washington in June?

The Nationals?

“We’re going to run into these guys in the playoffs,” the Cubs’ co-owner said to president Donald Trump during the team’s second White House visit in barely five months. “You’ll see them crumble.”

Wild pitches, passed balls, fielding errors, poor base running, a hit batter and a catcher’s interference call all conspired with Cubs’ hitting and pitching against the Nats.

“You’ve got to find a way to win. It doesn’t matter how you do it,” right fielder Jason Heyward said.

These Cubs took what Maddon called a different path all season to even get here, so why would it be any different a winner-take-all, loser-out Division Series victory.

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They pulled it off without Anthony Rizzo reaching base, with postseason stud Kyle Hendricks fighting through just four innings, with Daniel Murphy looking like a Cub killer again – and with only Justin Wilson and John Lackey left in their bullpen.

“I had nothing tonight, and it didn’t matter,” Hendricks said. “That was incredible.”

Murphy hit a second-inning home run off Hendricks, a sixth-inning RBI double off Mike Montgomery, and he drew two walks – including the leadoff walk in the eighth off Davis that led to a two-out run that cut the Cubs’ lead to one.

And it took the Cubs’ biggest replay challenge of the year to eventually end that threat and get to the ninth with the lead.

With Michael Taylor on second, Jose Lobaton on first and leadoff man Trea Turner at the plate, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras threw behind Lobaton for the pickoff that looked like anything but – until the replay showed Lobaton’s foot came off the bag on his slide.

Inning over.

Davis got the final seven outs of the game, his best inning his last, when he retired the top of the Nats lineup in order, including back-to-back strikeouts of Jayson Werth and Harper to end it.

The Cubs have played three winner-take-all Game 5s in their history, all on the road. This was their first since beating the Braves in Atlanta the Division Series in 2003. They also lost to the Padres in San Diego in the 1984 NLCS.

It’s hard to imagine anything in their postseason history – from called shots by Babe Ruth to curses by Billy goats – ever looked like this one did on Thursday night.

–Cubs starter Hendricks – brilliant in Game 1 – gave up two home runs in the third, fell behind 4-1 and, even after the Cubs took a lead, was replaced after four innings.

–When the Cubs answered in the top of the fifth with their own four-run inning, they did it against two-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, who was brilliant in Game 3 and entered this one as a reliever to hold a one-run lead with the middle of the Cubs order batting.

— After getting Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo for the first two outs, the following sequence produced the four runs: infield single, bloop single, Addison Russell double, intentional walk, strikeout/passed ball/E2, catcher’s interference and a hit batter with the bases loaded.

Not a bad run – so far – for a team that limped to the All-Star break with a losing record and trailing first-place Milwaukee by 5 ½ games.

“Hoo-doggie!” Maddon yelled as he was doused by champagne Thursday night. “God bless America.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

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