Strasburg stars as Nats force deciding Game 5 vs. Cubs
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[October 12, 2017]
CHICAGO -- As the Washington
Nationals' team bus sat in traffic en route to the hotel on Tuesday
night, the club facing elimination heading into Game 4 of the
National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs on
Wednesday, Stephen Strasburg didn't give himself much of a chance of
taking an active role in keeping his team's season alive.
Physically drained by flu-like symptoms that set in last week,
Strasburg believed he had little to offer. Despite still not feeling
at full health when he woke up Wednesday morning, Strasburg arrived
at Wrigley Field, walked into manager Dusty Baker's office and said
he wanted the ball.
The right-hander made the most of the opportunity.
Strasburg threw seven scoreless innings and struck out 12, and
Michael A. Taylor hit an eighth-inning grand slam to draw the
Nationals even at two games apiece in the best-of-five series with a
5-0 victory over the Cubs.
The fifth and deciding game will be played Thursday in Washington.
The winner advances to the NL Championship Series to face the Los
Strasburg, who held the Cubs without a hit for the first 5 2/3
innings in Game 1 of the series, is a major reason why the Nationals
still have life. On Wednesday, he allowed just three hits and walked
two while striking out the side three times.
"I'm surprised I was able to hang in there," Strasburg said. "I
think it's just one of those situations where, you know, (you) try
and break the game down, keep it simple and just know going in,
whatever I have in the tank, I'm giving it everything I have."
With the Nationals clinging to a 1-0 lead in the eighth, Taylor blew
the game open with the first postseason grand slam in franchise
history off Wade Davis. The Cubs closer entered the game with two
outs in the inning after reliever Carl Edwards Jr. walked a pair of
hitters to load the bases.
Davis took over and surrendered the home run, which drifted into the
basket in front of the right field bleachers.
"I was just kind of numb just running around the bases," Taylor
said. "I didn't think it was going to get out the way the wind was
Taylor's home run proved to be the finishing blow the Nationals
needed after Strasburg (1-1), who admitted to not having a lot of
energy, kept the Cubs off balance.
"I really stuck to one pitch at a time," he said. "Before I knew it,
I was seven innings down."
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Cubs pitcher Jon Lester throws a pitch against the Washington
Nationals during game four of the 2017 NLDS playoff baseball series
at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY
The Nationals took a 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the third
inning. After Trea Turner doubled off Cubs starter Jake Arrieta with
one out and advanced to third on a wild pitch, Arrieta struck out
Jayson Werth to get within an out of getting out of the inning.
Following a Bryce Harper walk, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell booted
a Ryan Zimmerman ground ball, allowing Turner to score.
The Nationals loaded the bases in the fourth inning with Arrieta
laboring. Arrieta (0-1) allowed an Anthony Rendon leadoff double and
then issued walks to Taylor and Turner. However, Arrieta struck out
Werth looking to wiggle out of trouble.
Arrieta allowed two hits and no earned runs over four innings. He
walked five and struck out four.
Before the Nationals' four-run eighth inning, the Cubs had no answer
for Strasburg, who was dominant with his changeup and kept the Cubs
from ever being able to build any offensive momentum.
"We have to be better in the (strike zone)," said Cubs manager Joe
Maddon, who called Strasburg "spectacular."
"We have to force their pitchers in the zone more consistently and
not miss your pitch when you see it. It really comes down to that."
NOTES: Nationals SS Trea Turner snapped an 0-for-13 drought with a
one-out double in the third inning. The hit was the first of the
NLDS for the Washington leadoff hitter. ... Cubs manager Joe Maddon
tweaked his lineup prior to Game 4 after the Nationals announced RHP
Stephen Strasburg would start in place of RHP Tanner Roark. Cubs RF
Jason Heyward was inserted in the No. 7 hole in place of OF Kyle
Schwarber. ... Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Roark could be a
candidate to pitch in Game 5 on Thursday. ... Cubs LHP Jon Lester
entered the game in the fifth inning and made his first relief
appearance since Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. He was charged
with one run in 3 2/3 innings.
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