October 11, 2017
Sports Insider Weekly
The Washington Nationals shutout the Chicago Cubs 5-0 on Wednesday night to even the National League Division Series (NLDS) 2-2 and force a Game 5 in D.C. on Thursday.
After tying the series 1-1, the Nats lost a close Game 3 to put them on the brink of elimination. They got an unexpected extra day of rest when Game 4 was postponed a day due to rain. The delay gave Stephen Strasburg–who started Game 1–enough rest to start again despite a reported illness, and he took the mound in lieu of scheduled starter Tanner Roark.
On a rainy, windy night in Chicago, Strasburg dominated. He pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out 12. Unlike in Game 1, when the Nats were unable to offer him any run support en route to a 3-0 loss, they ensured the pitcher’s victory with an offensive outburst in the eighth inning.
Washington scored the first run of the game in the third, but remained relatively quiet until the eighth inning. With two out, the Nats loaded the bases, setting Michael A. Taylor up for a hero-making moment. The 26-year old outfielder delivered, hitting a grand slam off closer Wade Davis to give his team a comfortable 5-0 lead.
The Cubs threatened in the bottom of the eighth, but stranded two base runners and were unable to mount any type of rally in the final inning.
With the victory, the Nats head back to Washington for the rubber match against the defending champions. If they prevail, it will be the first NLDS win in franchise history. They will also be the first District sports team to advance to the championship round since the 1998 Capitals appeared in their only Stanley Cup Final (they were swept by the Red Wings).
If Washington can break the 19-year drought, they will face the top-seeded L.A. Dodgers in the NLCS. The Dodgers (104-58) had the best record in the league and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round.
The road ahead isn’t easy, but the Nats are taking it one day and one win, at a time.