Sport MLB playoffs: Three takeaways from Cubs' series-clinching win over Nationals

08:15  13 october  2017
08:15  13 october  2017 Source:   Sporting News

MLB playoffs: Bryce Harper's blast may have changed the Nationals' playoff fortunes

  MLB playoffs: Bryce Harper's blast may have changed the Nationals' playoff fortunes The Washington Nationals have been consistently good and often inexplicably come up small on the sport’s biggest stage. Bryce Harper changed the narrative Saturday night. MORE: Three takeaways from Nationals' Game 2 winWith his game-tying, eighth-inning blast into the second deck at Nationals Park, Harper provided — at least temporarily — a loud record scratch in what to that point sounded like the same ol’ song for a team that tends to hit all the wrong notes when it plays baseball in October.

Depth and versatility helped the Cubs to the NL Central crown. The Washington Nationals also edged the New York Mets to clinch NL Division Series home field advantage. MLB playoffs : Three takeaways from Dodgers' NLDS Game 2 win over the Diamondbacks.

Here are three takeaways from the first postseason game of 2017. Playoff bound: Twins clinch Washington Nationals level series against Chicago Cubs . Google Fiber won ’t offer TV in San Antonio and Louisville. The Yankees are favored over the Twins in the first game of the 2017 MLB playoffs .

The Cubs are headed back to the National League Championship Series after beating the Nationals 9-8 Thursday in Game 5 of the NLDS.

Chicago joined the Yankees as road warriors winning decisive Game 5s. Joe Maddon was forced to stretch his bullpen to the brink in Thursday's marathon of a game, but closer Wade Davis gutted out a seven-out save to secure the win.

Michael A. Taylor did his part for the Nationals, becoming the first player in postseason history to have consecutive games with at least four RBIs, but his towering second-inning home run off Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks wasn't enough to get the Nats to the NLCS.

MLB playoffs: Bryce Harper's blast may have changed the Nationals' playoff fortunes

  MLB playoffs: Bryce Harper's blast may have changed the Nationals' playoff fortunes The Washington Nationals have been consistently good and often inexplicably come up small on the sport’s biggest stage. Bryce Harper changed the narrative Saturday night. MORE: Three takeaways from Nationals' Game 2 winWith his game-tying, eighth-inning blast into the second deck at Nationals Park, Harper provided — at least temporarily — a loud record scratch in what to that point sounded like the same ol’ song for a team that tends to hit all the wrong notes when it plays baseball in October.

The Dodgers' sweep of the D-backs leaves them a couple of extra days of rest before they face the winner of the Cubs - Nationals Series in the NLCS. Here are three takeaways from the Dodgers' victory over the D-backs

Sporting NewsMLB playoffs : Three takeaways from Nationals ' Game 2 NLDS win over the CubsSporting NewsThe Nationals just evened up the National League Division Series at one game apiece after a 6-3 win over the Cubs in Game 2 Saturday.

The Cubs will now battle the well-rested Dodgers for a chance to make it back to the World Series.

Here are three takeaways from Game 5:

1. The Cubs' magic still lingers — North Chicago rejoiced last year when the Cubs erased 108 years of longing with a come-from-behind World Series win. They used a mixture of young talent, solid pitching and a heavy dose of Aroldis Chapman to get the job done.

Chapman is gone, so too, is leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler, but this Cubs team proved Thursday, on the road, that it still has some magic fairy dust left over from last year.

This Cubs team seems to be missing the same spark and depth as last year, but they have been impressive this season trying to repeat as champions.

2. Max Scherzer should not have pitched — The reigning NL Cy Young award winner didn't start until Game 3 due to a nagging hamstring injury. He allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings in that start, so it appeared the injury was behind him.

MLB playoffs: Bryce Harper's blast may have changed the Nationals' playoff fortunes

  MLB playoffs: Bryce Harper's blast may have changed the Nationals' playoff fortunes The Washington Nationals have been consistently good and often inexplicably come up small on the sport’s biggest stage. Bryce Harper changed the narrative Saturday night. MORE: Three takeaways from Nationals' Game 2 winWith his game-tying, eighth-inning blast into the second deck at Nationals Park, Harper provided — at least temporarily — a loud record scratch in what to that point sounded like the same ol’ song for a team that tends to hit all the wrong notes when it plays baseball in October.

Led by National League Cy Young hopeful Kyle Hendricks' near-flawless performance, the Cubs Now they're heading to the World Series to face the Cleveland Indians and have a chance at winning baseball 's biggest series MORE: Cubs -Dodgers Game 6 analysis. Here are our three takeaways

MLB playoffs : Three takeaways from Nationals ' Game 2 NLDS win over the Cubs . The Nationals just evened up the National League Division Series at one game

Dusty Baker decided to use Scherzer in relief Thursday, in what became one of the sloppiest innings of the postseason. Scherzer retired Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to start the inning, but he didn't record the third out until after the Cubs had scored four runs. The Cubs batted around the order in the inning, scored on a Matt Wieters throwing error and scored a run when Scherzer hit Jon Jay with the bases loaded.

Even if Scherzer had pitched lights out and helped the Nats win the game, he wouldn't have been available early against the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks had just done the same thing with Robbie Ray and it put Arizona behind from the start. Scherzer should have been held out of this game.

3. Cubs needed Addison Russell and Willson Contreras to finally step up, and they did — Russell entered Game 5 with more than twice as many strikeouts (seven) as hits (two) in 14 at-bats this series. But he made up for the slow start with two key hits Thursday night.

MLB playoffs: Dusty Baker not surprised by Strasburg's Game 4 dominance

  MLB playoffs: Dusty Baker not surprised by Strasburg's Game 4 dominance The Nationals and Cubs will head to Washington Thursday for Game 5.The wet conditions may not have helped Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg's health — he was apparently under the weather — but the one-day delay allowed him to start Wednesday night instead of Tanner Roark.

The Nationals forced a decisive Game 5 back in Washington with a 5-0 win over the Cubs .

Chicago won the series three games to one. MORE: Top NLDS photos | Ten greatest Cubs players of all time. Anthony Rizzo put Chicago ahead for good with a solo home run off Kevin Siegrist in the sixth. Here are our five takeaways from Game 4

Russell doubled in the fifth inning off Scherzer, scoring two runs to help the Cubs take the lead. He then doubled again in the sixth inning, scoring Ben Zobrist. Russell ended the day 2 for 4 with a walk and four RBIs. The Cubs will need him to remain hot against the Dodgers.

Contreras went 1 for 3 with two walks and two runs scored Thursday after entering the game with two hits in 11 at-bats. Contreras went on a power surge during the second half of the regular season. The Cubs could use some more of that moving forward to support Bryant and Rizzo.

Highlight:

Russell's two-run double off Scherzer:

Addison Russell © (Getty Images) Addison Russell

What's Next:

The Cubs will face the Dodgers in the NLCS. Los Angeles will start Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 on Saturday, as it tries to reach the World Series for the first time since 1988.

Cubs keep World Series defence alive with thrilling win over Nationals .
The Chicago Cubs kept alive their defence of the World Series title after a thrilling must-win game in Washington. The Cubs edged out the Nationals with a 9-8 victory to set up a meeting with Los Angeles in the National League Championship Series.In a night full of drama, Washington made the Cubs work for the win, starting off the game with a three-run homer thanks to Michael A Taylor.But the turning point came when Max Scherzer allowed four runs in the fifth, with Addison Russell claiming a two-run double and giving the Cubs the lead.

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