Powell: Cubs Continue to Find Ways to Win; Pull off 9-8 Victory in ‘Nutty’ Game 5

Game 5 of the NLDS between the Cubs and Nationals. Oct. 12, 2017 (WGN Radio)

WASHINGTON – Remember when the Cubs used to do what the Nationals did Thursday night? They used to be the ones to shoot themselves in the foot in the biggest moments. But not the Joe Maddon-era Cubs, they find ways to win games – not lose them.

“You feel great and it’s euphoric,” Maddon said after advancing to a third straight National League Championship Series.

To the Nationals credit, they did almost overcome some major mistakes. They battled. They desperately needed this win. But the resilient Cubs refused to back down, despite Kyle Hendricks not having his best stuff, and despite falling behind 4-1 in the second inning.

“Today was a battle,” Wade Davis, who completed the seven-out save, said as champagne sprayed around him. “You just felt like it was going to be a game that was back and forth and it was. And thankfully we just did enough to make it happen.”

It was a wild game, lasting four hours and thirty-seven minutes.

“Yea it was nutty,” Ben Zobrist said. “There was a little bit of everything in this game. A lot of odd things that happened that you don’t normally expect to happen, especially in a game like this.”

The fifth inning is when things got interesting. That’s when the Nats started to unravel. The near-unhittable Max Scherzer stepped to the mound and got two quick outs against Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Then the Cubs strung a few this together, Addison Russell doubled down the third base line, scoring two,  to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead.

Nestled into the fifth was another questionable Dusty Baker move — an intentional walk to Jason Heyward. Walk Heyward to get to Javy Baez? Ok, Dusty.

Scherzer did end up striking out Baez, but catcher Matt Wieters – who thought there was batters interference when Baez’s bat came around to hit his mask – took his time getting to the ball, then made a throwing error to first that allowed Russell to score. Jon Jay was then hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, Heyward scored and the Cubs took a 7-4 lead. It was a mess of an inning, and the major turning point in the game.

An inning later, Jason Werth inexcusably allowed a Russell fly ball to left get past him. Zobrist scored, and it was an 8-4 game.

After scoring a run in the eighth, the Nats still had two men on base. But Willson Contreras picked off Jose Lobation at first to end the inning. He was initially ruled safe, but after a review he was ruled. It was an iffy call, and probably shouldn’t have been reversed, but it was another break for the Cubs.

“My thoughts are so jumbled still,” Hendricks said. “I think it has to be one of the craziest games I’ve ever been a part of….I guess it’s just what we do.”

It is what the Cubs do now. They make their own breaks. They find their own luck. While the Nats are still trying to get past the first round of the playoffs, the Cubs on their way to a third-straight NLCS.

By my count, that’s nine celebrations under Theo Epstein.

“It’s nice when the president of the team can spray you with beer,” rookie Ian Happ said after taking a face full of Budweiser, “That means things are going well.”

They certainly are.

Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720