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

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 firstplayer 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.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 Anthony DeSclafani Jersey 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 mi sing the same spark and depth as last year, but they have been impre sive this season trying to repeat as champions.2. Max Scherzer shouldnot have pitched The reigning NL Cy Young award winner didn’t start until Game 3due to a nagging hamstring injury. He allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings in thatstart, so it appeared the injury was behind him.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. 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But he made up for theslow start with two key hits Thursday night.Ru sell 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. Ru sell ended the day 2for 4with a walk and fourRBIs. The Cubs will need him to remain hot against the Dodgers.Contreras went 1for 3with 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 andRizzo.Highlight: Ru sell’s two-run double off Scherzer:. @Addison_Ru Joey Votto Jersey sell turned that clutch factor all the way up. #NLDS pic.twitter.com/Nj2iQp6VQI MLB (@MLB) October 13, 2017 What’s Next: The Cubs will face the Dodgers in the NLCS. Los Angeles will startClayton Kershaw in Game 1 on Saturday, as it tries to reach the World Series for the first time since 1988.

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