2017 National League Division Series 2
|2017 National League Division Series|
92 - 70 in the NL
|3 - 2
97 - 65 in the NL
The second 2017 NL Division Series featured an unprecedented postseason match-up, with the Washington Nationals facing the Chicago Cubs. The Nationals were desperately wanting to win a postseason series, having been eliminated at this stage on all three occasions they had reached the postseason since moving to the Nation's capital in 2005. For the Cubs, they had shed over a century of ghosts and curses in winning the 2016 World Series, but they wanted to show that their mediocre first half was just a blip and that they were just as good as the world championship team of a year ago.
|1||Chicago Cubs 3 Washington Nationals 0||October 6||Kyle Hendricks (1-0) Stephen Strasburg (0-1)||7:30 pm|
|2||Chicago Cubs 3 Washington Nationals 6||October 7||Jon Lester (0-0) Gio Gonzalez (0-0)||5:30 pm|
|3||Washington Nationals 1 Chicago Cubs 2||October 9||Max Scherzer (0-0) Jose Quintana (0-0)||4:00 pm|
|4||Washington Nationals 5 Chicago Cubs 0||October 11||Stephen Strasburg (1-1) vs Jake Arrieta (0-1)||4:00 pm|
|5||Chicago Cubs 9 Washington Nationals 8||October 12||Kyle Hendricks (1-0) vs Gio Gonzalez (0-0)||8:00 pm|
Game 1 @ Nationals Park
|WP: Kyle Hendricks (1-0); LP: Stephen Strasburg (0-1); SV: Wade Davis (1)|
|Home Runs: none|
- Attendance: 43,898
Game 1 was a true pitchers' duel, featuring a contrast in styles with Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs and Stephen Strasburg for the Nationals. Hendricks controlled Washington's hitters for 7 innings by moving the ball around the strike zone and barely reaching 90 mph with his fastball, while Strasburg's change-up was clocked at a faster speed than that, as he overpowered his opponents with his fastball and curve, recording 10 strikeouts in his 7 innings.
The game was decided in the 6th inning, as the first five frames were scoreless. In fact, Strasburg had still not given up a hit when the inning started. Javier Baez hit a grounder to third which 3B Anthony Rendon dropped while trying to make the transfer to his throwing hand. He was charged with an error. Hendricks followed with a sacrifice bunt, but Ben Zobrist flied out to center for out number 2, with Baez still on second. But the Cubs finally got to Washington's starter, as Kris Bryant lined a single to right and Baez barely beat RF Bryce Harper's throw to the plate (in fact, Washington called for a video review, but the run held). Bryant took second on the throw, and he scored as well when Anthony Rizzo followed with another single to right. Strasburg then got Willson Contreras to ground out, but Chicago already had all the runs it would need.
Kendricks pitched until the end of the 7th, having given up just 2 hits and 3 walks. The Nationals had their best scoring chance in the 1st when Harper singled with one out and took second on a ground ball by Rendon, but Rizzo caught Daniel Murphy's sharp line drive at first base to end the inning, probably the hardest-hit ball against Kendricks all evening. In the 8th inning, with Ryan Madson having replaced Strasburg, pinch-hitter Jon Jay led off with a double. After a strikeout by Zobrist, Jay advanced to third on a ground ball by Bryant, then scored on a double by Rizzo. That run made the score 3-0, which is how the game ended. For the Cubs, Carl Edwards retired the Nats in order in the 8th, and Wade Davis completed the two-hit shutout by getting Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth in the 9th, Washington having been unable to mount any threat.
Game 2 @ Nationals Park
|WP: Oliver Perez (1-0); LP: Carl Edwards (0-1); SV: Sean Doolittle (1)|
|Home Runs: WAS - Anthony Rendon (1), Bryce Harper (1), Ryan Zimmerman (1); CHI - Willson Contreras (1), Anthony Rizzo (1)|
- Attendance: 43,860
All of the runs in Game 2 were scored on long balls, with Washington coming out ahead, 3 to 2 in the homer department, and 6-3 when it comes to the final score. However, it took a late offensive surge for the Nationals to even the series, as coming into the bottom of the 8th, they were trailing 3-1 and in danger of having to head to Wrigley Field down two games to none. On the mound, Jon Lester was facing Gio Gonzalez, and both pitchers gave up an early long ball. The Nationals struck first when Anthony Rendon went deep to right field with two outs in the 1st, and the Cubs replied via Willson Contreras, who hit his homer leading off the 2nd. In both cases, it was their team's only hit through the first three innings, as the two starters were otherwise very solid.
In the 4th, however, Chicago took a serious option on the win by scoring twice off Gonzalez. Kris Bryant led off with a double, and Anthony Rizzo followed with a ball to right field that barely cleared the wall and had to be confirmed by video review as it appeared a fan may had reached out over the field to catch the ball. Gonzalez then walked Contreras, but there was no further damage as Addison Russell struck out and Ben Zobrist grounded into a double play. Meanwhile, Lester continued to dominate, not giving up his next hit until Ryan Zimmerman led off the 5th with a single. With two outs, he stole second and then made it to third on a wild pitch, then Michael Taylor and pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick both drew walks to load the bases, but Trea Turner struck out on a pitch well off the plate to end the threat and leave the bases loaded. After a perfect 6th inning, Lester was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the 7th, having pitched a brilliant game. Pedro Strop relieved him and kept Washington off the scoreboard in the bottom of the 7th.
This set the stage for the decisive 8th inning. With Ryan Madson now pitching, Bryant hit a one-out single and Dusty Baker called on lefty specialist Oliver Perez to face Rizzo. The first baseman grounded into an inning-ending double play. With a two-run lead, Joe Maddon brought in set-up man Carl Edwards in the bottom of the 8th, but he was immediately greeted by a single by Adam Lind, pinch-hitting for Perez. Speedy Victor Robles ran for Lind, but it turned not to be necessary, as after Turner had struck out, Bryce Harper drove a pitch into the right-field seats to tie the game and both runners just trotted around the bases. The Nats weren't done, however. Edwards then issued a walk to Rendon and was replaced by Mike Montgomery, but the bleeding continued, with a single by Daniel Murphy, followed by a three-run homer by Zimmerman that finally put Washington in the lead, 6-3. The Nationals' closer, Ryan Doolittle, had a big cushion to work with in the 9th, but he did not need it as he struck out Contreras, then after a single by Russell, forced Zobrist to hit into another double play, this one a game-ending one.
Game 3 @ Wrigley Field
|WP: Carl Edwards (1-0); LP: Brandon Kintzler (0-1); SV: Wade Davis (2)|
|Home Runs: none|
- Attendance: 42,445
The Cubs won a tight Game 3 at Wrigley Field, managing to overcome an outstanding performance by Nationals starter Max Scherzer, who kept them hitless until one out in the 7th. But the reason they were in a position to strike when Scherzer ran out of gas was that their own starter, Jose Quintana, was also excellent, only giving up an unearned run in 5 2/3 innings. Scherzer had been pushed back until Game 3 because he had injured his hamstring in his last regular season start for Washington, but given the way he pitched this day, as one of the television commentators stated, every pitcher would now want to have his hamstring tweaked before taking the mound.
There was no scoring and very little traffic on the bases before the 6th inning. The Nats did place a couple of batters on base in the 3rd on a single by Michael Taylor, an error by Quintana on a pick-off attempt, and another error by 2B Ben Zobrist with two outs, but the threat ended with Anthony Rendon flying out to right. In the bottom of the 4th, the Cubs finally got some baserunners, when Jon Jay was hit by a pitch and Willson Contreras walked with two outs, but again there was no damage as Zobrist grounded out to end the inning. Then, with two outs in the top of the 6th, Daniel Murphy lifted a routine fly ball to LF Kyle Schwarber, who proceeded to drop the ball, then push it away when he tried to pick it up, being charged with two errors on the play and allowing Murphy to make it all the way to third. Joe Maddon immediately replaced Quintana with Pedro Strop, but he allowed a double to Ryan Zimmerman that put Washington in the lead, 1-0.
Meanwhile, Scherzer continued to dominate until one out in the 7th, when he was finally tagged for a hit, a double to deep left by Zobrist. Before that play, the only hard-hit ball by Chicago had been a ball by Schwarber in the 2nd that had ended up on Sheffield Avenue, but barely foul. With Schwarber due up now, Dusty Baker immediately called on reliever Sammy Solis to come in, and Maddon replied by bringing in his best pinch-hitter in Albert Almora. He singled to left and Zobrist never hesitated, running home all the way to tie the score. Jason Heyward followed with another single, moving Almora to second, and the Cubs were now threatening to take the lead. Brandon Kintzler replaced Solis and he forced Addison Russell to hit a harmless fly ball to center. Heyward made a big baserunning mistake, however, as he was already past second by the time the ball was caught, even though it was clear it had almost no chance of dropping to the ground, and he was doubled off easily to end the inning.
Carl Edwards retired the Nats in order in the top of the 8th, then in the bottom of the inning, pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella drew a lead-off walk. Leonys Martin ran for him and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jay. Kintzler struck out Kris Bryant for the second out, then Baker brought in veteran Oliver Perez to face Anthony Rizzo, who defeated the strategy by dropping a flare between a triangle of players in short left field. Martin was running all the way and scored easily, but Rizzo was caught in no man's land as he took a wide turn around first base, and was tagged for the last out. Still, the Cubs now had a 2-1 lead, and Washington was down to its last three outs. Closer Wade Davis was summoned from the bullpen and he gave the Nats no chance to even start a rally, as he struck out Murphy, got Zimemrman to ground out to second and Jayson Werth to pop up to first to end the game.
Game 4 @ Wrigley Field
|WP: Stephen Strasburg (1-1); LP: Jake Arrieta (0-1)|
|Home Runs: Michael Taylor (1)|
- Attendance: 42,264
Game 4 was postponed by a day because of rain at Wrigley Field. Tanner Roark was initially scheduled to start the game for Washington, but with it being pushed back by a day, Stephen Strasburg was able to start it on normal rest and got the call from manager Dusty Baker. There was blustery wind and intermittent rain in Chicago, but even though Strasburg had been feeling under the weather the day before, he put up a great performance in this game, with 7 shutout innings, leaving with a 1-0 lead which became a 5-0 final score thanks to a grand slam by Michael Taylor in the top of the 8th.
The Cubs were the first team to mount a threat. It came in the bottom of the 2nd when Ben Zobrist doubled with one out and advanced to third on a fly out by Addison Russell. Strasburg then walked Jason Heyward, but Javier Baez hit a soft grounder back to Strasburg for the final out. In the top of the 3rd, however, Washington took the lead. Trea Turner hit a one-out double against Jake Arrieta, who then threw a wild pitch, moving Turner to third. After Jayson Werth struck out, Bryce Harper drew a walk and stole second. Ryan Zimmerman then hit a soft grounder to SS Russell, who charged the ball but could not come up with it. He was charged with an error as Turner came in to score. That 1-0 lead then remained until the 8th inning.
Arrieta ran into some more trouble in the 4th, however, loading the bases on a double by Anthony Rendon and a pair of walks, but he struck out Werth again for the final out. Manager Joe Maddon had seen enough, however, and when the 5th inning started, he sent starter Jon Lester to the mound. He was impeccable in the next three innings, while Strasburg completed 7 innings with only 3 hits allowed, 2 walks, and 12 strikeouts. In the top of the 8th, as rain had started to fall, Lester struck out Harper, then walked Zimmerman. Zimmerman took a big lead off first, knowing that Lester almost never threw to the base, but his lead was adventurous enough to draw a first throw, which 1B Anthony Rizzo caught on the bounce, but on the next pick-off throw, Zimmerman had to dive back to first, and Rizzo tagged him on the back leg, an event which the video review confirmed occurred before he had been able to touch the base. The crowd went wild as the second out was confirmed, but Daniel Murphy then hit a single. Maddon replaced Lester by Carl Edwards, but he was not in good form, walking both Rendon and Matt Wieters while also unloading a wild pitch. The bases were thus loaded for Michael Taylor. Maddon made another pitching substitution, bringing in his closer, Wade Davis on a double switch, but with a 1-1 count, Taylor managed to push a ball against the wind blowing in and into the wire basket in front of the first row of stands in right-center for a grand slam. It was now 5-0, and the Nationals continued to toy with the Cubs, as pinch-hitter Adam Lind singled just out of the reach of 2B Baez and Turner drew a walk. Maddon made his third pitching change of the inning, calling Brian Duensing, who finally got the last out on a comebacker.
There were a few batters reaching base in the last three half innings, but nothing of importance to affect the outcome of the game. Sean Doolittle recorded the final three outs in what was not a save situation, confirming that a deciding fifth game would need to be played the next day in Washington.
Game 5 @ Nationals Park
|WP: Brian Duensing (1-0); LP: Max Scherzer (0-1); SV: Wade Davis (3)|
|Home Runs: WAS - Daniel Murphy (1), Michael Taylor (2)|
- Attendance: 43,849
Game 5 was a wild and sloppy affair at Nationals Park, but in a scenario the Nationals knew all too well, they took an early lead only to see their bullpen cough it up and once again fell agonizingly short of advancing to the next round of the postseason because of the Cubs' 9-8 win. It was the fourth time since 2012 that Washington had fallen at the Division Series stage, and the third time that this had come in a Game 5 during which they had held a lead at one point only to see the bullpen lose it. For the Cubs, who came into the game very confident because of their success in critical games in the previous year's run to the World Series title, it meant they would play in the League Championship Series for the third straight year.
It was clear that Kyle Hendricks, coming off an excellent performance in Game 1, would start for the Cubs, but for the Nats, the choice of Gio Gonzalez was only confirmed that afternoon, with Tanner Roark still a possibility until the end. Neither pitcher was on a good day however, as both teams scored early and often. The Cubs' Jon Jay led off the game with a double to right, just beating RF Bryce Harper's throw to the bag. He advanced to third when Gonzalez threw the wildest of wild pitches, one that hit the back screen on the fly after missing the plate by a good five feet, then scored on a grounder to second by Anthony Rizzo. Gonzalez then loaded the bases on a single and a pair of walks before getting Jason Heyward to ground out to first to end the inning. It wouldn't get any easier for Gonzalez after that rough start. Kendricks also started on the wrong foot, allowing an infield broken bat single to Trea Turner, who immediately proceeded to steal second. He advanced to third on a fly out by Jayson Werth, but when he tried to score on a grounder by Harper, he was gunned down by a strong throw by 2B Javier Baez. In the bottom of the 2nd, however, Daniel Murphy jumped on Hendricks' first pitch and pulled it into the seats for a solo homer that tied the game. Anthony Rendon singled then Matt Wieters beat the defensive shift with a beauty of a bunt down the third base line that rolled to a stop for another single. Michael Taylor, the hero of the previous day's win at Wrigley Field, stepped up to the plate and got all of one of Hendricks' pitches, sending it to deep center field for a three-run homer and a 4-1 lead. Hendricks stayed in the game, even though he allowed a two-out double to Werth, then walked Harper intentionally, before getting Ryan Zimmerman, the 9th man to bat in the inning, to strike out.
Things were looking good for the Nats at that point, except that Gonzalez had needed a lot of pitches to get through the first two innings and was definitely not sharp. Indeed, he gave up a double to Kris Bryant to lead off the 3rd, then walked Willson Contreras and Albert Almora back-to-back with one out. Addison Russell hit a grounder to short to drive in a run, then Gonzalez unleashed another wild pitch to allow Contreras to score run number 3. Gonzalez managed to strike out Heyward to end the inning, but his wildness had made it a 4-3 game, and it was clear he was not going to pitch any longer. Matt Albers came in for the 4th and got the Cubs in order. Meanwhile, Hendricks was still in the game, and while he gave up one hit in the 3rd and a pair in the 4th, he kept the Nats from adding to their lead. That set the stage for the 5th inning, which would likely be burned in Nats fans brains as a nightmare vision.
Needing five more innings from his bullpen, Baker turned to the pitcher who seemed to be his best option to give him some outs, ace Max Scherzer, who had pitched brilliantly in Game 3 without being involved in the decision. He started off strong, getting Bryant to ground out and Rizzo to fly out, before starting off Contreras with two strikes, but allowing him to reach on a single to the shortstop. After him, Ben Zobrist, pinch-hitting for Almora, and used to high-pressure situations after having broken up Scherzer's no-hit bid in the 7th inning of Game 3, dropped a ball in front of LF Werth for another single. Russell came up and had the key base hit of the game, lining a ball down the third base line out of the reach of a diving 3B Rendon and into the left field corner. Both runners came around to score, and suddenly, the Cubs were ahead, 5-4. But the horror was just beginning. The following few minutes were just surreal. Scherzer threw a couple of balls to Heyward, and Baker decided to issue him an intentional pass to face Baez. He struck out swinging, but that last pitch went under C Matt Wieters' glove for a passed ball, and rolled all the way to the backstop. When Wieters picked it up, he rushed his throw to first, it ended up in right field, and Russell scored, with Heyward taking third and Baez second on the dropped third strike. Tommy La Stella pinch hit for Hendricks, and Wieters was called for catcher's interference, loading the bases. Next up was Jay, who was hit by a pitch, forcing in a 4th run for a 7-4 lead. The inning finally ended when Bryant, who had led off the inning way back when, popped up to short. There was an eerie silence in the ballpark as fans were now realizing that the unthinkable was happening again.
Brian Duensing began a parade of relievers for the Cubs, getting the first couple of outs in the bottom of the 5th after walking Murphy to start things off. He was then replaced by Pedro Strop, who recorded the final out by striking out Taylor on three pitches. In the top of the 6th, the Cubs added an insurance run, against Brandon Kintzler. Again, the damage all occurred after two outs, when Zobrist drew a walk then scored on another double by Russell, this one a seemingly routine fly ball that LF Werth lost in the lights and saw roll behind him almost to the wall; only a rapid intervention by CF Taylor prevented a possible inside-the-park homer. In the bottom of the inning, it was Werth who drew a two-out walk against Strop, prompting Joe Maddon to call on Mike Montgomery. He wasn't sharp, allowing a double to Harper that placed runners on second and third, then throwing a wild pitch on ball four to Zimmerman, which allowed Werth to score. Murphy followed with a double, and it was now 8-6, as Washington was drawing closer. Montgomery then issued an intentional walk to Rendon to face Wieters, and he flied out to RF Heyward on the first pitch to end another drawn-out inning. In the 7th, Sammy Solis took over on the mound for Washington, but after one out, he gave up back-to-back singles to pinch-hitter Kyle Schwarber and to Jay. Out went Solis, in came Ryan Madson, Bryant hit a ground ball to Rendon, who forced Jay at second, but Schwarber scored from third base to make it 9-6 for the Cubs. Carl Edwards came in to start the bottom of the 7th, but he walked Taylor to starts things off, his third straight free pass counting the two he had issued the previous day, and that was the end of his stint. Maddon turned the ball to starter Jose Quintana. He got Jose Lobaton to fly out for the first out, but Turner singled and Werth drew a walk to load the bases. Harper followed with a sacrifice fly to center to cut the Cubs' lead to 2 runs, at 9-7. That brought in closer Wade Davis, who would now need to get the final seven outs, as Maddon had few options left in his bullpen after burning through his relievers like they were going out of style. Davis got Zimmerman to strike out, ending the 7th.
Madson did something almost unthinkable at that point: he retired the Cubs in order in the top of the 8th. Back out came Davis, and lo and behold, he walked Murphy and Rendon to place himself in an instant jam. Adam Lind pinch-hit for Madson, but he wasted a big opportunity by grounding into a 4-6-3 double play. Murphy was now on third, however, and he scored on Taylor's single, bringing Washington to within one run of Chicago in this crazy game. Davis gave up a single to Lobaton, then C Contreras made a clutch defensive play, picking Lobaton off first base on a very close play that required a video review to overturn the original safe call. And then the 9th inning was anticlimactic after all the drama of the first 8 innings. Sean Doolittle retired the Cubs in order, but Davis somehow found the strength to put it all back together in the bottom of the 9th, getting Turner to fly out to center, and then striking out Werth and Harper to end the game, without the tying run ever getting on base. It was another crushing defeat in a must-win game for the Nats, while the Cubs had proved that they still had going for them the incredible resilience they had shown they year before.
- Mark Feinsand: "Nats left waiting for next year after '17 exit: NL East champions unable to get over NLDS hump", mlb.com, October 13, 2017. 
- Gabe Lacques: "Why the Nationals will beat the Cubs in the NL Division Series", USA Today Sports', October 6, 2017. 
- Gabe Lacques: "NLDS Game 5: How the Nationals' season unraveled in a matter of minutes", USA Today Sports, October 13, 2017. 
- Carrie Muskat: "Cubs relishing role of postseason underdogs: Defending World Series champs feel experience is big advantage", mlb.com, October 4, 2017. 
- Carrie Muskat and Jamal Collier: "Fall 4! Cubs return to LCS, Fly The W in DC", mlb.com, October 13, 2017. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Cubs can laugh at their good fortune: On to the NLCS after absurd 9-8 win over Nationals", USA Today Sports, October 13, 2017. 
- Mike Petriello: "Cubs-Nats: NLDS position-by-position: Washington won four of seven meetings in 2017", mlb.com, October 6, 2017. 
|Major League Baseball National League Division Series