WASHINGTON, D.C.: Max Scherzer came on in relief and took the mound with a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning of Game 5 of the NLDS with the Chicago Cubs. He retired the first two batters he faced. Then it all went pear-shaped. Willson Contreras hit a two-out single, pinch hitter Ben Zobrist sent a fly ball to left field for a second consecutive hit, and Addison Russell hit a sharp ground ball by third base to drive in two runs, 5-4 Cubs.
After an intentional walk to Jason Heyward, Scherzer got a swinging strike three from Javier Baez, with an 0-2 pitch in the dirt that got by Washington Nationals’ backstop Matt Wieters, who recovered it, after Baez’s backswing caught his mask, and fired an errant throw by Ryan Zimmerman at first base, allowing another run to score, 6-4.
Catcher’s interference with Tommy La Stella at the plate loaded the bases, and a hit-by-pitch on Jon Jay forced in the fourth run of the inning... all with two outs.
“That was probably one of the weirdest innings I've ever seen with the third strike and then Baez hits Wieters on the backswing,” Dusty Baker said after what ended up a season-ending 9-8 loss to the Cubs.
“We had a hit batsman that I thought looked like a foul ball from over there. Man, you know, had a catcher's interference. You know, we gave away at least, you know, three or four runs. We had a lot of opportunities. I think we had 14 on base, and you know, just it was a series of bad events.”
“I've never seen anything like that from Max,” Baker added. “You know, he had two quick outs, followed by an infield hit and a blooper. Then that's when Russell hit the ball down the line, and that was a big turning point in the game.
“Then all the other bad series after that happened.”
“It was bizarro world, there's no question about it,” Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon said after the defending World Series champs advanced to the NLCS where they will play the LA Dodgers.
“But it happens; it happens this time of the year.”
It just kept happening to the Nationals.
In the eighth inning, with the score 9-7 in the Cubs’ favor, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon took back-to-back walks off Wade Davis, but Adam Lind hit into a 4-6-3 DP.
Then, after Michael A. Taylor drove in a run with an RBI single, Jose Lobaton lined a single to center, only to get picked off first on a throw from Willson Contreras on a play that was reviewed before the original safe call was overturned.
“He came off the bag,” Baker said.
“It was just, like I said, a series of bad events. It really hurts, you know, to lose like that, especially after what we went through all year long, and that was tough.”
“Bryce [Harper] was just starting to swing the bat,” Baker continued.
“It's very disappointing, not to be going to L.A., not to go home see my family and play in Dodger Stadium and go to the next step.
“You know, it was just a tough game to lose.”