In a series that had already featured several late-game rallies, dramatic dingers, inclement weather and baseball's very own Flu Game, we knew that NLDS Game 5 presented by T-Mobile between the Cubs and Nationals would be a classic. Still, the actual game managed to exceed our every expectation -- a four-and-a-half-plus-hour, white-knuckle emotional roller coaster that seemed like it could go a million different ways at any given moment.
By the time the dust settled, Chicago had punched its ticket to a third straight NLCS appearance. But as a wise man once may or may not have said, life's a journey not a destination -- so, before we get to baseball's final four, let's relive every twist and turn of one of the best postseason games in recent memory.
Michael A. Taylor does it again
Washington made it to Game 5 in large part thanks to Taylor, whose eighth-inning grand slam in Game 4 gave the Nats some desperately needed insurance.
And with the season on the line again, the center fielder kept his power streak rolling -- this time with a three-run homer to put Washington in front.
Max Scherzer out of the bullpen, and an extremely weird rally
By the top of the fifth, the Cubs had cut that 4-1 deficit to 4-3 against a struggling Gio Gonzalez. That meant that it was time for Dusty Baker to get his secret weapon out of the bullpen: Scherzer, just two days removed from flirting with a no-hitter in Game 3.
Unfortunately, Scherzer didn't have his best stuff. After retiring the first two batters, Mad Max allowed three straight hits, including a go-ahead two-run double from Addison Russell. And then things got really weird:
The next four Cubs hitters reached on 1) an intentional walk, 2) a passed-ball third strike, 3) a catcher's interference and, finally, 4) a hit-by-pitch. Yes, that's as rare as it sounds:
None of the 2.73m half innings in our db have even had all 4 of these events. 22 w/ 3. Only 5 games had all 4.https://t.co/ntifpJIb6n- Baseball Reference (@baseball_ref) October 13, 2017
By the time the dust settled, Chicago had a commanding 7-4 lead, which it stretched to 8-4 with another run in the sixth. It looked like that might be all she wrote.
The Nats weren't done yet
Of course, in the 2017 postseason, nothing is as it seems. Washington got back into the game with two runs in the bottom of the sixth, capped by an RBI double to left from Daniel Murphy -- who celebrated by ... challenging the Nats' third-base coach to a game of charades, we think.
The slide heard 'round the world
In keeping with the theme, that 8-6 score would last for exactly one half-inning. In the top of the seventh, the Cubs put runners on the corners with one out and reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant stepping to the plate. Bryant hit a grounder to third that looked like it might be the inning-ending double play Washington desperately needed -- at which point we had a review:
Jon Jay's slide into second was ruled legal upon review, Kyle Schwarber scored and Chicago tacked on a run that would turn out to be crucial.
Is that Wade Davis' music?
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Chicago clung to a 9-7 lead with seven outs to go -- and just three pitchers left to get them. So, with the tying run still on first, Joe Maddon made the sort of bold move that October demands: He went to his closer, Davis, for a seven-out save.
Jose Lobaton is safe ... or was he?
Because every moment of this game was designed to be as stressful as possible, Washington threatened again in the bottom of the eighth. Two walks and a single cut the Cubs' lead to just one, and with two outs in the inning, Lobaton singled to move the tying run into scoring position. Trea Turner stepped to the plate for an at-bat that seemed like it would decide the series -- but he never even got a chance to swing the bat.
Catcher Willson Contreras made a snap throw to first, trying to catch Lobaton straying too far away from the first-base bag. And while it seemed as though the Nationals' catcher got back in time, the call was overturned upon review: For just a split second, Lobaton's leg came off the bag while Anthony Rizzo applied the tag.
It all comes down to Bryce
It's the sort of ending that would get laughed out of Hollywood for being too convenient: bottom of the ninth, two outs, Washington down a run with Bryce Harper stepping to the plate. Davis was at two innings and counting, and had already thrown more pitches than he had in any other outing all season. Something had to give.
Davis got strike three, and the Cubs had a date with the Dodgers for Game 1 of the NLCS presented by Camping World on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS. You know, just like they drew it up.