3 keys to Cubs clinching NLDS in Game 5

Bryzzo's bats crucial for Chicago in win-or-go-home contest

3 keys to Cubs clinching NLDS in Game 5

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' back-and-forth series against the Nationals is going back to Washington for one, winner-take-all showdown.

NLDS Game 5: Tonight, 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on TBS

The Nationals' 5-0 victory over the Cubs on Wednesday at Wrigley Field extended the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile to five games. The series has already seen so much drama, from extended no-hit bids to the postponement that eventually pushed Stephen Strasburg to start Game 4. Why not play one more game with everything on the line?

Game Date Matchup TV/Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 CHC 3, WSH 0 WATCH
Gm 2 Oct. 7 WSH 6, CHC 3 WATCH
Gm 3 Oct. 9 CHC 2, WSH 1 WATCH
Gm 4 Oct. 11 WSH 5, CHC 0 WATCH
Gm 5 Oct. 12 CHC 9, WSH 8 WATCH

It will be Kyle Hendricks against a Nationals pitcher to be named later, likely Gio Gonzalez or Tanner Roark. The Cubs will back up Hendricks, who won Game 1, with Game 3 starter Jose Quintana and a fully stocked bullpen.

"Nobody likes to play Game 5s or Game 7s, but we're in that situation," Cubs lefty Jon Lester said. "We're going to show up tomorrow. We're going to be prepared. At the end of the day, that's all you can really do. We'll be prepared."

Here are three keys for the Cubs to win Game 5 on Thursday and move on to their third straight NL Championship Series presented by Camping World.

1. Bring back Bryzzo
Pitching has dominated this series, and that should be the case in Game 5, given the number of relief options for both teams. The Cubs' two victories were also the result of some timely hitting from Anthony Rizzo. They have scored eight runs in this series, and Rizzo has driven in five.

The Nationals kept Rizzo in check at Wrigley Field, holding him to one bloop single in seven at-bats, and Kris Bryant went 0-for-7 with a walk and six strikeouts in the past two games.

As a team, the Cubs are slashing .159/.258/.257 with 43 strikeouts in this series, partially a testament to the strength of Washington's pitching staff. If the Cubs are going to escape Nationals Park with a win, the "Bryzzo" combo will have to pick up the slack offensively.

"We have to go out and score some runs for [Hendricks], plain and simple," Rizzo said. "He'll be ready to go, we'll be ready to go and we go from there."

Strasburg whiffs Bryant, side

2. Repeat that
The Cubs' four starting pitchers have allowed all of one earned run over 22 2/3 innings in this series. They each allowed two hits. To win Game 5, they're going to need more of the same from Hendricks and, if necessary, Quintana.

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Hendricks was outstanding in Game 1, holding the Nats scoreless over seven innings while striking out six. He has been in pressure-packed situations before, including Game 7 of last year's World Series, and his teammates believe the even-keeled right-hander is ready for another elimination game.

"He's the Professor for a reason. It's going to be a great game," reliever Carl Edwards Jr. said. "I know for a fact that he's going to be on, and we're just going to go out there and have fun and see what happens."

Hendricks' scoreless outing

3. Keep it clean
Every mistake is magnified in October, and that has proved to be true for the Cubs. They have committed seven errors in four games, including a couple of costly misplays that led directly to runs: Kyle Schwarber's Game 3 gaffe in left field and Addison Russell's booted grounder in Game 4, to name two.

Turner scores on error in 3rd

Clean defense will be imperative in a game without much margin for error. The Cubs believe their postseason experience will help them slow down a game full of nervous energy.

"We have been here before," manager Joe Maddon said. "Our guys are ready to play."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.