Chicago Cubs (2-2 SU, 2-2 RL, 1-3 O/U) vs. Washington Nationals (2-2 SU, 2-2 RL, 1-3 O/U)
MLB: Thursday, October 12, 2017, Nationals Park, Washington, D.C., 8:08 pm ET
Lines: Chicago -128, Washington +118; Over/Under: 7.5
It’s a winner take all Game 5 in the nation’s capital. The defending champion Chicago Cubs head east to take on the Washington Nationals in the decisive game of the NL Division Series Thursday night. Washington staved off elimination in part thanks to a rainout Tuesday and a reinvigorated starting pitcher in taking a 5-0 victory Wednesday afternoon. Can the Cubs conjure up some late magic once again or will the Nationals finally advance to the NLCS for the first time?
Chicago Cubs Seek to Extend Nationals’ Woes
Chicago missed a chance to knock Washington out of the playoffs and reach the NLCS for the third straight year. The Cubs couldn’t push a run across the plate and after seven tight innings, they allowed the Nationals to pull away. Chicago finished with just three hits in the game with Ben Zobrist’s double the lone extra base hit. Willson Contreras and Jason Heyward each singled but the Cubs were 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. Jake Arrieta (0-1), in what could potentially be his final start at Wrigley Field, took the loss. He allowed one run (none earned) on two hits with five walks and four strikeouts over four innings of work.
Kyle Hendricks is on the mound for his second start of the postseason after 24 regular season starts. He missed seven weeks with tendinitis in his hand earlier this season. In the regular season, he went 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA, a 1.189 WHIP, 40 walks and 123 strikeouts over 139.2 innings of work. Hendricks won his first postseason start of the season, beating the Nationals in Game 1 of the series Friday. He threw seven scoreless frames, allowing two hits with three walks and six strikeouts in an eventual 3-0 Cubs win. Hendricks is 1-0 with a 0.50 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, five walks and 21 strikeouts over 18 innings in his last three starts. He is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.088 WHIP over 30.1 innings in five career starts against the Nationals. Hendricks is 1-1 with a 4.35 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP over 10.1 innings in two career starts at Nationals Park.
Washington Nationals Shoot for First NLCS Berth in Franchise History
Washington took advantage of an error to plate the first run and cashed in late to pick up the win to extend their season for at least one more game. The Nationals have to pull another one out if they want to make their first appearance in the NLCS. Washington finished with five hits in the game with Trea Turner (run) and Anthony Rendon (run) hitting doubles. The big blow came in the eighth inning when Michael Taylor hit an opposite field grand slam, his first and the franchise’s first in postseason history, to break the game open. Stephen Strasburg (1-1), who was originally not going to start, threw seven scoreless frames, allowing three hits with two walks and 12 strikeouts.
Gio Gonzalez is on the hill for his second postseason start in this contest after 32 regular season starts for the Nationals. He was 15-9 with a 2.96 ERA, a 1.179 WHIP, 79 walks and 188 strikeouts over 201 innings of work this season. Gonzalez recorded a no-decision in his first postseason outing, which came in Game 2 against the Cubs Saturday. He threw five innings, allowing three runs on three hits with two walks and six strikeouts in a game the Nationals rallied to win 6-3 with a five-run eighth inning. Gonzalez is 0-2 with a 7.53 ERA, a 1.74 WHIP, 10 walks and 25 strikeouts over 14.1 innings in his last three starts. He is 3-3 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.103 WHIP over 61.2 innings in 10 career starts against the Cubs. Gonzalez is 37-24 with a 3.20 ERA and a 1.236 WHIP over 88 starts totaling 521 innings at Nationals Park in his career.
- Cubs are 5-1 in their last 6 vs. National League East
- Cubs are 5-1 in their last 6 playoff games
- Cubs are 4-1 in their last 5 vs. a team with a winning record
- Nationals are 1-4 in their last 5 overall
- Nationals are 1-4 in their last 5 games on grass
- Nationals are 1-4 in their last 5 Divisional Playoff games
Here we are with two teams’ seasons on the line: only one can move on while the other goes home for the offseason. For Chicago, the pressure is off after winning the World Series last season to snap their epic 108-year drought. Washington has to deal with the increasing pressure of being unable to advance past the NL Division Series to the NLCS. That has been weighing on them in the last few years and has been building all season long. Gonzalez struggled down the stretch and gave up a couple of homers in Game 2: he was spared a loss thanks to Washington’s eighth-inning rally. Hendricks was razor sharp in Game 1 and was strong after coming off the DL. Look for the Cubs to come up with the win to advance and extend the Nationals’ postseason woes.
Pick: Chicago Cubs -128
Washington may have forced a Game 5 but the fact remains that the team isn’t hitting much at all. The Nationals have a collective team average of .130 through the first four games of this set and that was after a relative barrage of five hits Wednesday. Nine of the 12 runs that Washington has scored in this series have come in the eighth inning. Oddly enough, all nine of those runs came in the two wins: if the Nationals don’t score in the eighth in this series, they lose. That’s an interesting thing to look at. Washington may go with Gonzalez or Tanner Roark: Dusty Baker may juggle them depending on how things go. Joe Maddon is rolling with Hendricks, who was the Cubs’ best starter down the stretch.
The under is 4-1 in the Cubs’ last 5 vs. a team with a winning record, 3-1-1 in their last 5 during game 5 of a series, 20-7-1 in their last 28 road games vs. a team with a winning record and 7-3 in their last 10 on the road. Washington has seen the under go 3-0-2 in their last 5 Thursday games, 8-2-1 in their last 11 vs. a team with a winning record and 7-2-2 in their last 11 vs. National League Central foes. We’ve seen this series stay low scoring for the most part: why not another tight, one run game that stays under the total to close it out?