Kyle Hendricks will attempt to pitch the Cubs into the NLCS.Pool/Getty Images

Stephen Strasburg came up with a gem when the Washington Nationals needed it most, and Michael A. Taylor made it count when he delivered an eighth-inning grand slam in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.

The Nationals pulled out a 5-0 victory and tied the series at 2-2. 

Washington and the Chicago Cubs will meet in a decisive Game 5 at Nationals Park Thursday at 8:08 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast by TBS and live streamed at MLB.TV.

While the Nats had the advantage once Strasburg overcame an illness and decided to pitch in Game 4, the Cubs would seem to be in a better position for Game 5 as Kyle Hendricks will take the mound.


Dusty Baker had not made an official announcement on Washington’s starter, but it seemed likely that Gio Gonzalez would get the start and Tanner Roark would likely follow him on to the mound. Staff ace Max Scherzer should also be available for an inning or two if Baker decides he is needed for this game.

Hendricks earned the victory in Game 1 of the series when he gave up just two hits while striking out six over seven innings in Chicago’s 3-0 victory. Hendricks has a 1.93 earned-run average against Washington this season.

Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. did not hold back when it came to his outlook on Game 5. 

“I mean, it’s going to be a great game tomorrow. I know for a fact that he’s going to be on,” Edwards said about Hendricks, per Scott Allen of the Washington Post. “We’re just going to go out there, we’ll have fun, and we’ll see you guys in L.A.”

The winner of the NLDS will meet the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.

Pitching has been the story of this series, with the hitters providing late-inning heroics. The Nats won Game 2 after eighth-inning home runs by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, while the Cubs took Game 3 at Wrigley Field on an eighth-inning bloop single by Anthony Rizzo.


Washington had a 1-0 lead in Game 4 until Taylor’s decisive blow off Cubs closer Wade Davis. Taylor was more reserved in his comments about Game 5 than Edwards was in the Chicago locker room.

“As a team, we feel good,” Taylor said, per StatsTSX. “We talked about it a little before the game about taking it one game at a time, and obviously, today was a necessary step to take it back to D.C. … We’re going back, and we’d just like to have another quality game.”

Both of these teams have powerful offenses that could explode in Game 5, but the likelihood is the winning team may scratch out one or two more runs than the losers. A slugfest is not likely based on what happened through the first four games.

     

Prediction

The Nationals have suffered when it comes to postseason play, and they have lost three previous NLDS series, and two of them went the five-game limit.

The franchise has won just one playoff series in its history, and that came in 1981 when they were the Montreal Expos and they defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series (strike-altered season and playoff format). They subsequently lost the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

While the Game 4 win in Chicago was memorable and heroic because of the performances of Strasburg and Taylor, the Nats will almost certainly have to play even better in Game 5 if they are going to advance.

Hendricks is a smart, cool customer for the Cubs, and he knows how to pitch in big games. He started Game 7 in last year’s World Series against Cleveland, and he appears to have excellent command. 

The Cubs have the experience of winning big games and they have the better pitching situation. Look for the Cubs to outlast the Nats and advance to the NLCS.



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