Cubs at Nationals
With an assist from the weather, the Washington Nationals have forced a winner-take-all matchup against the visiting Chicago Cubs on Thursday in their National League Division Series. Stephen Strasburg’s stellar start in Washington’s 5-0 win in Game 4 on Wednesday sent the series back to the nation’s capital and left the Nationals with plenty of flexibility with their pitching staff.
Strasburg threw seven strong innings despite manager Dusty Baker’s announcement a night earlier that Chicago-area native Tanner Roark would start Game 4. That leaves Roark and left-hander Gio Gonzalez as potential Game 5 starters and gives Washington a fully stocked bullpen - including ace Max Scherzer - for the decisive contest. The Cubs’ bullpen is slightly more taxed after burning Game 2 Jon Lester on Wednesday, but Chicago will have Kyle Hendricks on the mound as he looks to continue a recent history of strong postseason performances. The Cubs have scored only eight runs in the series and managed just three hits in Wednesday’s setback.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TBS
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs RH Kyle Hendricks (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. TBA
Hendricks outdueled Strasburg in Game 1, allowing two hits and three walks while registering six strikeouts over seven scoreless innings. The 27-year-old has gotten the ball for the Cubs’ last two series clinchers – Game 6 of last year’s NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Game 7 of the World Series versus Cleveland. He is 2-1 with a 1.98 ERA in eight postseason starts.
Baker told reporters after Game 4 he is “not sure yet” who will start on Thursday and his decision will be based on who is the best fit. Gonzalez allowed three runs and three hits over five innings in Game 2 as the Nationals got him off the hook with a late rally. Roark has not started since Sept. 27 and gave up eight runs in 5 2/3 frames over his last two regular-season appearances (one start).
1. Washington OF Michael A. Taylor’s eighth-inning blast in Game 4 was the first postseason grand slam in franchise history.
2. Cubs 3B Kris Bryant is 3-for-15 with nine strikeouts in the series.
3. The Nationals have scored nine of their 12 runs in the series in the eighth inning.