Legends On Deck

NLDS: Nationals Ride Strasburg to Game Five

Up until about four hours before first pitch, we didn’t think we were going to see Stephen Strasburg take the mound for the Washington Nationals in game four of the NLDS. However, with his Nats facing elimination, Strasburg did end up taking the ball in Wrigley on a rainy Chicago day after getting over his “sickness”. Fortunately for the Nationals, Strasburg was able to drown out the criticism and come through with a clutch performance.

Strasburg was dominant from start to finish and consistent throughout the game. He would toss 7 shutout innings where he allowed just three hits while walking two. The 29 year old right hander got 12 of his 21 outs via the strikeout, including all six outs in the third and fourth innings by way of the K, leading to a very frustrated home dugout.

The Cubs didn’t exactly send a slouch out themselves as Jake Arrieta took to the mound for the defending world champs. After a good four inning outing that saw him allow just one unearned run, Jon Lester came in to make things even more difficult for the visitors. He allowed just one hit over his 3 2/3 innings, but the highlight of his day, and my favorite part of the game, came in the top of the eighth.
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After Lester put Ryan Zimmerman on with a walk, Zimmerman decided to toy with Lester by taking a huge lead off first. It has been well-documented that Lester doesn’t have the best pick off move, and that is putting it politely, so Zimmerman thought he would try and force the issue. After bouncing a pick off throw over to Anthony Rizzo, which actually resulted in a close play, Lester tried to get Zimmerman one more time and picked him off. It was the slowest pick off play I have ever seen, but hey, Lester picked a guy off in the playoffs. That should be a story itself.

While the spectacular pitching from both clubs is undoubtedly the story from game four, so is the abysmal performance from the Cubs bullpen. Carl Edwards Jr. was a shell of himself in his outing. He walked the only two batters he faced to load the bases up for Wade Davis.

While Edwards struggled immensely, it was Davis that gave up the final blow to all but guarantee we were heading back to D.C. for a game five. With the bases loaded and two outs, Michael A. Taylor took to the plate in an attempt to add some insurance for the Nats, and add some insurance he did. Taylor took a 1-1 pitch deep to the opposite field to push the lead to 5-0.

The game was much closer than the final score would indicate. The stellar outing from Strasburg combined with the Cubs duo of Arrieta and Lester made for a balanced and competitive game. Unfortunately for the Cubs and the hometown crowd, the bullpen couldn’t give the offense a chance.

This pitching dominated series will head to a decisive game five that is set for Thursday at 8:00pm. It looks like Kyle Hendricks, the winner of game one in the series will take the mound for the Cubs. While the Nationals have not officially named a starter, I think we all know who to expect.

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