For Cubs, Game 5 is simple: Score some runs

From ESPN - October 12, 2017

WASHINGTON -- The Chicago Cubs' defense of their championship gets its biggest test yet as their National League Division Series goes to a Game 5 on Thursday night. The narrative so far has been pitching, with Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg throwing two gems, the latest while he was battling an illness ahead of Wednesday's Game 4.

They have been really good, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. We have been really good. ... We have just got to stay in our lane -- in other words, not chase [pitches]. But again, that's easier said than done.

It might be easier without Strasburg on the mound. He has struck out 22 Cubs in two NLDS starts and helped reduce Chicago's batting average in the series to a paltry .159. With Max Scherzer available only out of the bullpen Thursday, the visitors might have an advantage. The Cubs' current ace, Kyle Hendricks, is on the mound with an extra day of rest and a beauty of a Game 1 performance to use as confidence.

Hes not shy to it, first baseman Anthony Rizzo said of Hendricks. Hes no stranger to these situations. We have to score some runs for him. Its that simple.

That last point by Rizzo is a big one. The Cubs have scored eight runs in the series' four games, and in a weird twist, over the course of their eight losses in the past two postseasons, theyve been shut out five times, including Wednesday. When the Cubs get into strikeout mode, it can look ugly.

We just have to keep grinding and have quality at-bats, and well break through, infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist said. We know it's win or go home.

The reigning MVP is undoubtedly happy that there is another game in the series so quickly. Kris Bryant set a franchise record with four strikeouts in Game 4, as Strasburg made him chase his patented changeup. That has been Bryants toughest pitch in his three seasons in the big leagues. But that was Strasburg; nobody else among the Nationals is pitching at his level right now.

As long as hes not on the mound, we have a chance, Cubs Game 4 starter Jake Arrieta said. In fact, I like our chances.


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