MORRISSEY: A wild, improbable inning helps propel Cubs into the NLCS

WASHINGTON — So this is what preposterous looks like.

I had seen bad before with the Cubs, lots of it, decades of the stuff. And then I had watched a World Series arrive in 2016, a stunning, beautiful thing. And, really, what was left?

I can tell you in unequivocal terms that there was plenty of room left for crazy. And silly. And, especially, the aforementioned preposterous.

One inning, one ridiculous inning, helped push the Cubs into the National League Championship Series and the Washington Nationals into heavy duty counseling. But it was only one shove.

The rest of the innings were a ride on a winding mountain road inside a bus with no brakes. Finally, after four hours, 37 minutes, a fever dream of a baseball game was over. The Cubs beat the Nationals 9-8 in Game 5 of their first-round series Thursday night for reasons that aren’t entirely clear at this moment. Because. Just because.

A four-run fifth inning, powered by a passed ball, an error, a catcher’s interference call and a hit batter, all of it with Nationals ace Max Scherzer standing on the mound as a reliever, pretty much summed up the evening. It’s exactly how Picasso would have drawn it up.

It’s a big reason why two hours later, Cubs players were celebrating like children late Thursday night, first on the grass at Nationals Park and then in their champagne-soaked clubhouse.

“It’s one of those will-to-win situations,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Our guys were not going to be denied.”

Said shortstop Addison Russell: “Just to see the energy flow within the dugout was just — I get chills just talking about it. It was awesome.”

That fifth inning. That absurd inning. It was a scorer’s nightmare, a weird, happy lark for the Cubs and a reminder that one of the best pitchers around isn’t a guarantee of anything in postseason baseball.

His team leading 4-3, Scherzer got through the first two hitters in the inning, and Nationals Park was a happy place. Willson Conteras got an infield single, but what was that to the likes of Scherzer? A dust particle. Pinch hitter Ben Zobrist followed with a bloop single to left. Again, a paper cut for Scherzer.

That’s where it went all very right for the Cubs and all very wrong for the Nationals. Russell doubled down the left-field line, scoring two. An intentional walk of Jason Heyward (odd), was followed by a passed ball on a strikeout of Javy Baez (strange), which also included an error by Washington catcher Matt Wieters on the throw to first (are you kidding?), scoring Russell, sending Heyward to third and Baez to second.

A catcher’s interference call sent Tommy La Stella to first loaded the bases. Scherzer hit Jon Jay with a pitch, bringing in Heyward.

Ten batters, three measly hits, four runs.

Who would have conceived of such a thing? Nobody in his or her right mind.

The fifth inning was only most obvious manifestation of the insanity. There was more — actually too much more. There was the seventh inning, …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun-Times – Sports

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