The bruising battle lasted four hours and 37 minutes, making it the longest nine-inning postseason game in history — five minutes longer than last year’s NLDS Game 5 in Washington, which the Dodgers won.
Here is everything you need to know about the Cubs’ heart-stopping victory and the Nats’ gut-wrenching defeat.
• This is the first time in Cubs history that the franchise has won a postseason series in three consecutive seasons.
• The Nationals/Expos franchise has gone 36 consecutive seasons without winning a postseason series, since Montreal advanced through the 1981 National League Division Series. That is tied with the White Sox (1969-2004) for the third longest such streak since the postseason expanded to include the League Championship Series in 1969. Only the Rangers (41 seasons, 1969-2009) and Pirates (38 seasons, 1980-2017) have endured a longer drought.
• The Nationals/Expos franchise has lost its last six games in which it had an opportunity to clinch a series victory, dating back to the 1981 NLCS against the Dodgers. That’s tied with five other teams for the second longest losing streak in potential clinchers. Only the A’s, who lost nine straight potential clinchers from 2000-03, have posted a longer streak.
Davis saves the day
• The Cubs went to Wade Davis early, bringing the closer in with two outs in the seventh inning. He got the job done, pitching the final 2 1/3 innings to save the game and send the Cubs to the NL Championship Series presented by Camping World. He became just the fifth pitcher to record a save of seven or more outs in postseason history.
• The last time Davis had appeared in a game in the seventh inning or earlier was Game 7 of the 2014 World Series with the Royals. Coincidentally, that was also the last time a reliever recorded a seven-plus-out save in a winner-take-all postseason game. But it wasn’t Davis. It was San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, who pitched the final five innings of a one-run game in one of the postseason’s legendary pitching performances.
• The other three pitchers to record a save as long as Davis’ in a winner-take-all playoff game: Vida Blue in Game 5 of the 1972 ALCS, Bob Kuzava in Game 7 of the 1952 World Series and Grover Cleveland Alexander in Game 7 of the 1926 World Series.
• Davis hadn’t recorded seven outs in a game since Aug. 24, 2013, his final game as a starter for the Rays — facing the Nationals. He had only gotten seven or more outs in relief three times in his career, all in 2012.
• Davis threw 44 pitches in his relief effort. That wasn’t just his season high, it was his highest in any game since that last 2013 start. He hadn’t thrown that many pitches in relief since a pair of long-relief outings in 2012, and he had never eclipsed the 40-pitch mark in a postseason relief appearance.
Break out the bats
• The Cubs scored more runs in Game 5 (nine) than they did in the series’ first 35 innings through Game 4 (eight).
• Oddly enough, the Cubs didn’t homer for any of those nine runs. Chicago’s only two home runs of the series came in a Game 2 loss, as the club became the first to win a Division Series without going deep in any of its three victories. Only the A’s in the 1972 ALCS had done it in a best-of-five series.
• This was the third winner-take-all postseason game — with the exception of Wild Card Games — in which both teams scored at least eight runs. The Red Sox beat the Indians, 12-8, in Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS and the Pirates beat the Yankees, 10-9, in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series on Bill Mazeroski’s famous walk-off homer.
• The Nationals are the second team to lose a winner-take-all postseason game while tallying as many as 14 hits, joining the 1980 Astros, who fell to the Phillies in Game 5 of that year’s NLCS. Their 23 times reaching base safely is the most for any losing team in a nine-inning postseason game.
• This game featured the two hardest hits of the 2017 postseason thus far, according to Statcast™ — Bryce Harper’s 112.6-mph single up the middle in the fourth and Kyle Schwarber’s 114.8-mph rocket single off the right-field wall in the seventh.
• Daniel Murphy’s game-tying solo homer in the second was the eighth of his postseason career, with the first seven all coming for the Mets in 2015. Over that three-year span, Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo and Toronto’s Jose Bautista are tied for second behind Murphy with six postseason homers.
Murphy is now tied for third all time in postseason homers by a second baseman, behind only Chase Utley (10) and Jeff Kent (nine).
• Michael A. Taylor helped the Nationals jump ahead with a three-run home run off Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks in the second. Taylor’s RBI single in the eighth gave him eight RBIs in the series, the most by any player in franchise history (Expos/Nationals) in a Division Series.
Taylor recorded four RBIs for the second straight day for the Nationals, becoming the first player in Major League history to record at least four RBIs in back-to-back postseason games.
Hendricks left an 86.4-mph sinker up above the zone, but with that low velocity, Taylor still took him deep. In fact, the pitch Taylor homered on measured 4.06 feet above home plate, according to Statcast™, to mark the highest pitch any Nationals player has taken deep since Harper (4.16 feet) in 2014. The only player to go long on a higher pitch in the postseason since Statcast™ launched in 2015 was Toronto’s Kevin Pillar, who homered on a pitch that measured 4.15 feet above the plate in Game 2 of the 2016 ALDS against the Rangers.
A night of oddities
• When Max Scherzer trotted in from the bullpen in the fifth, it was his first relief appearance since Game 4 of the 2013 American League Division Series. Scherzer pitched two innings in that game to earn the win for the Tigers, while current Nationals closer Sean Doolittle took the loss for Oakland.
• Scherzer struggled in relief, allowing four runs (two earned). He had only allowed four or more runs in five of his 32 starts this year, including the postseason.
• Matt Wieters helped set up Taylor’s homer by dropping a bunt down the third-base line against the Cubs’ shift. It was his first bunt hit in the Majors.
• Wieters had as tough a fifth inning as Scherzer, committing both a throwing error after a dropped third strike and a catcher’s interference. Only one other time has a catcher committed both an interference and an error in the same game — Carlos Ruiz in the Cardinals’ 1-0 victory in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.
• The Cubs’ strange go-ahead fifth included an intentional walk, a passed ball after a strikeout, a catcher’s interference and a hit by pitch. According to Baseball-Reference, none of the 2.73 million half-innings from Major League Baseball stored in the site’s database contained these four plays in the same turn at the plate. In fact, only five games within the database contained those four plays in the same game.
• With Hendricks going four innings and Gio Gonzalez pitching three, that makes 17 starts this postseason with no more than four innings completed. The all-time record for a postseason is 19, set last year.
• Jose Quintana entered the game in the seventh to make his first relief appearance since his rookie season with the White Sox in 2012. Quintana pitched out of the bullpen three times that year, with his final relief appearance coming on Sept. 25 against the Indians.
• All seven Cubs pitchers in the game issued at least one walk, making them just the second team to have that many different hurlers give up a free pass in a postseason game. The White Sox equaled that wild feat against the Astros in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series, but they used nine pitchers in 14 innings.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.