NLCS: Chicago Cubs' bats come alive at right time

Jeff Seidel, The Sports Xchange
Chicago Cubs Addison Russell hits an RBI double in the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
Chicago Cubs Addison Russell hits an RBI double in the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON -- The Chicago Cubs endured a prolonged slump during the first four games of their National League Division Series with the Washington Nationals.

Chicago held a .159 team batting average and had scored only eight runs entering the series finale.


Then, everything changed in the decisive Game 5 on Thursday night.

The Cubs' offense awakened as Addison Russell knocked in four runs and led Chicago to a wild 9-8 victory over the Nationals to lock up the series. Chicago now hopes this offensive outburst will help as it heads to Los Angeles for the start of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers on Saturday.

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In Game 5, the offense wasn't perfect, scoring runs on, as manager Joe Maddon called them, "outs and awkward plays."

Still, Chicago finished with nine hits -- after getting just 18 in the first four games -- and came through with a few big ones.

"Hopefully, (it helps) a little bit," Maddon said. "(The Dodgers), they have Mr. (Clayton) Kershaw, obviously, and now they have (Yu) Darvish, etc. Listen, we just went through (Stephen) Strasburg and (Max) Scherzer. I mean, that's no day at the beach either. When you get to this time of the year, you really have to be prepared to beat good pitching."

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The Cubs finished with just a .180 team batting average but still won the series. Washington batted just .186 and left 13 runners on base in Game 5.

Chicago stranded nine and went just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, but Russell's two-run double to left field off Scherzer (0-1) in the fifth gave the Cubs the lead for good in the midst of a wacky four-run inning.

"That was a big turning point in the game," Baker said of the Russell hit.

Russell (2-for-4) said that even though the Cubs had not scored much and lacked a good batting average, they were hitting the ball well.

"I think the bats have been there this whole series," Russell said. "It's just balls fell tonight. It was a great ballgame played, and (we're) just happy to come out on top."

Maddon said afterward that they had not really talked much about who would start in Game 1 against the Dodgers on Saturday night. John Lackey is in the mix, but no decision was made.

On Thursday, though, the offense kept working and hitting and doing enough to get the Cubs back to the NLCS for a third consecutive season.

"We needed to chip away, and we did," Maddon said. "Give the boys credit. That's one of the most incredible victories I've ever been part of."

Russell certainly agreed.

"I would say this is the most fun I've had playing in a baseball game, and it ranks right up there with winning the World Series (after) being down 3-1 in the World Series," Russell said. "It was awesome."

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