Yankees advance to ALCS with win in Cleveland:
By Sam Bush
Stephen Strasburg went from terribly ill Tuesday to unhittable yesterday in a must-win Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
The Washington Nationals prevailed, 5-0, forcing a game 5 against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs tonight that will send the winner to Los Angeles and a date with the top-seeded Dodgers in the NL Championship Series presented by Camping World.
Strasburg nearly singlehandedly willed the Nationals back to D.C. himself with 12 strikeouts in seven shutout innings on a misty, windy evening at Wrigley Field.
“When he’s healthy and he’s on the mound, he’s one of, if not, the best pitchers in the game,” Nats first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “Since the All-Star break, nobody has really been like him. To have him come out and do that in a spot like that, obviously … huge is an understatement for us.”
Strasburg almost did not start this game. He battled flu-like symptoms all week and the team initially planned to start Tanner Roark. Given the way he was feeling when he went to bed Tuesday night, Strasburg would have considered his chances of starting this game small. But after switching up his antibiotics, he arrived to Wrigley Field feeling better and said he wanted the ball.
“I’m surprised I was able to hang in there,” Strasburg said. “But again, I think it’s just those situations where, you know, try and break the game down, keep it simple, and just know that going in, whatever I have in the tank, I’m giving it everything I have.”
On Wednesday, Strasburg dominated and got some huge help from Michael A. Taylor’s grand slam. Taylor broke it open, capping a two-out rally in the eighth with aeuphoric shot in the arm off Cubs reliever Wade Davis.
“Afterwards, I was kind of numb, just running around the bases,” Taylor said. “Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to get out the way the wind was blowing in.”
The Nationals will play in their third NLDS Game 5 since 2012, looking to advance to the NLCS for the first time in Washington history. Chicago will be looking to advance to its third straight NLCS.
“It’s not ideal, but now the series is tied with the decisive Game 5 coming up tomorrow,” Chicago starter Jake Arrieta said. “We like our chances — as long as Strasburg isn’t on the mound, we’ll be all right.”
The Nationals took advantage of an error by shortstop Addison Russell to score the only run Strasburg needed on a drizzly, chilly day at Wrigley that felt very much like October. Game 4 had been scheduled for Tuesday, but rain forced a one-day delay, which allowed Strasburg to pitch on regular rest — although the Nationals had said Roark would start.
“Gets ahead in the count. Fastball command is outstanding. He’s really able to throw his fastball for a strike when he wants to, where he wants to,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon. “His curve was really good, too. He had everything going on tonight. If you don’t get him early in the count, it’s really difficult, because he has these two other outstanding pitches to throw deeper in the count, curveball, changeup, which he did.”
Strasburg told the Nationals yesterday that he was OK, and he proved it on his first pitch, firing a 95-mph fastball to Cubs leadoff man Jon Jay. The right-hander, whose changeup was even nastier, limited the Cubs to three hits over seven innings. The 12 K’s are a Nationals single-game postseason record, topping the 10 strikeouts by Strasburg himself in Game 1.
“He throws that fastball and it rises and the changeup falls off the planet,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “Basically anyone who goes into the batting cage and doesn’t know how to hit, that’s what it feels like.”
Arrieta, pushed back in the Cubs’ rotation because of a tender right hamstring,lasted four innings, throwing 90 pitches, and did strike out four, including Jayson Werth to end the fourth and leave the bases loaded.