Taylor's grand slam powers Nationals over Cubs

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 12 2017 09:49 AM | Updated as of Oct 12 2017 09:54 AM

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy (20) turns a double play over Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward (22) in the fifth inning during game four of the 2017 NLDS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Dennis Wierzbicki, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

CHICAGO -- Washington's Michael A. Taylor smashed a grand slam home run in the eighth inning and the Nationals kept their Major League Baseball playoff title hopes alive Wednesday by defeating the Chicago Cubs 5-0.

The Nationals leveled their best-of-five National League Division Series matchup with the defending World Series champion Cubs at 2-2, setting up a deciding game Thursday at Washington.

The winner will advance to a best-of-seven National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers that begins Saturday in Southern California.

Taylor's first career playoff homer was the first playoff grand slam in Nationals history.

"Just looking for a good pitch to hit, something out over (the plate)," Taylor said. "Just trying to put the bat on the ball and make something happen."

The game, postponed a day due to heavy rain, began in a drizzle that nagged the players off and on much of the afternoon.

Washington took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Trea Turner doubled to left field, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a fielding error by Cubs shortstop Addison Russell off a ball hit by Ryan Zimmerman.

But the Nationals broke the game open in the eighth inning after Jon Lester struck out Bryce Harper and picked Zimmerman off first base after walking him.

Daniel Murphy singled and the Cubs pulled Lester for reliever Carl Edwards, who walked Anthony Rendon and Matt Wieters, prompted Chicago to remove Edwards for reliever Wade Davis.

That set the stage for Taylor, who lofted a homer over the wall in right-centerfield to clear the bases and give Washington a 5-0 lead.

"Just looking for a good pitch to hit, something out over (the plate)," Taylor said. "Just trying to put the bat on the ball and make something happen."

Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who had been the focus of a pre-game drama about whether or not he would take the mound for the biggest game of his career, collected his first playoff triumph.

Strasburg struck out 12 and surrendered only three hits with two walks over seven shutout innings.

"To come out after being sick like that and put together a game like that, it's amazing," Taylor said. "He's the real deal."

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Tuesday after the rainout that Tanner Roark, the regularly scheduled pitcher, would take the mound a day later rather than Strasburg,.

Star right-hander Strasburg had battled fever and chills but awoke Wednesday saying he felt better and wanted to pitch in the Wrigley Field showdown to try to save the team's season.

There had been much criticism about Strasburg begging off such a huge game on regular rest given his $175 million contract and the team's history, having not reached the league final in 13 seasons since moving from Montreal, where the club never managed to reach the World Series.

In a later game, the New York Yankees were at Cleveland in a fifth-game showdown against the Indians with the winner advancing to face the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series that begins Friday.

© Agence France-Presse

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