CHICAGO (CBS) — Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg answered the bell changed the storyline.

After a great deal of confusion regarding his availability and health, Strasburg was brilliant in firing seven shutout innings to lead the Nationals to a 5-0 win against the Cubs in Game 4 on a rainy Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field, evening the National League Division Series at 2-2.

 

Strasburg’s dominance came after outside observers had spent a good 18 hours questioning his competitiveness. Strasburg hadn’t been scheduled to start Game 4, but Tuesday’s rainout opened up the chance for him to pitch on full rest. Even then, Nationals manager Dusty Baker proclaimed Tuesday evening they were sticking with No. 4 starter Tanner Roark on Wednesday, saying Strasburg was “under the weather” and citing the high mold count in Chicago.

It led to questions as to how the Nationals couldn’t give their $175-million ace the ball in an elimination game. They reversed course when Strasburg awoke Wednesday feeling better, and he lived up to his billing as the best pitcher in baseball since the All-Star break.

Strasburg limited the Cubs to three hits and two walks while striking out 12, baffling his foes again and again with a devastating changeup. He retired Javier Baez on a grounder with runners at the corners in the second inning to get out of a jam but otherwise allowed a runner to second base just once.

The Nationals tallied the only run they’d need in the third inning when Cubs shortstop Addison Russell booted a slow-rolling Ryan Zimmerman ground for an error, allowing Trea Turner to score. Michael Taylor added a two-out grand slam in the eighth inning of Cubs closer Wade Davis that broke the game open.

Game 5 will be Thursday evening in Washington D.C. First pitch is at 7:08 p.m. and can be heard on 670 The Score. The Cubs will start right-hander Kyle Hendricks, while the Nationals are expected to turn to left-hander Gio Gonzalez.

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