(CBS) With a third straight trip to the National League Championship Series on the line, manager Joe Maddon and the Cubs went with all hands on deck.
But a wild Game 5 against the Nationals still came down to closer Wade Davis with two outs in the seventh inning and a 9-7 lead to protect. Maddon had originally planned to use Davis from the eighth inning on, as he explained later, but came to a conclusion.
“What’s the difference between six and seven?” Maddon said of the outs Davis would have to record.
Davis came out for a seven-out save and held the lead, earning the Cubs a 9-8 victory over the Nationals in a winner-take-all Game 5 of the NL Divisional Series in Washington on Thursday night. Chicago is now headed west to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers in the NLCS for the second straight season. The Cubs have now been to the NLCS in three straight seasons.
In a season filled with highs and lows, Davis has been a key cog. The Cubs used closer Aroldis Chapman as a key piece in their run to the 2016 World Series. When Chapman signed with the Yankees last offseason, the Cubs traded outfielder Jorge Soler to the Royals in exchange for Davis.
Davis became the Cubs’ lone All-Star during a sluggish first half of the season, and he finished with 32 saves and a 2.30 ERA. In the process, Davis earned the admiration of Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts.
“Wade Davis, he’s our MVP this year,” Ricketts said. “Without him, I don’t know where we are. And that wasn’t just tonight. It was all season.”
Davis also earned the eternal respect of his teammates.
“He closed out World Series games,” left-hander Jon Lester said. “When you have that on your resume, I’m not worried about it. He’s a bad SOB. I’m all for Wade. When they brought him in, there was no question on my mind. That’s what you got to do.
“You got to live and die by your closer. We did.”