By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Almost the entire Cubs team has been in this situation.
It’s “win or go home.”
Four games of a classic, nail-biting National League Divisional Series between the Cubs and Nationals have created a winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday night in Washington D.C. After being dominated by Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg in a 5-0 loss in Game 4 on Wednesday at Wrigley Field, the Cubs referenced their experience as their eye another trip to the NL Championship Series, where the Dodgers await.
After all, it was just last year en route to a championship that the Cubs won three straight elimination games in the World Series.
“We have the same thought process as before,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “We have to win to keep going and do what we want to do. So, all hands on deck.”
The Cubs offense has been quiet for entire series, managing just eight runs and 18 hits combined across four games.
“We have been here before,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Our guys are ready to play. You know the players are going to be mentally involved. I just want us to go out and play, just do our normal patterns. It has been a really interesting series. Both teams have reflected one another pretty closely. They got us tonight. We just have to go back out East and get them tomorrow.”
The Cubs’ rotation has been terrific in the series, as Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Jake Arrieta have allowed just one earned combined in four games. The bullpen has taken the brunt of the abuse from the Nationals, giving up nine earned runs in the series.
The Cubs will start Hendricks in Game 5. He threw seven scoreless innings in a Game 1 start. The Nationals are unsure of their starter but will choose between left-hander Gio Gonzalez or right-hander Tanner Roark.
“Both sides, if those guys are honest, thought this would be a good series,” Lester said. “Nobody thought this would be a three-and-done type series. It was two heavyweights going at it. We are going to the last round, and we now have Game 5. It should be exciting in both clubhouses. Hopefully, we play a good game and we come out on top.”
The Cubs have won consecutive divisional series. Will they make it three for the first time in franchise history and stay alive?
“There will be a lot of nervous energy,” Rizzo said of Game 5. “You just want to get the game going. You wish you could toe it up right now. We will take a good team flight and be ready to go.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.