TELANDER: Cubs show they’re in it for the long haul
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WASHINGTON — Get the ski goggles out and keep ’em out!
The champagne was flying Thursday night after the Cubs won a crazy Game 5 of the NLDS that lasted about as long as their impending 3,000-mile plane trip from here to Los Angeles will.
Was there doubt?
Yes, there was.
When your solid starting pitcher, Kyle Hendricks, gives up five hits, including two home runs, and four runs in the second inning, you have to figure it might not be the Cubs’ night.
Maybe winning the World Series last year was enough for the franchise, and it was time for everybody to head for beaches and watch the rest of the tournament on TV, umbrella drinks in hand.
That all seemed possible early on. It seemed possible late, as the tension wore on and on.
The Cubs were behind, then ahead, then way ahead, then threatened with doom as the Nationals chipped away at the lead.
It all ended with the 9-8 victory, and the move-on to a second straight NLCS against the Dodgers starting Saturday.
But this game — oh, man, there was nothing the managers and pitching coaches and catchers and infielders and umpires couldn’t meet and talk about, through all the drama, on and on. There was video to be reviewed. Calls to be questioned. Even the outfielders got together and jawboned. And why not? Even obscure Leonys Martin came in to play center field.
As the players danced around the final pitcher, exhausted Wade Davis, the great joy was laced with relief. It seemed like everybody who rode a bus to the ballpark played. “All hands on deck,” was the mantra from both Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Nationals manager Dusty Baker. Hey, even Kyle Schwarber hacked his way out of the fans’ doghouse, cranking an off-the-wall pinch-hit single in the seventh inning.
“It’s either exultation or being a bug on a windshield,” Maddon said of closeout games.
Baker, this game’s splattered bug, got philosophical beforehand, pondering his continued drive.
“What keeps me going is the quest for excellence, the thrill of competition,” he said. “Plus, there’s a few things I want to accomplish in life. And until I figure out why the lows of losing don’t match the highs of winning, then I’ll probably be a manager for a while.”
What does a manager do when his closer, a dependable guy like the Cubs’ Davis, suddenly gets wild and starts walking guys and giving up hits? How about when he throws a pitch that sails high over catcher Willson Contreras’ glove in the eighth inning and almost kills home-plate ump Jerry Layne?
All part of the mayhem.
All over now, because, blessedly, this marathon is over. And on go the Cubs.
There are so many things in the game that could have happened but didn’t, or had odd twists, that the event will be a hot-stove favorite for months. Even the four huge-headed “presidents” who race around the warning track at Nationals Park were fanning the people into near hysterics in the ninth inning.
It was fitting that Nationals superstar Bryce Harper was the last out, striking out on Davis’ 44th pitch of the evening. The Cubs swarmed Davis like honeybees around their queen. How often does a team give up 14 hits and still win? How often does a team go behind by a 4-1 score and come back to win?
How often, let’s be honest here, does a team get as lucky as the Cubs, with the opponent making so many blunders in one inning — the fifth, in this case — that they win one like this?
Somehow, the Cubs did. And it’s all bubbly now.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.