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There’s no rest for the weary in the National League Division Series. Less than 24 hours after finishing Game 4 in Chicago, the scene has moved to Washington, D.C., where the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals will decide who plays the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
The lack of a travel day came about after Game 4, originally set for Tuesday, was pushed back to Wednesday because of rain. The Nationals won that game, 5-0, to keep alive their hope of winning a postseason series for the first time in franchise history.
Now it’s win or go home for both teams, with the Cubs’ goal of defending their World Series title on the line while the Nats try to end decades of playoff futility.
Take a look at what Vegas thinks of that chance, according to OddsShark.com.
Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Viewing Guide
When: Thursday, Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchTBS
Odds: Cubs 25/29, Nationals 106/100
Game 5 Preview
Cubs manager Joe Maddon wasted no time confirming that right-hander Kyle Hendricks would start in Game 5, but he’s also got another starter picked if Hendricks can’t go out, per Angelo DiCarlo of WNDU:
Angelo Di Carlo @angdicarlowndu
Maddon on Thursday’s plan: Hendricks will start. Quintana will play the “Lester” role if needed out of the bullpen.
Hendricks was brilliant in Game 1 of the NLDS, holding the Nationals to two hits over seven innings in the 3-0 victory. It was his fourth consecutive start allowing one earned run or fewer, with six walks and 26 strikeouts over 25.2 innings.
Quintana, Chicago’s Game 3 starter on Monday, was strong over 5.2 innings in that game in throwing 96 pitches. The lefty midseason pickup from the Chicago White Sox has only once before pitched on two days’ rest—in 2013, when he allowed three runs over seven innings in a loss against the Baltimore Orioles.
Jon Lester threw 3.2 innings after Jake Arrieta only lasted four, a tandem that could get matched by Hendricks and Quintana.
After that, it’s a mystery for the Cubs, much as it is from the outset for Washington. Manager Dusty Baker hasn’t announced whether lefty Gio Gonzalez or righty Tanner Roark will start, meaning this is the second straight game Roark is in the running to get the ball.
Roark, who has yet to appear in the NLDS, was originally set to start Game 4, but the rainout enabled Baker to go with Stephen Strasburg and that moved paid off in the form of seven shutout innings. Gonzalez got a no-decision in Game 2, giving up three runs in five innings.
“I’m not trying to be coy at all, because that was the theme of the day with [Stephen Strasburg],” Baker said, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. “Whoever it is, I hope they pitch like Stras did today.”
It’s entirely possible both teams will go with back-to-back starters to help lessen strain on their bullpens, though Washington is in a better position. Ryan Madson and closer Sean Doolittle each threw a frame in Game 4, with Doolittle only throwing 12 pitches, while the Cubs went through four relievers Thursday after Arrieta/Lester.
Cubs closer Wade Davis was pulled after allowing a walk and two hits, including a grand slam to Michael A. Taylor, and while he only threw 11 pitches his confidence could be damaged.
On the hitting front, neither team has been knocking the cover off the ball. The Nationals are batting .172, with Taylor the only starter hitting better than .188, while the Cubs’ team batting average (.159) is nearly 80 percentage points lower than during their championship run a season ago.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The big names have been particularly cold on both ends. Bryce Harper is 2-for-15, though one of those hits was a home run, while Anthony Rendon (2-for-14) and Ryan Zimmerman (3-for-16) have also struggled for Washington, and Chicago studs Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are a combined 7-for-30 with 14 strikeouts.
A loss here will be considered disastrous for both teams, but more so for the Cubs. Despite being the lower seed they are the defending champions and have far more pressure on their shoulders, while Washington is almost playing with house money after being down 2-1 on the road. It will be the Nationals moving on to their first NLCS since moving to Washington and the franchise’s first since doing so as the Montreal Expos in 1981.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.