The Chicago Cubs earned a trip to their third straight National League Championship Series on Thursday, but it wasn’t without controversy.
The Cubs beat the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS, squeaking by in a hard-fought contest with a 9-8 win. But one call made in the fifth inning and another in the eighth could have changed the outcome of the one-run game.
The first call was blatantly missed, as Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who was pitching in relief, struck out Javier Baez for what would have been out No. 3. But the ball snuck by catcher Matt Wieters and rolled to the backstop, allowing Baez to reach first and scoring shortstop Addison Russell from second to make it 6-4.
Home plate umpire missed Baez’s backswing hitting Wieters’ helmet, though, which would have made the ball dead.
The Cubs scored another run in the inning, making the score 7-4 when it should have been 5-4. And to make matters worse, the Nats were stripped of an opportunity to score later, too.
Washington catcher Jose Lobaton was ruled out in the eighth inning after the Cubs challenged a call that he was safe heading back to first on a pickoff attempt. Lobaton clearly touched the bag before first baseman Anthony Rizzo tagged him, but his foot popped off for a split second.
The biggest issue was that there wasn’t an angle that definitively showed Rizzo’s glove still was touching Lobaton in that very brief moment. Ordinarily, that would mean the call would stand rather than be confirmed, but the umpires somehow saw enough evidence to overturn it. It was the third out and ended a rally for the Nats.
After all that, it’ll be the Cubs, not the Nationals, heading to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers. Game 1 kicks off Saturday at 8:08 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images