Imrem: The Cubs playoffs fun is just getting started

  • Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant breaks his bat Saturday as he hits a single in the eighth in Game 2 of baseball's National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals.

    Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant breaks his bat Saturday as he hits a single in the eighth in Game 2 of baseball's National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/8/2017 7:34 AM

Huge moments in sports have no time limit.

They can last forever, like a 12-pitch at-bat or a long flyball that seems like it'll never come down.

 

It also can last for a blink, like one pitch or a line drive that blurs through the air.

Baseball players are defined by how they perform in moments that confront them at playoff time.

The Cubs and Nationals are tied at one victory apiece in the NLDS after the Nats' stunning 6-3 victory Saturday night at Washington.

The thing about this series is the teams are so evenly matched that many more pressurized moments are sure to challenge their big-name stars.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wouldn't have it any other way: "I'm so impressed with the way our guys handle these moments."

Jon Lester demonstrated in the bottom of the fifth inning exactly what Maddon referred to.

The Cubs led 3-1; the Nationals had the bases loaded; Lester was struggling a bit on the mound; Trea Turner worked the count full.

Lester met the moment with a changeup low and away -- out of the strike zone -- and Turner flailed at it for Strike 3.

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"That was a big moment for us," Lester said.

In a lot of ways that could have been the moment to end all moments for the Nationals on this night and maybe in the series.

The Nats have a recent history of making the playoffs and bombing out without winning a single series.

Instead a different kind of bomb came into play, as in home runs by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman worth five runs in the eighth inning.

"Harper is known for big moments," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said, "and he blasted that ball."

Washington has too many outstanding hitters -- Harper, Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon -- to keep being shut down in the playoffs.

Murphy proved two years ago with the Mets that he is a man for the moment by destroying the Cubs in the NLCS.

Maybe it was just a matter of time, or moments, before the Nats began hitting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Give them credit," Maddon said. "That's called baseball. (C.J. Edwards) hung a curveball and a very good hitter (Harper) didn't miss it."

Harper, bothered by injuries, had been in a homer drought. But his power surfaced along with this moment.

If Harper gets the credit, the Cubs' bullpen gets the blame for a couple bad pitches that broke the Nationals out of their slump.

"In the bottom of my heart," Baker said, "I thought we'd explode for a crooked number (on the scoreboard)."

Now, with the best-of-five series tied, the fun is just beginning.

The Cubs entered September locked in a playoff race with the Brewers and Cardinals but a postseason berth never seemed in jeopardy.

This is different. This is a matchup that could go either way with the loser going home.

"It's an interesting series," Maddon said.

Lester added, "(The Nats are) a good team. It's going to be a battle. We'll show up Monday and see what happens."

Games 3 and 4 are scheduled for Wrigley Field and Theo Epstein has seen his players rise to the moment on the way to winning the World Series last year.

"They thrive on adrenaline, on big situations," the Cubs' baseball president told TBS.

A couple Nationals homers mean the Cubs will have to prove that they're up for a few more moments in this NLDS.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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