With Game 5 hanging in the balance in the eighth inning, the Cubs felt there was no reason not to challenge a tag play at first base, which turned out to be a critical decision in their 9-8 win over the Nationals on Thursday.
WASHINGTON — Even Anthony Rizzo wasn’t sure he had gotten the tag.
With two outs and two on in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals trailing 9-8 to the Chicago Cubs in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, catcher Willson Contreras fired a snap throw to Rizzo at first base, who slapped the tag on a sliding Jose Lobaton. First base umpire Will Little called Lobaton safe, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon challenged the call.
After a replay review, the ruling was reversed and Lobaton was called out to end the inning. Washington went on to lose by that same 9-8 score, ending the season for the NL East champs and sending the 2016 World Series champion Cubs to the NLCS for a third straight year.
“I didn’t think I had him initially,” Rizzo said. “But on those bang-bang plays, you never know. It’s one of those you have to take a peek.”
The Cubs did just that.
“We saw the foot come off then looked at another angle and figured it was worth the challenge,” said Nate Halm, the Cubs’ advance scouting coordinator. “Rizzo held the tag, so it worked out.”
The outcome was a surprise to Lobaton.
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“I thought I was safe,” said the Washington catcher, who was on first after lining a single to center off Cubs closer Wade Davis . “I didn’t know my foot came off. You see in the replay that it was just my foot just came off just a little bit. That was enough for the replay to show I was out. What can I say? It’s part of the rules right now. We have to take it.”
And Maddon knew he had to challenge it.
“You’ve just got to,” Maddon said. “You’ve got to. I looked for Anthony all the time. You have to trust your guys on the field, but there’s no reason to not. We have two challenges. It’s that part of the game. There’s no reason to not challenge right there.”
Although the move paid off for Maddon and the Cubs, it was a killer for the Nationals and manager Dusty Baker.
“It really hurts,” Baker said. “To lose like that, especially after what we went through all year long, that was tough.”
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers contributed to this report.