Cubs accustomed to playing must-win games

Defending champs had to rally three times in '16 postseason

Cubs accustomed to playing must-win games

CHICAGO -- The Cubs know something about playing in decisive games. It wasn't that long ago -- Nov. 2, to be exact -- when they faced a must-win situation in Game 7 of the World Series against the Indians.

NLDS Game 5: Tonight, 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on TBS

On Thursday, the Cubs and Nationals will square off in Game 5 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. The Dodgers face the winner in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series presented by Camping World on Saturday in Los Angeles.

Game Date Matchup TV/Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 CHC 3, WSH 0 WATCH
Gm 2 Oct. 7 WSH 6, CHC 3 WATCH
Gm 3 Oct. 9 CHC 2, WSH 1 WATCH
Gm 4 Oct. 11 WSH 5, CHC 0 WATCH
Gm 5 Oct. 12 CHC 9, WSH 8 WATCH

"I just want us to go play," manager Joe Maddon said after Chicago lost, 5-0, to the Nationals on Wednesday night in Game 4. "Just do our normal patterns. We prepare like this for every series, not just this series. Prepare normally."

Cubs fans may be biting their nails, but Jake Arrieta likes the situation.

"We've been in this situation before and had our backs against the wall," Arrieta said. "We like our chances, as long as [Stephen Strasburg] isn't on the mound, we'll be all right."

Strasburg struck out a dozen Cubs on Wednesday, while Chicago's six pitchers combined to walk nine, a franchise record.

"[The walks] are the only thing that hurt us today as a group," Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. said. "We'll go out there [Thursday] and I know we'll come out with a victory and have fun. It's something we've been doing all year."

Last year, the Cubs beat the Giants, 3-1, to win the NLDS, then had to rally from a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers in the NLCS, winning in six games. And then there was the World Series, when the Cubs trailed, 3-1, but won Games 5-7 for their first championship in 108 years.

Edwards Jr. on his Game 4 outing

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"You can't really not think about last year," Edwards said. "You see how we came back as a team, we came back as one. That's something we've done all year long. We have guys who pick up each other when something goes wrong and that's how we'll go about our business."

Shortstop Addison Russell said he wasn't surprised the NLDS was extended to five games.

"That's a great ballclub over there," he said. "They've got great arms, great players in general. It's going to come down to [Thursday].

Russell on error, near homer

"It's not pressing the panic button," Russell said. "I believe the guys we have, we're used to the pressure, we're used to winning. When our backs are against the wall, we count on our teammates."

The Cubs were able to overcome a 5 1/2-game deficit at the All-Star break and win the NL Central again. They just need one more win. Game 1 starter Kyle Hendricks will get the ball.

"I don't think there's a better scenario for us," Arrieta said. "Having a guy like that on the hill for Game 5 is big for us. Our lineup will be ready to go."

Hendricks set for Game 5 of NLDS

Hendricks was the Cubs' starting pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series. That's another reason they feel confident.

"Again, we have been here before," Maddon said. "Our guys are ready to play. It's been a really interesting series. Both teams have reflected one another pretty closely and they got us tonight, and we just have to fly back east and try to get them [Thursday] night."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.