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Nats bring momentum, Scherzer into Wrigley

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Following two closely contested games at Nationals Park, the Cubs and Nationals will meet up at Wrigley Field in what now becomes a best-of-three matchup in the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile.

Down to their final five outs, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman drilled a pair of home runs in Game 2, lifting Washington to a crucial 6-3 victory to even the series at one game apiece.

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CHICAGO -- Following two closely contested games at Nationals Park, the Cubs and Nationals will meet up at Wrigley Field in what now becomes a best-of-three matchup in the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile.

Down to their final five outs, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman drilled a pair of home runs in Game 2, lifting Washington to a crucial 6-3 victory to even the series at one game apiece.

View Full Game Coverage

 • NLDS Game 3: Today, 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT on TBS

With reigning National League Cy Young Award-winner Max Scherzer lined up for today's Game 3 -- thanks to a minor right hamstring injury that pushed his start back a few days -- the Nationals are feeling good about their chances as they head into the Windy City for the Cubs' first postseason home game as defending World Champions.

"I've kind of been dealing with this stuff all year long, so this isn't anything new, dealing with little ailments," Scherzer said. "I feel I've done everything I can to put the strength in the leg that I need to and I feel like I'm good to go. We're in the playoffs. Every game is a must-win. This is going to be a crazy atmosphere here at Wrigley. I can't wait to toe the rubber.

Jose Quintana, the Cubs' biggest midseason acquisition, will make his first postseason start. The left-hander was 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 14 starts after being sent across town by the White Sox in a rare all-Windy City trade.

"I don't feel pressure," Quintana said. "It's really good to face these guys in our house, especially in Wrigley Field, when every game is like a final. It's like a gift for me to get this opportunity to open the postseason here at home. I'm really excited."

Joe Maddon's lone concern focused on Quintana's ability to keep his emotions in check, but the manager believes his pitcher is "totally prepared for this moment" despite his lack of postseason experience.

"He's wanted to be this guy; when he came over, that's the first thing he talked to me about was getting to the playoffs," Maddon said. "My only concern with a guy like him is that he's going to try to do too much, too soon and you don't want to leave it out there and all of a sudden have to come back. If he can get out there and get into that original rhythm, spotting it up, that kind of rhythm, he has a really good chance to pitch as well as you saw him."

Chicago was five outs away from returning to the North Side with a commanding lead in the best-of-five set, but the Nationals' late surge Saturday tied the series, showing the Cubs they're not going down quietly.

"We've got to win two more games," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "Doesn't matter how we do it. Doesn't matter the scenario. It starts Monday. With this group, with this experience, nothing's really going to faze us. We've given up way bigger home runs than that before."

Maddon was disappointed to see his team blow a late lead in Game 2, but he was more than satisfied with the way the Cubs played during the first two games of the series.

"Both teams are good; both teams are here for a reason and sometimes they get you," Maddon said. "I actually think it's easier to flush [a loss] this time of the year sometimes as opposed to the regular season because you have to. It's a short series. Both teams are good. You have to move on to the next moment. You have no choice."

Three things to know about this game

• Not only will Game 3 be Quintana's first postseason start, but it will also be his first outing against the Nationals. Washington is one of three teams Quintana has yet to face in his career, while only three Nationals -- Howie Kendrick, Adam Lind and Matt Wieters -- have faced Quintana previously.

• Monday marks Scherzer's first postseason road start with the Nationals. Eight of Scherzer's 10 postseason starts with the Tigers came on the road, including the first four. As a starter, he has a 3.80 road ERA in the playoffs but posted a 1.82 ERA in 16 road starts this season.

• Two of Washington's most potent and patient bats, Harper and Daniel Murphy, most likely won't receive any free passes Monday. Quintana hasn't walked a left-handed batter since July 23, a streak of 58 plate appearances that's tied for the longest in the Majors.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs, Jose Quintana, Max Scherzer