Chicago Cubs: Báez walk-off home run wins it over Nationals in the 13th
After only entering the game as a pinch-hitter in the 8th inning, Chicago Cubs’ Javier Báez hit a walk-off solo home run in the 13th inning. Báez’s home run lifted the Chicago Cubs to a 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals, completing a four-game sweep.
When the Chicago Cubs have Jake Arrieta starting a game for them, it generally is assumed that they’ll pull out an easy victory. Sunday’s game against the Washington Nationals, however, was anything but easy for Arrieta and the Cubs.
Arrieta’s pitch count and command were both issues early, as the ace pitcher had thrown more than 40 pitches by the end of the 2nd inning. Not only was Arrieta throwing a lot of pitches, but he had a hard time finding the strike zone. On multiple occasions, Arrieta’s pitches wound up in the dirt as near wild pitches.
While Arrieta had some problems on the mound today, things could have been much worse. With the bases loaded and nobody out in the 4th inning, Arrieta managed to give up just one run, keeping the score at 2-0.
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Although the start may not have been very Arrieta-esque, the reigning Cy Young Award winner still managed to pitch five innings of three-run ball (two earned), striking out seven batters. He did give up six hits and four walks, but keeping the game in striking distance for the Cubs was a positive.
The three runs that the Nationals scored off of Arrieta were all they would wind up getting for the game. After he departed the game, the Cubs’ bullpen (Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren, Justin Grimm, Travis Wood) combined to pitch seven shutout innings, despite giving up five hits and walking six batters.
One key factor to both the Cubs’ bullpen success and the victory overall was how the team pitched to Bryce Harper, the 2015 National League MVP. For the game, Harper did not register an official at-bat, getting hit by a pitch once and walking six times (three intentionally).
Harper’s six walks in one game ties an MLB record set by former Houston Astros’ slugger Jeff Bagwell in 1999. Not only did Harper walk six times Sunday, but he had 13 free passes during the entire four-game series, which is an MLB record as well.
The Cubs were so adamant on not pitching to Harper that they were willing to put the winning run on third base if it meant not facing the Nationals’ slugger. During the top of the 10th inning, Warren walked Harper to load the bases with two outs. Obviously, the Nationals did not convert, leaving the go-ahead run on third base.
After trailing all game, the Cubs pulled through to tie the game in the 7th inning. Kris Bryant singled into right-center field, bringing in Cahill and Dexter Fowler to tie the score at 3-3.
Obviously, Bryant’s base hit is what will stand out in the box score. However, two key things proceeded the single to set the Cubs slugger up. Cahill started the inning off with a single, a surprise considering he is a relief pitcher who does not get many at-bats.
After Cahill’s single, Fowler was hit by a pitch to put two runners on base for the Cubs with no outs. What followed was the biggest key to the Cubs rally, though, as Jason Heyward decided to lay down a sacrifice bunt, moving both runners over one base and into scoring position.
Bryant’s single tied the game, a tie that held up until the bottom of the 13th inning. With one out, Javier Báez launched a home run into the left-field bleachers, giving the Cubs a 4-3 victory and 4-0 series sweep over the Nationals.
With the win, the Cubs improved their record to 24-6, their best 30-game start since they went 24-6 in 1907. Although it’s still early, the team currently holds a 7.5 game lead in the Central Division, the largest divisional lead in the entire MLB.
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Despite playing four extra innings, the Cubs get right back at it tomorrow, hosting the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field with Jon Lester on the bump. The game is at 7:05 p.m. CT and can be seen on CSN-Chicago or heard on 670 AM.