Chicago Cubs pull off improbable comeback, take 2-1 lead in NLDS
By Jake Misener
The Chicago Cubs sit just one win shy of a third-straight NLCS appearance after Anthony Rizzo and Albert Almora Jr. helped pull off an amazing victory.
Held hitless through six innings by Max Scherzer, the Chicago Cubs scratched and clawed their way to a 2-1 win Monday at Wrigley Field. Once again, it was the role players who set up the deciding blow delivered by none other than Anthony Rizzo.
Pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella drew a leadoff walk to get things started in the bottom of the eighth. After Jon Jay bunted him over and Kris Bryant struck out, Rizzo dug in for the deciding at-bat. The Cubs first baseman dropped a ball in between three Nationals players in shallow left-center field, scoring what proved to be the winning run.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh, the Cubs finally broke into the hit column. After Willson Contreras struck out to lead things off, Ben Zobrist delivered a double into the left-center field gap to break up the no-no.
That’s all it took. Washington manager Dusty Baker made the long walk to the mound, and after a lengthy discussion with Scherzer, he made a move to the pen, ending his right-hander’s afternoon. The two-time Cy Young winner was visibly unhappy with the decision – and it proved to be one that came back to bite the Nationals.
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
After Baker went to the left-hander Sammy Solis, Joe Maddon countered with pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr. A nearly-.400 pinch hitter in the regular season, the young outfielder came through with a game-tying single.
Defensive miscues abound for the Cubs
It seemed like everything came full-circle in this one. Almora pinch-hit for Kyle Schwarber, who was the cause of the lone Nats’ tally. With two outs, Daniel Murphy hit a fly ball down the left-field line. Schwarber headed to his right to make the play, but botched the catch. He followed that by flinging the ball with his glove trying to pick it up.
Murphy raced to third and just like that, Jose Quintana‘s day ended. Maddon went to Pedro Strop, who promptly allowed an RBI double to Ryan Zimmerman. With the Cubs still being no-hit, things seemed bleak, to say the least.
That is, until the offense followed Bill Murray‘s seventh inning stretch with a rally that brought 42,000-plus to their feet at the Confines.
It wasn’t a pretty game. That’s for sure. Jason Heyward had a boneheaded base running play to end the seventh, as he was doubled off at first by Michael A. Taylor. And, as a team, the Cubs committed four errors on the afternoon.
What playoff jitters?
Entering Game 3, no one knew what we’d see from Scherzer or Quintana. But both men answered their team’s respective calls. As for Quintana, in his first-ever postseason appearance, he turned in 5 2/3 innings, allowing one unearned runs and striking out seven.
The left-hander pitched with no margin for error. Add the postseason nerves of making a debut to the fact your offense is being no-hit and you have the recipe for a high-stakes start.
But he answered the call masterfully.
Next: It's time to bring back the captain title for Cubs' Rizzo
Chicago goes for a third-consecutive National League Championship Berth Tuesday at Wrigley.
Jake Arrieta makes his return from the disabled list against Illinois native Tanner Roark.