Wow…simply, WOW. After outscoring the Chicago Cubs 22-7 in the first three games of this series, the Nationals (85-52) piled on nine more as they easily completed the sweep of the struggling Cubbies this Thursday night. Final score: 9-2, in a game that saw everything but the kitchen sink. That includes multiple helpings of Bryce Harper base running magic, two more Nationals homeruns, and two BENCHES-CLEARING confrontations, which I will address later.
While the Nats’ offense will grab most of the credit tonight, Jordan Zimmermann (W, 10-8) was absolutely sensational. Except for a first inning home run to Anthony Rizzo and a couple of triples that allowed Starlin Castro to score in the 2nd, J-Zimm would remain in a groove through seven strong, giving up only five hits, a walk, and the two runs while striking out nine in the process. Coming into tonight, Zimmermann had lost three of his last four starts, but this outing definitely put him back on track as the postseason rapidly approaches.
Watching Jordan Zimmermann dazzle the hometown crowd was nice, but the real fun certainly occurred when the Nats came to the plate throughout the evening. Bryce Harper would quickly make his start worthwhile, as he laced a triple in the left-center gap to open the bottom of the 1st. Ryan Zimmerman would follow with a routine groundout to the second baseman that of course Harper was able to score on in a close play at the plate…1-1 through one. The DC offense wouldn’t cease, as in the 2nd an Ian Desmond double and Danny Espinosa HBP would allow Kurt Suzuki to jack a 3-run homer and put the Nats up 4-2! From there, this star-studded playoff team would not look back. The Nats added three more runs in the 4th on a Harper RBI single and Zimmerman 2-RBI single to bring the score to a wide 7-2, and two more on an Adam LaRoche 2-run shot in the 7th to complete the scoring at 9-2. This was LaRoche’s fourth straight game with a homer, and he now has six jacks and eleven RBIs in his last 21 at-bats.
Things would get very interesting in the bottom of the 5th. Nats’ third base coach Bo Porter seemed to be verbally attacked by Cubs’ bench coach Jamie Quirk, who seemed baffled and appalled at the Nationals’ continued aggressive play even against a team like this lowly Chicago squad. Porter clearly took offense to the unkind words coming from the Cubs dugout. Next thing we viewers realize, both benches and bullpens take the field! No shots were thrown at this time, mainly confusion. To the crowd’s pleasure, Quirk was indeed ejected. To make matters worse, Cubs reliever Lendy Castillo clearly attempted to hit Bryce Harper on the first pitch in the bottom of the 6th. We could all see this coming, as Harper immediately took steps toward the mound and both benches and bullpens would clear once again! This time, physical shoving would immediately ensue following a thrust by Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger on Michael Morse. While Castillo was not tossed, Clevenger, Cubs pitcher Manny Corpas, and Nationals reliever Mike Gonzalez would all be ejected.
Champ of the Game: Lots to choose from this evening, but Suzuki gets the nod. He went 3-5 with three hits, two runs, and three RBIs and sealed the Nats’ fate with his homer in the 2nd.
For the Cubs, Anthony Rizzo was the only one to really get things going. He went 3-4 with his four-bagger in the 1st.
Chump of the Game: While he was indeed able to score, Jason Werth was the only non-pitching starter to fail to get a hit in this one. It pains me to give this “award” because no National truly deserves it.
The immature Cubs’ bench coach Jamie Quirk…enough said.
Unsung Heroes: Tons of choices here, but I have to go with not only Zimmermann but also recent call-up Christian Garcia. After tearing up the Triple-A season for Syracuse, Garcia successfully pitched the last one and a third innings of tonight’s contest giving up just one hit.