The Washington Nationals (27-19) fell to the Chicago Cubs (25-20) in a tight 3-2 pitcher’s duel at Wrigley Field, as Addison Russell hit his first career walk-off in the bottom of the 9th. Jordan Zimmermann (4-2, 3.26 ERA) and Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 3.76) each dealt seven innings of one-run ball, leaving it to the bullpens to battle through the tie. The young stars put on a show at the plate, as 23 and 22-year old phenoms Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper each homered for their respective teams.
After a 1-2-3 top of the 1st inning for the Nats, Chicago’s center fielder Dexter Fowler lead off the game the same way Denard Span did in the first game of the series: with a home run to right field. It would be smooth sailing for the rest of the night for Zimmermann however, as he went on to shut down the Cubs’ offense to the tune of 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R (ER), 3 BB, and 5 SO. In fact, the first inning would be the only one of the game in which he allowed more than one hit.
The Cubbies lost an opportunity in the 1st after the home run when first baseman Anthony Rizzo hit a double and advanced to third on a groundout. Catcher Miguel Montero followed with a walk with two outs, but ended the inning when he got caught on the basepaths. Zimmermann threw the ball to Danny Espinosa, who proceeded to throw it home, where Wilson Ramos tagged out Rizzo.
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The Nationals would threaten in the 3rd, where Tyler Moore lead off the inning with a walk. He eventually made his way to third with two outs on a sacrifice bunt and an infield single by Span, but was left stranded when Ian Desmond grounded out to end the inning. Coincidentally, Chicago would go on to strand runners on first and third in the bottom half of the inning.
The score remained locked at 1-0 heading into the 7th, as Kyle Hendricks cruised through the Washington lineup through 18 outs. He had allowed only three hits up until Bryce Harper stepped up to the plate. On the 3-1 pitch, Harper sent Kendrick’s 89 mph fastball 364 feet into the left field seats. The score would not remain tied for long however, as an inning later Denard Span homered for the second straight game, putting Washington up 2-1.
Kris Bryant would follow up in the bottom of the 8th with a dinger of his own, blasting an Aaron Barrett slider 477 feet while knotting the game at two runs apiece. Matt Thornton took over after the home run, taking care of the next three Cubs hitters in 12 pitches. It looked like Washington could regain the lead in the top of the 9th after Yunel Escobar hit a leadoff single and stole second with two outs. However on a 3-2 count to Wilson Ramos, Escobar was caught on the basepaths for the second time of the game, and was promptly thrown out at third.
Matt Grace came on in the bottom of the 9th hoping to send the Nationals into extras. He got Jorge Soler to flyout for the first out, but then allowed a Chris Coghlan single, putting the winning run on base. Pinch hitter Jonathon Herrera followed with a grounder to Danny Espinosa, who fielded the slow roller and quickly threw it to Ian Desmond at second. Desmond caught the relay cleanly, but then threw the ball into the stands trying to turn the double play. Addison Russell would then come to the plate with two outs, where he ended the game with a double over Denard Span’s head.
Next Game: The Nationals finish the three game series with Chicago at 8:10 PM ET in the rubber match Wednesday night, as Max Scherzer (5-3, 1.67) takes on Jon Lester (4-2, 3.56) in a true battle of the aces. The game will be available on MASN and MLB Network (subject to local blackout).