Game Twenty-Seven – Cubs 5, Nationals 2
WP – Kyle Hendricks (2-2) LP – Joe Ross (3-1) Save – None
Ben Zobrist drove in four runs with a two-run single in the fourth and a two-run homer in the eighth. Addison Russell doubled in Ryan Kalish for the fifth run in the eighth. And Kyle Hendricks tossed six innings of shutout ball as the Cubs beat the Nationals at the old ballyard in the opener of the four-game series.
Thursday night’s game was decided in the eighth inning. Pedro Strop took the hill for the eighth with the Cubs leading 2-0. Strop hit Danny Espinosa and walked pinch-hitter Clint Robinson. Strop struck out Michael Taylor swinging with the tying runs on base. Anthony Rendon then grounded into a 4-6-3 inning ending double play with Bryce Harper on deck.
The Cubs took advantage of the Nationals poor defense again in the bottom of the eighth and added three runs after an uncharged error prolonged the inning.
On a night the Cubs had only eight hits and two walks, Ben Zobrist (2-for-4 with a home run and four RBI) delivered the offense. Zobrist put the Cubs on the board in the fourth inning with a bases loaded single to right that plated Tommy La Stella (3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored) and Kris Bryant (1-for-4 with a double and a run scored).
Ben Zobrist provided some much needed insurance in the eighth inning. After the Nationals failed to get an out when Felipe Rivero had La Stella picked off from first base, Zobrist pulled a 1-2 pitch from Rivero into the bleachers in left and gave the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
Ryan Kalish (1-for-3 with a HBP and a run scored) was hit by a pitch. Dusty Baker switched out Rivero with Shawn Kelley. And Addison Russell (1-for-4 with a double and a RBI) lifted a 2-2 pitch to deep left. Jayson Werth misplayed the ball into a double, Kalish scored and the Cubs took a 5-0 lead to the ninth.
Travis Wood started the ninth by walking Bryce Harper. After retiring Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy on fly outs to Jason Heyward in center field, Jayson Werth broke up the shutout with a long, two-run homer to left. Joe Maddon went to his pen for Hector Rondon. And four pitches later, Wilson Ramos lined out to Anthony Rizzo for the 27th out.
Kyle Hendricks found a rhythm early, kept the ball down and threw strikes throughout his six innings. Hendricks was very sharp after the long layoff. Hendricks allowed just five baserunners and three were Bryce Harper. Hendricks walked Harper twice, gave up a single to the NL MVP and picked him off first base. Only one National reached second base against Hendricks. Michael Taylor doubled with two outs in the third inning.
Kyle Hendricks was lifted after six innings and 87 pitches, 56 for strikes.
Joe Maddon used his well-rested bullpen. Clayton Richard and Justin Grimm combined on a scoreless seventh. Pedro Strop wiggled out of a jam in the eighth. Travis Wood gave up the two-run homer to Werth in the ninth before Hector Rondon nailed down the win.
Dexter Fowler was ejected after the third inning by homeplate umpire Vic Carapazza, first time Fowler has ever been thrown out of a game. Fowler was called out on strikes for the second time in as many at bats. Fowler did not agree with the call. Fowler flipped off his helmet and tossed his bat while he talked to Carapazza about the call. Fowler did not let it go and was tossed from the game. It was a bad call, even in real-time, and replays showed Fowler’s complaint was justified. Carapazza gave Fowler a little rope before threw him out.
Jason Heyward replaced Fowler in center field and played the remainder of the game.
With Thursday’s win, the Cubs improved to 21-6 on the season.
John Lackey squares off against Max Scherzer in game two of four with the Nationals on Friday afternoon (1:20pm CDT).