Game Sixty-Three – Cubs 4, Nationals 3
WP – Hector Rondon (1-1, BS 1) LP – Sammy Solis (1-2) Save – None
Albert Almora Jr. stepped to the plate for his first at bat of the night with one out in the ninth inning and the game tied at three. Addison Russell worked a walk to start the ninth. David Ross bunted him to second. And it was up to the youngest player on the Cubs’ roster with the go ahead run in scoring position.
Albert Almora Jr. ripped the first pitch from Sammy Solis into left center. Russell raced to third and Gary Jones waived him in. Russell scored as Almora Jr. slid in at second with a double. Almora Jr. showed raw emotion on the field that can only be made by a rookie delivering the first big hit of his career. The Cubs bench exploded with excitement and support of their teammate.
Hector Rondon was left in for the ninth inning after blowing his first save in 22 chances in the eighth inning. Rondon made quick work of the Nationals with help from a sensational play by Javier Baez. And the Cubs beat the Nationals on Tuesday night in the Nation’s Capital.
Two of the best teams in the National League went toe-to-toe for the sixth time this season. On a night it appeared the Cubs had let one slip away, Joe Maddon’s team picked themselves up and won a game.
The Cubs took a 3-1 lead into the seventh inning. Jason Heyward (1-for-5 with two RBI) delivered a two-out, two-run single in the third that allowed John Lackey (1-for2 with a run scored) and Dexter Fowler (2-for-5 with a double and a run scored) to score and give the Cubs a 2-0 lead. The Nationals scored a run in the bottom of the third on the first of three sacrifice flies on the night. David Ross (1-for-2 with a walk, a sac bunt and a RBI) singled in Ben Zobrist (1-for-3 with a double, a walk and a run scored) in the fourth for the Cubs’ third run.
The Nationals cut the Cubs lead in half in the seventh with a sacrifice fly by Ben Revere that plated Danny Espinosa. The Cubs could not add on to the lead in the eighth and went to the home half clinging to a 3-2 lead.
Travis Wood started the eighth and issued a leadoff walk to Bryce Harper. After Daniel Murphy lined out to Fowler, Maddon went to his pen for Hector Rondon. Ryan Zimmerman singled to right. Harper motored to third with one out. Anthony Rendon lifted a 3-2 pitch from Rondon to right. Harper tagged, scored and tied the game at three. Rondon struck out Danny Espinosa to send it to the ninth tied at three.
Addison Russell (0-for-2 with two walks and a run scored) led off the ninth and walked on five pitches. David Ross bunted him to second and set it up for Albert Almora Jr. (1-for-1 with a double and a RBI) to create a moment he will never forget.
Jason Heyward had a good night at the plate. Heyward drove in the Cubs first two runs with a two-out single in the third. David Ross came through in the fourth with a single to center that plated Ben Zobrist. And with the way John Lackey was pitching, three runs appeared to be all the Cubs would need to even the series.
John Lackey started the seventh and faced two batters before Maddon went to his bullpen. Lackey hit his second batter on the night, Danny Espinosa, to start the seventh. Jose Lobaton followed with a double and put the tying runs in scoring position with no outs. Maddon called on Pedro Strop and he limited the damage to one run with an excellent outing. Strop struck out two of the three batters he faced and gave up the sac fly to Ben Revere to keep it a one run game.
John Lackey allowed two runs on four hits with two walks, two HBP and seven strikeouts. Lackey made 98 pitches, 64 for strikes, in six-plus innings.
The Cubs scored four runs on seven hits with five walks. And two of those free passes scored.
With Tuesday’s win, the Cubs improved to 44-19 on the season.
The Cubs wrap up the series and season series with the Nationals on Wednesday afternoon (3:05pm CDT). Jason Hammel is scheduled to face Stephen Strasburg.