In one of the best pitcher’s duels of the season, the Chicago Cubs walked off in grand fashion. A David Bote bomb to center gave the Cubs the best win of the season, stealing a 4-3 victory from the jaws of certain defeat.
For regular season baseball in mid-August, tonight’s game was as good as it gets. The Washington Nationals entered the contest five games back of both the second wildcard slot and first place in the NL East, facing off against a Cubs team that would have extended their NL Central lead to three games with a win. The rubber match featured perennial Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer (15-5, 2.28 ERA entering tonight) facing fellow veteran Cole Hamels (2-0, 0.82 ERA with the Cubs), making his home debut with the club. The postseason feel was palpable, and the pitching lived up to the gravity of a game this big on national TV.
The Nationals got on the board first, scoring on a sac fly after Ryan Zimmerman walked and Daniel Murphy singled to put runners on the corners with nobody out in the second inning. Hamels was able to limit the damage to one run, however, getting three quick outs after a harrowing start to the inning. Cole then retired the side for five consecutive innings, proving that run to be nothing more than a small blemish to an otherwise brilliant performance.
Undeniably dominant throughout the evening, he surrendered just one run on one hit and one walk with nine strikeouts in seven innings of work. He located his pitches at will, consistently challenged righties inside and displayed that desire to compete the Cubs knew would reveal itself when they traded for him. We don’t know how this story ends quite yet, but Cole Hamels could prove to be indispensable come playoff time.
Scherzer, meanwhile, pitched as advertised. With six strikeouts through four innings, Max was absolutely dominant. Mixing up his pitches, the strikeouts came from every weapon in his arsenal. Cubs hitters were uncomfortable and off-balanced, not appearing to have a clue how to handle him. Although they sprinkled in a couple hits and a few good at-bats, the first actual scoring threat came with two outs in the seventh inning. In a game of this magnitude, with the Nationals clinging to their playoff hopes, Mad Max was everything one expected him to be.
As for the scoring threat? Albert Almora doubled with two outs in the seventh, and after a 3-0 count to Kyle Schwarber, the Nats elected to intentionally walk him to face Willson Contreras. Willson had looked helpless against Scherzer all evening, and after quickly falling behind 1-2, he battled before striking out on a brilliant 2-2 change-up.
Joe Maddon pulled Hamels in favor of Carl Edwards in the eighth, who delivered a clean inning, striking out two. Davey Martinez responded by pulling Scherzer after 106 pitches, going with recently-recalled Koda Glover.
Pinch-hitting for Hamels, Tommy La Stella led-off the bottom of the eighth with a single, giving the Cubs their first lead-off runner — and proving once again how invaluable he is to this team. After two quick outs, Javier Baez battled before rolling over on a breaking ball. Javy being Javy, he hustled down the line, turning a routine ground out into a bang-bang play that, after review, was ruled an out. While the mini-rally proved fruitless, it was good to see both Tommy continuing to excel in his role and Baez’ hustle nearly giving the Cubs a stolen hit in a huge situation.
Brandon Kintzler entered in the ninth for the Cubs, and after getting into a jam, Maddon paid a mound visit. A brief discussion later he stuck with Kintzler, intentionally walking Bryce Harper to face Zimmerman. It was a curious move for several reasons, sticking with Kintzler while loading the bases for a red-hot hitter. A two-run single later and the backfire put the game out of reach for the Cubs, suddenly down 3-0.
Then came the ninth. Jason Heyward hit a one out infield single before Almora was hit by a pitch, granting the Cubs a chance to hit with the tying run at the plate in Schwarber. After Schwarber popped up in foul territory, Contreras was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with two outs. On a 2-2 count, David Bote hit the biggest home run of the season. This was surreal, and I’m still shaking as I type.
The euphoria of this game is beyond impossible. Bote, the #EverybodyIn darling that has won over Cubs Nation, made the swing that will be the most beautiful this regular season has to offer. And with a three-game lead to match that impossible feeling, it’s a great time to be a Cubs fan.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 13, 2018
Next Up For The Cubs
The Cubs return to action Tuesday afternoon, hosting the Milwaukee Brewers for a quick two-game set. Jose Quintana will take the mound for the Cubs, and he’s 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA against the Brewers this year. Jhoulys Chacin will be taking the mound for Milwaukee, and while he’s struggled of late, he’s had a solid season overall with an 11-4 record and 3.91 ERA.
This two-game set will continue the playoff narrative that’s becoming more prevalent. A split would be palatable, a sweep euphoric.
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