Last year Joe Maddon got into the heads of Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. He walked Bryce six times in one game, a number intentionally to face Ryan Zimmerman, who failed to drive in the city of runners he left on base. Both would go on to have less than stellar years.
Yesterday both Harper and Zimmerman got a little revenge against Maddon. Harper launched a mammoth two run shot in the eighth that settled into the second deck over the Nationals bullpen that tied the game at 3-3. In the same inning Zimmerman lifted a fly ball into left field that just cleared the fence for a three run homer to give the Nationals a 6-3 lead.
The game started well for the Nationals when Anthony Rendon lined a pitch into the right field bullpen with two outs in the first inning for an early 1-0 lead. That was the only hit the Nationals could muster off Jon Lester through the first four innings. It was shades of the previous night when they could only collect two hits in nine innings.
The Cubs got back early in the game when Wilson Contreras powered a pitch down the left field line for a second inning leadoff homer to tie the game 1-1. Gio Gonzalez like Jon Lester would settle down after that blast and not allow a hit until the fourth.
In the fourth Kris Bryant lined a double over the head of Jayson Werth to lead off the inning. Anthony Rizzo hit a high fly ball into right that a Cubs fan caught just over the fence for a two run homer. The Nationals appealed that the Cubs fan reached over the fence to rob Bryce Harper of an opportunity to make the catch but the appeal was denied after looking at the replay. Gio worked five innings before Dusty Baker went to the bullpen.
In the bottom of the fifth Ryan Zimmerman led the inning off with a slow bouncer up the middle for their second hit of the game. After two fly outs Zimmerman baited Lester to throw to first, taking a lead that was almost one third of the way to second. Lester did not throw to first and Zimmerman stole second with a huge jump. A wild pitch advanced him to third with two outs. Michael Taylor worked a walk and Howie Kendrick pinch hit for Gio and also walked to load the bases. That brought up Trea Turner. Trea swung at and missed at what appeared to be a outside fastball for strike three to continue the frustration of Nationals fans watching the anemic bats flail.
The Nationals could not get another hit until the eighth. Lester worked six and Pedro Strop hit Wieters with two outs in the seventh but retired Taylor to leave the Nats struggling to find base runners. The bullpen of Matt Albers, Sammy Solis, Ryan Madson and Oliver Perez quieted the Cubs bats through eight, leaving the score at 3-1 entering the home half of the eighth.
Adam Lind pinch hit for Oliver Perez and does what he does best, singling into left field. A faster runner would have gotten to second, but for Nats fans it was a hit. Harper worked the count to 3-1 and then launched a pitch into the full moon, landing in the second deck high above the right field bullpen to tie the game 3-3. The crowd had something to cheer about. Myworld does not recall a “N-A-T-S Nats, Nats, Nats” cheer for the two runs but too many people were slapping high fives maybe they forgot or perhaps myworld did not notice.
A walk to Anthony Rendon ended the day for Carl Edwards Jr. Mike Montgomery came on and gave up an opposite field single to left to Daniel Murphy. Ryan Zimmerman then lifted a high fly into left field. The left fielder drifted back, appeared to have caught the ball, but once he could not produce the ball from his glove the crowd realized it had just cleared the fence into the first row. Zimmerman made the leap just before touching first and it was 6-3 Nats.
Sean Doolittle came on for the ninth. He provided a little bit of excitement by giving up a one out single to Addison Russell. Ben Zobrist grounded a 2-1 pitch to Rendon at third and he turned it into a game ending double play. The series goes back to Chicago even at 1-1.
Nats Notes: A sellout crowd of 43,860 attended the game. There were more Cubbies blue than the game on Friday night…Game three starters are scheduled to be Max Scherzer for the Nats and Jose Quintana for the Cubs…Dusty stayed loyal to Jayson Werth, starting him in left field. He was hitless for his second straight game, though he did draw a walk in the first game. Expect Howie to get a start if Jayson’s bat stays cold…The Nationals handed out red towels for the game Saturday night. There were not too many opportunities for fans to wave them until the eighth…For Adam Lind he had his first playoff at bat after 1,344 regular season games. He made the most of it by singling to left, beginning a five run rally that would send the Nationals to victory. Victor Robles pinch ran for him and scored after the Harper homer…The homerun for Rizzo was a franchise record 6 homeruns in the playoffs. He also has the record for most post season RBIs with 16.