Bote Haunts Nationals Again

The last time David Bote batted against the Nationals he hit a walk off grand slam homerun in front of a national audience for Sunday night baseball. Forward to D.C. a couple weeks later and he enters as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the ninth. He gets another chance to beat the Nats batting in the tenth with a runner on second. He lines a pitch into right center just past the glove of Victor Robles for a double, driving in the go ahead run in the Cubs 6-4 win over the Nationals. Most of the baseball world has not heard of David Bote. Against the Nationals he is their nightmare.

Stephen Strasburg got the start for the Nationals. He was not sharp, throwing a lot of pitches with his velocity still sitting at 94. In the third he retired the first two hitters but became unhinged after that. Javier Baez touched him for a bloop single into left field. Anthony Rizzo beat the shift by lining a ball into right center past Wilmer Difo, who was playing in short right field. Because Baez was going on the pitch he scored easily, even though the Nationals cut the ball off before it reached the warning track. Ben Zobrist followed bouncing a single off the first base bag to score Rizzo to give the Cubs an early 2-0 lead.

The Nationals bounced back in the bottom of the fourth. Bryce Harper grounded a pitch past the first baseman into short right field. Javier Baez fielded the ball and threw to the pitcher covering first. The ball zipped past the pitcher putting Harper on and tacking an error to Baez. Anthony Rendon lined a pitch into right center for a triple, scoring Harper. With two outs Mark Reynolds drove a pitch over the left field bullpen to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead. All three runs off Kyle Hendricks were unearned, though that error against Baez was a tough call.

The lead did not last long. Ex-Nat Daniel Murphy drove a single into left field. Anthony Rizzo bounced a ground ball to third. Rendon made a back hand play of the ball, tried to make a sidearm/underhand throw to first and sailed it over the head of Reynolds. Murphy advanced to third where he would score on a Ben Zobrist fly ball.

In the bottom frame the Nationals re-captured the lead on a two out single by Trea Turner scoring Spencer Kieboom from third. Kieboom finished the day 3 for 3 to raise his average over .200. He was bunted to second by Stephen Strasburg and advanced to third on an Adam Eaton ground out.

With a 4-3 lead could the Nationals bullpen hold it? Justin Miller could not. He gave up a leadoff single to Kris Bryant in the eighth. Albert Almora followed with a single to center. Victor Robles made the throw to third, but it was too late to get Bryant and Almora advanced to second on the throw. Trea Turner made a nice back hand play on a ground ball hit by Wilson Contreras in the hole. He could not get Bryant out at home but his throw to second was able to nail Almora, who had strayed too far off second base.

With the score tied the Nationals had an opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth. A Juan Soto double into the right field corner put runners on second and third with one out. Justin Wilson, a left handed pitcher came on to relieve right hander Cal Edwards and struck out Mark Reynolds, who is a killer against left handed pitching. That was a move going against the books. Another right hander Wilmer Difo flied to shallow left to end the inning.

The walk off man Ryan Zimmerman came up in the ninth and grounded to second. That brought the game to the tenth where the hard throwing Jimmy Cordero was called on to pitch. He was short of the task. Albert Almore and David Bote hit back to back doubles to score one and Taylor Davis tacked on an insurance run with a single to right.

Jesse Chavez came on to close out the game. The Nationals rallied on a Trea Turner walk and Anthony Rendon single to put runners on first and third with one out. The Nationals super rookie Juan Soto could not get the job done, striking out and Mark Reynolds lined out to center to end the game.

Game Notes: A sparse crowd for a Cub game. Daniel Murphy was given an ovation prior to the game but there were not a lot of Nationals fans at the park. As the game continued the seats filled, but it sounded like most of the seats were occupied by Cubs fans. The attendance was announced at 32,000. It would have been a sell out if the Nationals were still in the playoff hunt…Wilson Contreras seems to be wearing down. In past seasons injuries have given him a rest during the season. He hit three weak grounders and a shallow fly ball. There appears to be no juice left in his bat…Part of me wonders if Michael Taylor might have caught that line drive hit by Bote into right center. Taylor knows how to track down fly balls. Robles seemed to make an inefficient route when trying to catch the fly ball hit by Bote…Terrence Gore came in as a pinch runner and stole second base. He now has more steals (23) than major league plate appearances (15).

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