Addison Russell won this game with a walkoff double in the ninth inning, but that wasn't the story of the game. The story was the first homer to hit one of the video boards, hit by Kris Bryant.
The Cubs were 25-20 after this win, still in second place, but now 4½ games behind the first-place Cardinals.
And when Addison Russell's double that landed just out of the reach of Nats center fielder Denard Span scored Jonathan Herrera with the winning run in then Cubs' 3-2 victory, the rest of the team chased him all the way into center field and mobbed him and piled on him. Be careful, Cubs! You're going to need this guy for years to come!
Before that, the only runs that had been scored in the entire series were on solo homers. Monday, it was Span and Wilson Ramos for the Nats and Kris Bryant for the Cubs.
Span's Monday homer had led off thes game, so Dexter Fowler decided he'd match that Tuesday on a ball that at first didn't look like it had the distance. But a strong west-southwest wind pushed Fowler's ball into the empty right-field bleachers and the Cubs had a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Kyle Hendricks then picked up where he'd left off in San Diego last Thursday. For six innings he was throwing his game -- lots of ground balls for outs. Over his full seven-inning outing Hendricks gave up just four hits and a walk and recorded 13 outs on ground balls, a couple of them on slick defensive plays by Russell and Starlin Castro. It got to the point where I started checking this: Who was the last Cubs pitcher to throw back-to-back complete-game shutouts?
That hasn't happened in almost 28 years. Steve Trout did it July 6, 1987 against the Padres and July 11, 1987 against the Dodgers. Those were the last starts Trout (no relation to Mike Trout) threw for the Cubs. Two days after the second of those, he was traded to the Yankees in a deal that would have worked out for the Cubs if they had only kept the guy they got -- Bob Tewksbury. They gave up on him after a year and a half and he wound up having several good years for the Cardinals. Meanwhile, Trout never pitched well at all after those two games.
Perhaps Hendricks will someday do this. In any case, his potential second straight blanking vanished when he allowed a leadoff homer to Bryce Harper in the seventh. With his batting-order slot coming up in the bottom of the inning, Joe Maddon let him finish the frame, which he did without further incident.
The game went to the eighth tied and Pedro Strop quickly dispatched the first two hitters he faced. Span, who isn't really a home-run hitter (his career high is eight), then smashed his second in as many days to give the Nats a 2-1 lead, and with their solid bullpen lined up, it didn't look good for the Cubs.
That's when Bryant demonstrated power we haven't seen from a Cub in many years. Bryant ran the count full against Nats reliever Aaron Barrett and then hit a monstrous home run that hit halfway up the left-field video board, the first game home run to hit the board (there's been at least one BP ball that hit it). Had that ball been hit last year, with the smaller bleacher structure and no board, it would have landed across Waveland on the north side of the street. According to ESPN's Home Run Tracker, that was a 463-foot homer, the eighth-longest of 2015 so far. If you didn't see it or want to see it again:
You can't really see the ball hit the board in that video, but it made a loud "thwack" sound that could be heard throughout the left-field bleachers. Incidentally, this article says the ball went 477 feet. So who knows for sure?
Hector Rondon threw a scoreless ninth, but only after some sketchy baserunning by the Nats. Yunel Escobar led off the ninth with a single and stole second. Rondon retired the next two hitters and then ran the count full on Ramos. In a situation like that, full count, two out, baserunners usually take off. Not Escobar. He kind of danced around halfway between second and third and after Ramos fouled off a 3-2 pitch, he did it again as Rondon prepared to make his next pitch. That allowed Rondon to step off and throw directly to third, where Bryant tagged him out.
For some reason, Nats manager Matt Thornton (who had only thrown 12 pitches) for another lefthander, Matt Grace (no relation to Mark). With one out, Chris Coghlan singled. The inning might have ended on Herrera's ground ball. It looked like a sure double-play ball, and on this one, give Coghlan a lot of credit. He made a hard, but clean, breakup slide into second and Ian Desmond's relay throw wound up in the first-base dugout, allowing Herrera to take second.lifted lefthander
That set up Russell's heroics. Russell had his first three-hit game as a big-leaguer, and as noted earlier, played sparkling defense. He'll still have his growing pains at this level, I'm sure, but that might have been a coming-of-age game for him, and a big win for the Cubs.
A strong but brief rainshower passed through the area from about 5:15 to 5:30, enough for the grounds crew to be delayed in pre-game preparations and so the game was delayed 15 minutes at the start. Even so, it finished in a snappy two hours, 33 minutes, this despite being an ESPN-featured game, which meant the inning breaks were timed to 2:45 instead of 2:25. The extra 20 seconds per half-inning adds six minutes to game time. Despite that, the Cubs have already played nine games shorter than 2:40 this year. They played 16 such games all of last year, and this is true even though Cubs hitters have been working counts and seeing more pitches per at-bat than almost any other team. A big part of the quicker games, I think, is Cubs pitchers not giving up walks. Their total of 113 walks is fifth-best in the major leagues. Last year Cubs pitchers ranked 24th in this category. That's a significant change and not only results in faster games, but more wins, which is obviously more important.
One more note: with this game the Cubs have played 16 one-run games this month. I haven't been able to locate any specific records for that, but 16 (out of 24) seems like a lot. They're 8-8 in those 16 games.
Many of you might have watched the ESPN coverage of this game. ESPN's Doug Glanville set up in the left-field bleachers right next to our seats and you might have seen me and my group on some of the shots. That can't be an easy assignment, sitting at a small table with just a monitor and a headset connecting him with the rest of the broadcast crew:
There was an ESPN technician there, but she was mostly just monitoring the equipment.
The Cubs will go for the series win and there's a top-notch pitching matchup for tonight's game (which goes back to the normal night-game time of 7:05 CT): Jon Lester vs. Max Scherzer.