This one seemed pretty big at the time, because the Nationals were a pick of many to go to the World Series. (That was before all their late-season implosions, of course.) So taking three of four from them in their park was a significant feat for the Cubs. Not only did they win the season series from the Nats, but were now 4-3 on a road trip that started with a series loss in Miami. The Cubs were 30-25 after this win, keeping pace with the Pirates (half a game behind) and Cardinals (seven games behind).
Early on, the Cubs kept trying to give this game back to the Nationals, but in the end had enough key hits and rallies to post a 6-3 win Sunday afternoon. That took the series for the Cubs three games to one, the season series from the Nats four games to three, and they moved to 4-3 on this nine-game road trip. They're also back to over .500 on the road at 15-14.
That's all good, and so the complaint department is mostly closed today. I want to crack the department door ajar just a little bit to note that Starlin Castro made yet another error, which helped lead to an unearned run. However! That was more than negated by a nice day Castro had at the plate. He went 2-for-5 with two RBI, so perhaps the off day Saturday did what was intended -- help him clear his mind and get back to his game at the plate.
Kyle Hendricks struggled a bit as well. He gave up six hits and as Len and JD mentioned on the broadcast, several of them were sharp line drives, the kinds of hits you don't like to see from Hendricks when he's on his game. Still, he managed to get through five innings with just two earned runs allowed (three total runs) and he didn't walk anyone. With the bullpen reasonably well-rested after Jason Hammel's strong performance on Saturday, Joe Maddon didn't hesitate to get Hendricks out of there.
The Cubs' offense had its best output in quite some time. The 14 hits were the most since they had 15 against the Pirates at Wrigley May 15. I especially liked the two-run sixth-inning rally that helped put the game out of reach. The Cubs scored two runs after two were out and no one on base. Anthony Rizzo doubled in that inning, his second hit of the game, and after a pair of walks loaded the bases, Nats reliever Blake Treinen wild-pitched Rizzo in. Chris Coghlan had tried to "sell" the umpires that he'd been hit by the pitch, but it didn't matter as they then put him on intentionally, setting up Castro's RBI single. The Cubs might have scored more runs in the inning, but Miguel Montero was thrown out at the plate to end the frame.
Kris Bryant also had a good day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double and a triple; Coghlan had two hits and two RBI, and Chris Denorfia, in his first game off the DL, went 3-for-5 and made a couple of nice plays in the field. Len and JD, on the game telecast, claimed they were getting tweets saying Denorfia looks like Ryan Dempster. Well... I'll let you decide:
We can afford this type of silliness, I think, after winning a series like this. The Cubs' bullpen rose to the task Sunday afternoon. Justin Grimm, James Russell and Hector Rondon threw the sixth, seventh and eighth without allowing a run. For Rondon, this was apparently an effort to let him get his groove back. He looked good, getting two outs on popups and another on a lazy fly ball. He looked like he had Ian Desmond struck out on a low pitch, but umpire Kerwin Danley apparently ruled that the ball hit Desmond's bat and then the dirt. (Not what it looked like to me on replay.)
So that left the ninth-inning save opportunity to Jason Motte, his first as a Cub. Motte was effective, throwing 97 and 98, and retired the side in order for his first save since 2012.
This was a fine, fine series win against a team that many chose pre-season as a possible World Series winner. The Cubs showed they can play tough against a good team. That can only benefit them going forward. It was the team's 30th win of the year against 25 defeats. Last year they didn't win their 30th until they had lost 40. This is definite progress!