Before I get to all the good stuff about the Cubs' 5-2 win over the Nationals, including Ben Zobrist's big day, let's take a look at the two pitches that got Dexter Fowler ejected for the first time in his big-league career.
Here's the one in the first inning:
Cubs Strike Zone (@CubsUmp) May 6, 2016
And here's the one where he was called out on strikes to end the third:
Both of those were pretty egregious misses by plate umpire Vic Carapazza; as you can see, only a fairly small percentage of calls on similar pitches have been the same as the calls Carapazza made. And here's what Fowler said about what happened:
#Cubs Fowler: "I just asked what the strike zone is. I was curious what the strike zone is, and he threw me out for asking a question"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 6, 2016
Fowler has a reputation as one of baseball's nice guys. It was really surprising to see him tossed like that, and in my opinion umpires shouldn't have that much of a short fuse. In general a respectful question about the zone should be answered. This video, I think, shows Carapazza didn't really have much cause to eject Fowler:
In any case, the ejection meant that Jason Heyward, who took BP on Thursday but who wasn't supposed to play the field until Friday, had to trot out to center field. He didn't even touch the baseball in the field until the ninth inning, when he made a couple of catches, one of them a nice running grab.
Now, let's get back to the fun stuff. The game was scoreless when Fowler got tossed, but the Cubs immediately got to work in their next at-bat. Tommy La Stella led off the fourth with a single, and then Kris Bryant did this:
That missed being a home run by maybe four or five feet, but when it disappeared into the still-growing ivy, TLS had to stop at third. Anthony Rizzo walked to load the bases, and then it was Zobrist's turn:
Rizzo was thrown out by Bryce Harper trying to take third base on a close play that was ruled "call stands" when challenged by Joe Maddon. But the Cubs had a 2-0 lead that was held very, very nicely by Kyle Hendricks.
Hendricks, who hadn't pitched in nine days due to his turn being skipped as a result of the two rainouts last week, was sharp. He allowed just two hits and two walks, got eight ground-ball outs, and only one Nats runner (Michael Taylor, who doubled) got past first base against him.
Clayton Richard, Justin Grimm and Pedro Strop held the Nats scoreless through the eighth inning, though Strop got a bit wild, hitting Danny Espinosa and walking pinch-hitter Clint Robinson before getting out of the inning on a double play. It was the second time Espinosa had been hit during the game, which might have resulted in Ryan Kalish also getting hit in the eighth. That HBP was after Zobrist, with TLS on base, extended the Cubs' lead to 4-0:
Zobrist now has 20 RBI, second on the team and tied for 12th in the National League. It was the 15th game of his career with four or more RBI. And as it's been all year so far, it's nice to see everyone contribute.
Addison Russell completed the Cubs' scoring with an RBI double after Kalish was hit. As you know, Joe Maddon doesn't like to get into the hit-batsman retaliatory games that some managers play, and I hope that wasn't Dusty Baker's intention. Hendricks had been hit earlier after Espinosa was plunked the first time. I wouldn't want this series to devolve into a beanball war.
The only discordant note on this one was Travis Wood's one bad pitch to Jayson Werth after getting to within one strike of completing the shutout. Werth homered, with Harper on base via a walk, to make it 5-2 and Maddon summoned Hector Rondon, who finished it off with just four pitches, getting Wilson Ramos to hit a soft liner to Rizzo.
The only thing Werth's homer did was take this one out of the category of "blowouts," where the Cubs are 13-2 so far this year. Werth, incidentally, took a great deal of heckling from the left-field bleachers throughout the game, with fans yelling "Werth-less" at him, more creative heckling than I've heard in a while.
So the Cubs keep on rolling with their fourth straight win. They still haven't lost consecutive games and it's already their fourth winning streak of at least four games. Harper, who entered the game in a 4-for-30 slump, did single and walk three times, but neither he nor any of his teammates (except for Werth and his homer) showed much offense, ending up with just three hits.
Thursday night was chilly at the ballpark, but not nearly as cool as it was last week, and by the middle innings the wind had totally died down. Friday afternoon's supposed to be quite different, with temperatures in the mid 70s, sunshine and the wind, maybe, even blowing out a bit.
John Lackey will face Max Scherzer. The game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CT.