The first series was played in June, when the Cubs were struggling and the Nats were building a big lead in the N.L. East. Even so, that series was split, two games each.
In August, when the teams met at Wrigley Field, the Cubs had just lost two of three to the Diamondbacks, but were in first place. The Nats were coasting, entering the series with a 12-game lead in their division.
Here’s a brief summary of all seven Cubs/Nats regular-season contests.
Here’s how long ago this one was: Eddie Butler was the Cubs starter. And he put together an excellent outing, five shutout innings allowing just four hits. The Cubs posted single runs in the first inning (a home run by Willson Contreras) and the eighth. Meanwhile, Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop, Koji Uehara, Brian Duensing and Justin Grimm shut the Nats down through the eighth — partly with the help of another amazing Javier Baez catch:
The Cubs scored three times in the ninth to run out to a 5-0 lead, so Hector Rondon began the ninth. This did not go well. Hector gave up a leadoff double and then a run-scoring single with one out to make it 5-1. That brought in Wade Davis, but he wasn’t any better. Davis allowed back-to-back doubles that made it 5-3.
After a walk and a strikeout, Bryce Harper came to bat. He looped a single just out of Javy’s reach that didn’t quite get far enough to score a run, but now the bases are loaded. Davis wild-pitched in a run to make it 5-4, but then struck out Ryan Zimmerman to end it.
This is the one that should scare all of us as this series begins. Max Scherzer hit the first batter he faced (Anthony Rizzo, during his leadoff stint) and Kris Bryant tripled Rizzo in. But then the Nats ace allowed just one further baserunner in completing a six-inning, two-hit stint (Tommy La Stella doubled off him in the third).
This was the game when the Nats ran like crazy off Jake Arrieta and Miguel Montero, prompting Montero’s rant to reporters after the game that got him designated for assignment. Trea Turner stole four bases, Michael A. Taylor stole two and Anthony Rendon had one:
#Cubs: first time allowing 7 Stolen Bases in a game since they allowed 7 in an 11-inning game 9/28/1995 vs Astros— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 28, 2017
7 SB allowed by Miguel Montero is most in a game by a #Cubs catcher since Joe Girardi allowed 8 on 6/3/1990 vs Cardinals— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 28, 2017
Seems like more than just three months ago, doesn’t it?
The Nats hit John Lackey early and often, with three home runs (Anthony Rendon, Matt Wieters and Daniel Murphy) and scored eight runs off Lackey in 5⅓ innings.
Stephen Strasburg was dominant, striking out 13 in seven innings, although Willson Contreras homered off him.
There’s not too much more to say about this one.
Jon Lester threw six solid innings and when Jeimer Candelario (remember him?) hit his first major-league home run off Joe Ross in the top of the seventh, it looked like the Cubs would squeak out a win and a split.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good day for Carl Edwards Jr. He walked Daniel Murphy and then Anthony Rendon hit a home run for a 3-2 Nats lead. Brian Duensing entered and allowed a hit, and then Pedro Strop hit Trea Turner to load the bases. Brian Goodwin singled to give the Nats a two-run cushion and it looked like the Cubs were done, especially with two out and just one man on base in the ninth.
That man was Victor Caratini, who had forced Jeimer Candelario at second after Candelario was hit by Nats reliever Blake Treinen. Caratini wasn’t held so he took second on defensive indifference, which might not have mattered except Javier Baez then singled, with Caratini holding at third. Tommy La Stella also singled, scoring Caratini, and that brought up Jon Jay:
Jay’s double into the gap scored Baez and TLS and the Cubs had the lead. Wade Davis set the Nats down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth and the Cubs had a hard-earned series split.
This was the Daniel Murphy show. He homered twice off Kyle Hendricks, a two-run shot in the first inning and solo blast in the sixth, and that would be all the runs the Nats would need.
Javy Baez homered off Tanner Roark with a runner on base in the seventh to make it 3-2, but in the seventh a walk and two singles off Carl Edwards Jr. loaded the bases and Anthony Rendon hit a sacrifice fly for an insurance run.
Our old buddy Edwin Jackson started this game and the Cubs teed off on him in the first inning. Alex Avila hit a two-run homer as part of a four-run first. Bryce Harper had homered off John Lackey in the top of the first, but after that inning the Cubs never trailed.
Willson Contreras also homered in this game, part of a tremendous hot streak he was on in early August before he was injured in San Francisco. He hit .324/.361/.824 (11-for-34) with five home runs in only nine August games prior to the hamstring injury.
The season series between the teams was tied going into this game, so the winner would take the series, which at the time seemed as if it might be meaningful for home field in this NLDS matchup. This game was one of those “much closer than the final score indicated” contests.
The Cubs set out as though they were going to take this game. Jon Lester threw six solid innings and the Cubs took a 4-1 lead into the seventh, thanks in part to two homers from Willson Contreras and another by Kyle Schwarber.
But Lester ran out of gas in the seventh and gave up a pair of doubles and a sacrifice fly that made it 4-3. Mike Montgomery finished the inning without incident, but when he allowed a one-out single to Bryce Harper in the eighth, Carl Edwards Jr. entered in relief. CJ gave up a double that put runners on second and third and then Daniel Murphy was intentionally passed.
That’s usually a good idea because Murphy just kills the Cubs, but CJ then hit Anthony Rendon to force in a run with his next pitch and on the very next pitch after that, Matt Wieters hit a grand slam.
Yikes. That’s five runs scoring on two pitches, and instead of leading by a run, the Cubs were down by four. Brian Goodwin added a solo homer off Koji Uehara in the ninth to complete the scoring.
The Nats outscored the Cubs 38-29 in the seven games, and two of the Cubs’ three wins were by one run. As you can see from the summaries, quite a number of players who played key roles in these games won’t be in this postseason series. It’s an intriguing matchup and it’s clear that if the Cubs are to win it, they’ll have to get good pitching and solve the Scherzer/Gonzalez/Strasburg trio.