If anyone should be familiar with the vagaries of the wind, it should be Cubs fans. Blame it on the wind. Blame it on the Cubs bullpen or blame it on the Nationals hitters, but the Cubs lost game two of the National League Division Series 6-3 to the Washington Nationals. The best-of-five series is now tied at one game a piece.
The wind was carrying anything up in the air. In the bottom of the first, third baseman Anthony Rendon hit a lazy fly ball to right field off Cubs starter Jon Lester . . .that carried all the way into the Nationals bullpen. The Nats had a 1-0 lead after one inning.
The lead didn’t last long. In the top of the second inning, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras hit a really high fly to left field off Gio Gonzalez. . .that once again carried its way into the seats. The game was tied 1-1 in the second.
Both starters settled in and retired the side in order in the third. But the Cubs broke through in the fourth off of Gonzalez. Kris Bryant led off the inning with a double and then Anthony Rizzo, who has always struggled off of Gio Gonzalez, decided to sit on a curve ball, letting a fat fastball down the zone go by for a strike. He got the curve on the next pitch and deposited it over the right field fence. The Nationals asked for a video review on the play, claiming there may have been fan interference on the play. However, replay confirmed the call of home run.
In the fifth inning, Jon Lester was challenged for the only time of the game. Ryan Zimmerman led off the fifth inning with a single, only the second hit of the game for the Nats. Lester retired the next two batters easily, but then he struggled to find the zone. Zimmerman stole second base and went to third on a wild pitch and then Lester walked both Michael Taylor and pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick. But with the bases loaded and two outs, both Contreras and pitching coach Chris Bosio went out to talk to Lester. You could tell that Lester wanted to have a John Lackey moment out there and tell the two of them go do something anatomically impossible. But instead, he just bit his tongue and struck out Trea Turner to end the Nats uprising.
The Cubs kept that 3-1 lead into the eighth inning. Carl Edwards Jr. came out to start the inning and he gave up a base hit to pinch hitter Adam Lind. After Turner struck out, Bryce Harper came to the plate. Harper has struggled the whole series. Despite being healthy, his timing at the plate is clearly messed up after missing six weeks. (And that says a lot about what Kyle Schwarber did in the World Series last year.) But Edwards hung a curveball up and down the middle of the plate to Harper and even a poor hitter would have driven it. Harper crushed it into the right field seats: no wind necessary. Tie ballgame.
Edwards continued to struggle with control after giving up the tying home run to Harper. He walked Rendon and then manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen and summoned Mike Montgomery to face Cub-killer Daniel Murphy. Murphy only singled off Montgomery, but it put two on with only one out.
That brought up Zimmerman, and he took high changeup and hit an easy fly ball to left field. . . that carried . . .and carried . . .all the way over the wall for a three-run home run. When Zimmerman hit that ball, I thought Ben Zobrist in left field had it all the way. I think Zobrist thought he had it, until he ran into the wall.
Nats closer Sean Doolittle came on to pitch the ninth. He gave up a one-out single to Addison Russell, but Zobrist then hit into a double play to end the game.
So the Cubs and Nationals come back to Wrigley with the series tied a game a piece. It’s disappointing how this game ended, but if you would have been offered a split in Washington on Friday morning, you would have taken it, right? It’s now a best-of-three series with the Cubs holding home field advantage now.
Keep your “W” flags handy. The season isn’t over yet.