This was a well played game of baseball. Well it wasn't a great day at the plate for either team, but it was certainly great pitched baseball. The two offenses each scored more runs in the ninth inning than both teams scored combined in the first eight innings. The legend of David Bote continues to grow and Cole Hamels continues to look like vintage Cole Hamels.
The two pitchers pitched through six and half innings with the two aces (or to be more truthful a current and former ace) matching each other nearly pitch for pitch. The two allowed just two base runners through the bottom of the seventh with two outs. The difference early on was that Hamels started the second inning by walking Ryan Zimmerman. Daniel Murphy doubled to move the slow footed Zimmerman to third base. Mark Reynolds hit a ball deep into right field. Jason Heyward's throw might have beat Zimmerman to the plate but it was offline to allow the first run.
Max Scherzer struck out nine in the first six innings of the game. The Cubs avoided a no hitter early with Kyle Schwarber's two out single in the second inning. Anthony Rizzo singled in the third with two outs. The Cubs wouldn't put a runner in scoring position until the seventh inning. Albert Almora Jr. roped a Scherzer fastball down the left field line for a hustle double. Kyle Schwarber was intentionally walked, but Scherzer struck out Willson Contreras for his eleventh strikeout.
Carl Edwards Jr. was the first Cubs reliever and he continued the trend making quick work of the Nationals in the eighth. Tommy La Stella finally got his at bat in the bottom half of the frame. La Stella rolled a single back up the middle for the Cubs fourth hit off the first Nats reliever. Koda Glover then retired the next Cubs hitters faced. Javier Báez hit a groundball to third baseman Mark Reynold who defensively was known as an occasionally okay hitter. His throw was slow and Javy was initially ruled safe. The play was reviewed and yet another replay went against the Cubs way to end the frame.
Brandon Kintzler was called on to start the ninth inning. Trea Turner bounced a ball down the left field line. The speedy Turner reached third as Kyle Schwarber misplayed a tough bounce off the wall. Kintzler walked Juan Soto and then Joe Maddon elected to face Ryan Zimmerman by walking Bryce Haper to load the bases. Zimmerman smacked a flat sinker back up the middle to drive in a pair of runs. Maddon called on Justin Wilson. The lefties command was suspect at times but he was effective in inducing a pop out from Daniel Murphy. Wilson got Mark Reynolds on a generous called strike on the first pitch count. The damage was done as the Nats now held a 3-0 lead.
Ryan Madson is the current Nationals closer, and looked to be cruising to an easy save with Jason Heyward bouncing a groundball to new second baseman Wilmer Difo. The ball gobbled him up and Heyward reached base. Albert Almora Jr. was hit by a pitch to bring the tying run to the plate with just one out. Kyle Schwarber popped up into foul ground for the second out quickly. Willson Contreras was hit with a 2-2 pitch to load the bases. David Bote was the Cubs final hope. A tough 1-1 pitch was called on the bottom of the zone to move the count to 1-2. He took a pitch outside and then crushed a 95 mph fastball at the bottom of the zone. It was middle of the plate and it was another Cubs walkoff grandslam to extend the Cubs lead to 3 in the divison.
I had this whole section written out during the game. The point was largely about the moral victory the Cubs managed to stay close aginst the ace Max Scherzer. That the biggest news wasn't the result but Hamels performance on the mound for a third straight game. Hamels has turned into the steal of the deadline as he provides front of the rotation stuff and performances. Hamels finding his own Ben Zobrist style fountain of youth might be the most needed turn of events for the Cubs right now. There is still plenty of time before playoff baseball begins, but it is hard to not pencil Hamels into one of those four spots in October.
There is no other way to describe this one besides pitchers' duel. The ninth inning obscures what was a tightly fought 1-0 nailbiter. Instead it was a dramatic walk off grandslam. I think I've seen this one before, but as a certain Denizen is fond of saying please may I have another.