It felt like a missed opportunity right out of the gate for the Cubs. Jeremy Hellickson walked the bases loaded to start the game, but the Cubs could only manage a single tally on a Javier Báez fielder's choice. That felt like it might not be enough with the Professor on the mound, but the Cubs certainly could have gotten more as the bases were reloaded when Hellickson plunked Willson Contreras. Daniel Descalso bounced into a double play to keep Hellickson and the Nationals in the game.
Kyle Hendricks did not allow a base runner until the fourth inning. It was a two out walk to Anthony Rendon. In the meantime, the Cubs bats chased Jeremy Hellickson from the game after just three innings. The Cubs added a run in the second inning. Jason Heyward singled to start the frame. Albert Almora Jr. doubled to give the Cubs another two runners in scoring position with no outs. Kyle Hendricks hit a pop fly for the first out. Kyle Schwarber hit a sacrifice fly to extend the Cubs lead. Anthony Rizzo hit a leadoff homer run in the third inning.
Albert Almora Jr. bounced a double against Nationals reliever Kyle McGowin. Hendricks struck out for the first out, but a passed ball allowed Almora to reach third. Schwaber delivered another sac fly to make it 4-0. It felt like the Cubs would cruise to an easy win with Hendricks in command as always. The only cloud was Javier Báez appearing to twist his ankle on a nice defensive play in the third inning. He stayed in the game and the Cubs were on their way.
Kurt Suzuki and Gerrado Parra hit back to back singles to start the fifth inning. That should have meant runners at the corners with no outs, but Parra was cut down at second by Heyward as he tried to stretch it into a double. Brian Dozier bounced out to second to drive in Suzuki. McGowin flew out and the Cubs still led comfortably.
Jason Heyward singled to start the sixth inning. He advanced to second and third on wild pitches. Almora was walked with Hendricks coming up to the plate. The professor laid down a suicide squeeze and McGowin threw the ball away. Kris Bryant singled to give the Cubs a 6-1 lead. The Nationals bullpens were able to hold the potent Cubs offense in check for the rest of the game. Joe Maddon decided to pull Báez at this point with the Cubs comfortably leading.
Hendricks walked Trea Turner with one out in the sixth. Adam Eaton bounced a ball to new shortstop Addison Russell who threw the ball away allowing the pair to reach scoring position. Anthony Rendon then launched a three run shot to give 6-4. Juan Soto followed it up with a double and the Nationals were in business. Kurt Suzuki grounded out. Parra singled and Almora made a bad throw allowing Parra to reach second. Brandon Kintzler got an easy fly out to keep the Cubs ahead.
That lead became even more tenuous when Howie Kendrick hit a solo shot on the first pitch of the seventh. Kintzler retired the next two batters before Xavier Cedeno was called on to face Adam Eaton. A soft single served into right ended Cedeno's outing. That also meant that Anthony Rendon was the go ahead run at the plate. Steve Cishek was given the task of retiring the hottest Nats hitter and managed to get a hard hit out to end the seventh inning.
Joe rightfully took the rest of the night off managing at this point. Steve Cishek pitched the eighth and ninth inning for a standard seven out save. The Cubs completed a .500 roadtrip the difficult way, and return home to face a familiar face tomorrow night.
All indications are that Javier Báez is fine and will play Monday. Because when it first happened my reactions was this: