It was the best of times. It was the blurst of times. The Cubs played two different ballgames in nine innings tonight in Washington. They won both of them in strange fashion even though it only counts as one win in the standings. Two veteran aces went head to head and left the game having grinded through half the game.
Max Scherzer walked Kyle Schwarber to start the game. It was the first of four walks issued by Mad Max in a quality start that felt like a disappointment for the number 1. Kris Bryant singled, but Anthony Rizzo grounded into a double play to give Scherzer a chance to escape without surrendering a run. Javier Báez ripped a double to put the Cubs ahead 1-0. The Cubs would never look back from this point though not without drama.
Cole Hamels put up a zero the hard way. Trea Turner singled to start the game. Victor Robles and Anthony Rendon made outs to put a zero on the board quickly. But Howie Kendrick bounced a two out single to keep the inning alive. Hamels lost Juan Soto to load the bases, but a Kurt Suzuki fly out to Albert Almora Jr. ended the inning.
Daniel Descalso flew out to start the second. Jason Heyward dumped a single into left center, and he trotted home on Almora's blast in the next at bat. Scherzer would retire the next two batters on his way to that bare minimum quality start. Mad Max struck out 8 while walking 4 over his 6 innings of work, but left on the hook for the loss.
Cole Hamels ran into trouble to start the third inning. He plunked Robles to start the inning and Rendon launched a two run shot to cut the lead to one. Hamels retired the next three, but was in trouble again in the bottom of the fourth. Brian Dozier drew a walk with some favorable borderline calls on the final two pitches of the plate appearance. Michael A Taylor morphed into playoff Michael A Taylor and smacked a line drive double to put the go ahead run in scoring position with no outs. Hamels punched out his counterpart for the first out. Trea Turner hit a pop fly into shallow center that couldn't drive in Dozier, and Adam Eaton grounded out to end the frame.
Hamels was done after five having already racked up over 100 pitches. The fifth included a lot of high stress pitches. Juan Soto singled with two outs and Kendrick drew a base on ball. Brian Dozier beat out an infield single. The play was reviewed but the call stood with the bases loaded. Hamels struck out Taylor on a 3-2 changeup to leave the game still in line for a win.
The bullpen game was even wackier than two top of the rotation starters slightly off their game. Kyle Ryan took over in the sixth inning. He retired Adrian Sanchez, but Trea Turner hit a line drive single up the middle. Eaton earned a free pass and that ended Ryan's evening. Brandon Brach entered the game to face Rendon who bounced the first pitch into an inning ending double play.
Justin Miller was the first of many Nationals relievers. Addison Russell hit a single to start the frame. Kris Bryant drove him on a bomb to extend the Cubs lead to 5-2. Miller had to leave the game with an apparent shoulder injury. Joe Ross loaded the bases but a Jason Heyward fly out to warning track in right prevented any further damage.
Brandon Kintzler entered in the seventh for the Cubs and got a quick ground out on two pitches. Three straight hits and the Nationals had a run in and the tying run on base. Taylor flew out for the second out. Carl Edwards Jr. entered the game to face Gerrado Parra. He balked on a controversial call to make it a 5-4 ballgame. Dozier advanced to third on the call with two outs. Edwards then uncorked a wild pitch that everyone in the ballpark thought got past Willson Contreras. Parra waved Dozier on home. The home plate umpire and Willson Contreras both frantically looked for the ball behind the plate to no avail. That was because the ball defied all known laws of physics and bounced back toward Edwards. Dozier froze half way down the bases and got caught in the most awkward run down imaginable. He was eventually called out of the baseline for the final out.
The Cubs broke the game open against Kyle Barraclough. Almora singled to start the inning and Russell made an out. Kyle Schwarber then engaged in a lengthy battle that resulted in a 3-2 ball being returned over the fence. Kris Bryant did the same to make it 8-4. Lefty Dan Jennings was the next victim and he allowed the first four Cubs to reach which made it a 10-4 game.
Mike Montgomery took over to finish the game in the eighth and he pitched a clean frame to start his outing. Matt Grace was the final Nats relief pitcher to suffer at the hands of the Cubs murders row. Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras both his two run home runs to make it a 14 run night for the National League's best offense.
Monty didn't pitch a clean ninth inning, but who cares. The Nats got a couple of meaningless runs and the Cubs maintained their lead of in the Central.
This was a weird game with a score that deceives. The stat lines don't convey the oddness that took place. I am left at this point trying to sum up this one.