The first run of the game was set up after Daniel Murphy reached third base on two Kyle Schwarber errors in the sixth with two outs. The Nationals took advantage with a Ryan Zimmerman double to make it 1-0. Ben Zobrist broke up Max Scherzer’s no-hitter in the seventh inning with a double. The Cubs tied the game with the next batter, pinch hitter Albert Almora, delivering his first career postseason hit. In the eighth, Anthony Rizzo drove in a run to push the Cubs ahead 2-1. That would be the deciding run.
The Nationals had a chance to score in the third inning, with runners on the corners, but Anthony Rendon’s popfly put an end to that. The Cubs’ best early chance came with two on and two outs in the fourth inning, but Zobrist grounded out.
Here are the best and worst moments from Monday’s 2-1 loss:
Worst everything: The Nationals spoiled another great starting pitching performance with lackluster offense and some bad luck. They fell to the Cubs, 2-1, on Monday night in Chicago and are down 2-1 in the best-of-five National League Divisional Series. A potentially decisive Game 4 is Tuesday back at Wrigley Field.
Seven of the Nats' last eight playoff losses have been by one run. Torturous.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) October 9, 2017
Worst rubbing salt in an open wound: This.
Worst song: “Go Cubs Go.” Gosh, that song is annoying.
Worst blooper: Anthony Rizzo barely put bat to ball in the eighth inning but got enough of Oliver Perez’s first pitch to drop a blooper into center field and score Leonys Martin from second to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead.
Walk, bunt, blooper single--real baseball!— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) October 9, 2017
This game is killin me— Michael Shepherd (@MShep2) October 9, 2017
Rizzo said afterward he knew what Perez was going to throw in the at-bat. Rizzo had faced Perez eight times and had two hits and a walk. Both hits were home runs.
Rizzo said he was surprised the Nationals decided to pitch to him with first base open instead of intentionally walking him.
“I’m thinking, ‘Don’t pitch to me’ there, to be honest,” he said.
Best strikeout: Brandon Kintzler got Kris Bryant to chase a fastball down and away for the second out in the bottom of the eighth inning. Bryant had a chance to drive in Leonys Martin from second base for the go-ahead run. Rizzo had the same chance against Washington’s Oliver Perez and succeeded.
This time, the best double play: Brandon Kintzler escaped the seventh inning jam in one pitch. Addison Russell lined a ball to center field, but Michael A. Taylor caught it on the fly, then hit cutoff man Daniel Murphy. He doubled up Jason Heyward, who hadn’t tagged up, at first base. The Nationals escaped a horrifying jam with the score tied at 1.
Worst bullpen move: Dusty Baker pulled Max Scherzer in the seventh and turned to Sammy Solis. Solis couldn’t keep the lead. The first two batters he faced singled, which tied the game, and landed Brandon Kintzler, the next reliever, in one whale of a jam.
Cubs' first 22 plate appearances resulted in zero hits. Last three PAs have resulted in three. Solis is out.— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) October 9, 2017
Worst pinch hit: Albert Almora Jr. took a 3-2 pitch from Sammy Solis in the bottom of the seventh inning and drilled it past Trea Turner up the middle to score Ben Zobrist from second to tie the game at 1-1.
Worst hit: Ben Zobrist teed up a Scherzer fastball in the seventh inning and drove a double into the left-centerfield gap. That broke up Max Scherzer’s sensational start: 6.1 innings pitched, one hit, one earned run.
Best anger: Dusty Baker went to pull Scherzer after Zobrist’s double in the seventh, but Scherzer was not having it. He tried to talk Baker into leaving him in the game. It didn’t work. And Scherzer angrily handed Baker the ball and shook his head as he walked back to the dugout. Scherzer’s scowl and competitive rage are the stuff of legendary Internet memes. Angry Max is best Max.
Best “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”: The Cubs got Bill Murray and his brother, Joel, to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch. Even if you’re a Nationals fan, you gotta love it. He’s Bill Murray, for crying out loud!
Best Trea Turner double play: In the bottom of the sixth, Trea Turner just took the double play ball himself. He fielded Anthony Rizzo’s grounder straight up the middle at second base, stepped on the bag and made the easy throw to first. Much cleaner this time than in the fourth. The Cubs are still trailing the Nationals, three to three-minus-three, in the hit category.
Worst error: This is the playoffs, Kyle Schwarber. There’s no such thing as a routine flyball. Murphy sliced a flyball down the left field line in the sixth inning. Schwarber settled under it, then booted the easy catch into the corner. When he went to pick the ball up with his glove, he smacked it past him onto the warning track. That’s two errors on one play, and it put Murphy on third with two outs in the sixth. Ryan Zimmerman brought him home.
Kyle Schwarber: -9 defensive runs saved in LF this season ... 4th-worst at that position in MLB— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 9, 2017
Best in the gap: Ryan Zimmerman came through in the sixth inning to make Schwarber pay for that two-error play. He drove a 1-2 pitch from Pedro Strop into the right center gap for a double that scored Daniel Murphy and gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
Has Ryan Zimmerman had the biggest two hits of his career in the past two games?— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) October 9, 2017
Best strike call: Fieldin Culbreth has got it going on calling balls and strikes today. His strike zone has been consistent, if a little big. But his called strikes are a thing of beauty. They’re crisp and clear, like Yosemite Sam yelling, “High-Ya!” Doesn’t get better than that.
Best lack of hits: After five innings, the Nationals still lead the Cubs by two in the hit category. Washington has two hits off Jose Quintana. Chicago still has … two fewer hits against Max Scherzer.
It’s kind of eerily similar to Stephen Strasburg’s Game 1. And we remember how that played out.
It would be an utter shame for the Nats to waste Scherzer and Strasburg operating at this level, at the same time, and not make a deep run.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) October 9, 2017
Worst bat flip: Bat flips are only cool after home runs, not after you get fooled by a pitch and hurl your bat into the on-deck circle like Addison Russell in the bottom of the fifth.
Worst “should have had that one”: Oh, Trea Turner. How nice it would have been for you to turn that double play. Instead, Daniel Murphy fielded Anthony Rizzo’s weak groundball, flipped to Turner, who chucked the throw to first wide on the double play attempt. Rizzo scooted down to second. Both teams have errors by the fourth inning.
Best redemption and jump throw: Trea Turner redeemed himself to end the fourth by throwing out Ben Zobrist on a chopper to short. Turner did it with a wacky sort of jump throw that looked cool but wasn’t totally necessary.
Worst first mistake: Max Scherzer looks dialed in through three innings, but he plunked Jon Jay with a fastball to start the fourth, then ran a pitch way too far inside on Kris Bryant the very next pitch. It would have been nice to avoid putting a man on base before reaching the heart of the Cubs order.
Best fight against the sun: Matt Wieters hit a tailing flyball to right field in the fourth inning. If it landed, it surely would have scored Jayson Werth from first base. But Jon Jay, battling the sun and shadows at Wrigley Field, tracked the ball down for the final out of the inning. The Nationals and Cubs were still scoreless through three and a half innings.
Best “yeah, that makes sense”: The NLDS game is pretty good, but it’s hard to match the drama that was going on between Boston and Houston. Rafael Devers led off the ninth inning for the Red Sox with an inside-the-park home run to try to help Boston stave off elimination. The rest of baseball Twitter is excused for not jumping on this Chicago-Washington game right away. The Astros ended up beating the Red Sox to move on to the American League Championship Series.
Worst at-bat: It’s almost not fair because Jose Quintana is a pitcher with a career batting average of .041. But he had no business getting in the box against Scherzer in the bottom of the third. He was Scherzer’s fourth strikeout victim.
Worst lead off: Trea Turner, the Nationals’ leadoff man, has struggled mightily so far in the postseason. He is 0 for 10 from the plate and has yet to reach base. Washington is going to want more than that out of their dynamic shortstop.
7 pitch strikeout sadly might be Trea’s best NLDS AB.— Let Teddy Win! (@LetTeddyWin) October 9, 2017
Worst sacrifice bunt: Max Scherzer needed to move Michael A. Taylor from second base to third in the top of the third inning. But Scherzer fouled off two bunt attempts and then struck out whiffing on a third attempt. Major league pitching is hard to hit, but you have to get that bunt down if you’re Scherzer.
Worst pickoff attempt: What was Jose Quintana thinking? As Anthony Rizzo broke to the plate to defend Max Scherzer’s sacrifice bunt attempt, Quintana picked off to first base. Whoops! The throw sailed past the bag and Michael A. Taylor took second base for Washington, giving the Nationals the game’s earliest scoring chance. Bryce Harper reaching on a Ben Zobrist error got Taylor to third, but Anthony Rendon’s popfly ended the inning at 0-0.
Worst eye: You’d think for a former catcher the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber might have a better sense of the strike zone at the plate. But Scherzer backed up a smooth cutter on the outside edge of the plate and caught Schwarber looking. The Cubs’ six-hitter wasn’t happy, but the pitch was in there.
Best teammate: Adam Eaton played center field behind Jose Quintana for three years with the Chicago White Sox. Dusty Baker told the TBS broadcast crew he asked Eaton to talk to the Nationals’ hitters to tell them about Quintana’s habits on the mound. Many of Washington’s players have never faced Quintana before. Through two innings, it sure looks like it. Quintana is keeping the Nationals off balance with a sharp fastball and a consistent breaking pitch.
Best tag: Ryan Zimmerman made a great stretch and tag to help Anthony Rendon nab Jon Jay in the bottom of the first inning. Rendon charged hard on Jay’s soft groundball and his throw across the diamond sailed high. Zimmerman pulled it down and slapped a tag on Jay’s shoulder for the out to keep the leadoff man off the bases for the Cubs.
Best hamstring: Max Scherzer keeps tapping that weak hamstring when he reaches back for the rosin bag. But so far, Mad Max looks all right, even though Manager Dusty Baker pulled him from his last start early because of tightness in that hamstring.
“He’s a high leverage guy. He likes to go out there and extend those legs,” Pedro Martinez said during the pregame show on TBS. “That’s going to be a great dictator of whether he’s fine or not.”
It seems like he’s probably okay.
We’ve got a ton of extra Nationals content, including an interactive graphic on how this team was built, some deep thoughts from various Nationals on why this postseason could be extra special, an oral history of how the Nats fixed baseball’s worst bullpen, and Game 1 starter Stephen Strasburg and how he had to learn to stop seeking perfection to get to this October stage. Even more is below, so get cracking.
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