Were you one of the believers or were you giving up on this team in the late innings? The Nationals looked lethargic on offense for 16 innings of this NLDS, and in the 17th inning of this NLDS with a lead-off pinch-hit single by Adam Lind — it was the bloop the Nats needed and hoped for a blast — and they got a 421 foot mega-blast from Bryce Harper into the second deck of Section 239 for a game tying and potentially season saving home run. The 8th inning would continue with an Anthony Rendon walk and then Cubs manager Joe Maddon finally pulled Carl Edwards for lefty Mike Montgomery to face Daniel Murphy who shot a single over the infield. Maddon stuck with Montgomery giving the advantage to Ryan Zimmerman against the lefty. Zim hit the change-up inches over the fence into the flower pots in front of section 103 for a wall scraper home run that went 374 feet to win the game at the final score of 6-to-3.
The lethargic Nats turned into the mighty Nats and tied up this series 1-to-1 and now hand the ball to the reigning Cy Young ace, Max Scherzer, on Monday in Chicago.
Nats’ starter Gio Gonzalez looked electric to start the game but unfortunately gave up 3 runs over his 5.0 innings, and then Dusty Baker‘s bullpen shutdown the Cubs for 4 innings to keep the game in check. Sean Doolittle got the save and Oliver Perez got the win. Tonight, every move Dusty Baker made late in the game worked out. Joe Maddon on the other hand went against the book and was rewarded by Jon Lester who squirmed out of a bases loaded jam in the 5th inning and then returned for another inning and threw a 1-2-3 6th inning but the decision to keep right-handed Carl Edwards in the game against lefty Bryce Harper ultimately lost the game for the Cubs and Maddon’s mind-boggling decision to throw the lefty Montgomery against Ryan Zimmerman was one of Maddon’s mind-games that backfired.
“That was the only option,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to leave Edwards in against Bryce Harper. “That was the right option. [Carl Edwards Jr.] was the right man for the job. He hung a curveball. The guy didn’t miss it. Harper is good. C.J. is really good. C.J’s numbers against left-handed hitters is among the best in baseball. ”
Sorry Joe Maddon, you had other options even though lefties were hitting .180 against Edwards.
“You know, I thought to myself: ‘Runner on first’, didn’t think he was going to throw a pitch over the plate, to tell you the truth,” Bryce Harper said. “I thought he was going to throw a curveball back down in the dirt. I thought about taking the whole way. And then I saw the loop in the curveball and said: ‘Why not swing as hard as you can?’ ”
That home run by Harper was the 5th home run of the 24-year-old’s career in the post-season consisting of just 65 at-bats — and 4 of those 5 home runs have been in the 7th inning or later.
In the regular season, Ryan Zimmerman had been subjected to Joe Maddon’s mind-games in his 84 plate appearances against the Cubs and Zimmerman was hitting .144. Maddon didn’t bother to bring in a righty from his bullpen to face Zimmerman and that led to the favorable match-up for Ryan Zimmerman against the lefty Montgomery. Zim made Maddon pay for the disrespect. This has been a long-time coming as last year Maddon would walk Bryce Harper in front of him — willing to load the bases to get in Zimmerman’s head. Now Zimmerman is in Maddon’s head.
“As an offense I’m just happy we scored some runs,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “I knew I hit it well. I hit it high. We will take it.”
Bryce Harper was asked after the game if he has the “clutch gene”. His answer while sitting at the postgame table next to Adam Lind and Ryan Zimmerman prompted this answer:
“Mr. Walk-off is sitting next to me.”