By Kevin Powell
WASHINGTON – Five outs. That’s all the Cubs needed to head home with a commanding 2-0 series lead. Bryce Harper had other plans, crushing a two-run blast in the eighth to tie the game. A few batters later, Ryan Zimmerman cleared the left field fence by a few inches to give the Nats a 6-3 lead. Sean Doolittle closed things out in the 9th.
And now, we have a series.
“I don’t think anybody expected anything else,” Jon Lester said after another strong postseason outing. “We knew it was going to be a battle. We’ll show up Monday and see what happens.”
Everything was going according to plan. Lester allowed a solo homer to Anthony Rendon in the first, then proceeded to shutdown ten straight batters. Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer in the fourth to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead. Then, the eighth inning came.
“It was the only option, that was the right option,” manager Joe Maddon said when asked to explain his decision in leaving Carl Edwards in to face Harper. “He made a pitch, and the guy didn’t miss it. And that’s it. Sometimes that’s happen. Bryce is good, CJ is good, and Bryce got him.”
There is complete support of Edwards, who left a hanging curve to Harper. Not only did Maddon say he’ll go right back to Edwards in a similar situation, he thinks the righty could be one of the best relievers in the game in a couple years.
“I want it right back, the same situation,” Edwards said after the loss.
As you may expect, Cubs leader Anthony Rizzo was completely confident the club will bounce back.
“With this group, with this experience, nothing’s really going to faze us. We’ve given up way bigger home runs than that before.”
This is postseason baseball. It’s either a ton of fun or absolutely gut-wrenching drama, depending on your rooting interests. One thing is for sure, Wrigley will be rocking Monday afternoon.
“I mean, I think the train’s coming,” Harper said. “We’re a great team. We’ve got Max coming in Game 3…You know, Chicago is tough, going in there playing in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.”
News and Notes
- After the no-decision, Jon Lester remains tied with the Yankees CC Sabathia for most postseason wins among active pitchers with nine.
- With his fourth inning homer, Anthony Rizzo set Cubs franchise records for most career postseason home runs (6), and career postseason RBI’s with 16
- Bryce Harper’s mammoth homer in the eighth was his first postseason homer since Game 4 of the NLDS on Oct. 7, 2014
Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720