This had the feel of a playoff game, starting with the pitching matchup – three times Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer against the Ace of Cubs employees.
Wait, you did not think Cole Hamels would climb up after the Cubs bought him the Rangers for Eddie Butler and a bag of peanuts?
Hamels, who was 5-9 before trading with a 4.72 ERA, was brilliant on Sunday night in his Cubs Home debut. He retreated from the second to the seventh round with 18 strokes, where he scored a total of nine strokes and allowed only one goal.
Scherzer was even better.
But do you know what was best? David messenger.
The rookie infielder had an all-time moment and pounded a walk-off grand slam in the 4-3 stunners of the Cubs over the Nationals. And Bote was celebrating on a grand scale and flinging his helmet into the sky after he reached third place and was attacked by his teammates.
The Cubs went 3-0 in the ninth and the rally began unimpressively, with Jason Heyward threw a single-dribbler to second place. Wilmer Difo, inserted into the game for defense, flubbled it.
The approaching Ryan Madson then hit Albert Almora at the elbow with a bad luck. Kyle Schwarzer fouled, but Willson Contreras got stuck long enough to break the ball off his left arm. That was the basis for Bote, who hammered Madsons 2-2 fastball in midfield in the strike.
Scherzer threw seven shutout innings, Fanning 11. He went 15-5 at night with a 2.28 ERA and a CV with these three Cy Youngs and a 20-strikeout game.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon responded by using the left-handed Ben Zobrist for messenger and Almora had bat fifths. This seemed a bit odd, because Almora had no previous record against Scherzer.
"Just as certain hoppers make their mark against Scherzer," said Maddon, "I definitely wanted Albert inside."
For his ability to beat fastballs? His swing path?
When asked if he wanted to explain this "profile" in more detail, Maddon politely declined.
Almora beat and landed in third in his first two strokes, but finished seventh with a third Cubs hit. Scherzer jammed him with a four-seam fastball, but Almora was strong enough to double him to the left.
Scherzer deliberately went with Schwarber, who got the first punch against him, then Contreras with a 2-2 off-speed pitch on the ankles to the third out. It was Scherzers 106th and last litter.
Right-handed Koda Glover came in eighth and needed help to get through. With an out and pinch hitter Tommy La Stella at the start, Javier Baez hacked one in three and drove to the first, showing his emphatic respect for 90.
First-base referee Todd Tichenor ruled that Baez could defeat Mark Reynolds's side arm throw, but a re-run reversed the call.
The Cubs pen leaked out in the ninth edition and was responsible for the second and third runs of the Nationals.
The Cubs took two out of three in the series and are out Monday before welcoming the Brewers for a two-game set.
Hamels & Cubs ERA actually rose from 0.82 to 1.00. He was so spectacular in his three starts.
The 34-year-old left-hander allowed this first run of the national team, who came after a lead change to Ryan Zimmerman in the second round. Daniel Murphy dialed to the left, and Reynolds drove one to the right. Jason Heyward got a few litters, but it was offline.
On one night with a glowing crowd and a national TV crew from ESPN, it really looked like a postseason game. The Cubs hope to have more like it.
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