12 pivotal moments in Cubs’ 2-1 victory in Game 3 of the NLDS.
1. Cubs starter Jose Quintana threw to first, only nobody was home. Michael A. Taylor, who led off the Nationals’ third with a single, moved to second base when Jose Quintana made the first of two Cubs errors in the inning by throwing the ball away on a pickoff attempt as first baseman Anthony Rizzocharged in expecting a bunt from pitcher Max Scherzer. Bryce Harper put runners on first and third with two out when he reached on an error by second baseman Ben Zobrist. But Jason Heyward made a not-so-routine play look routine when he caught Anthony Rendon’s soaring fly ball in deep right-center field to allow the Cubs to escape the inning still tied 0-0.
2. Scherzer retired the first nine Cubs in order and was at 39 pitches and four strikeouts through three innings after his start was pushed to Game 3 because of a nagging right hamstring.
3. The top of the fourth ended with Jon Jay potentially saving a run with his running catch of Matt Wieters’ fly ball to deep center field. Quintana and the rest of the Cubs waited for Jay outside the dugout to thank him with high-fives and hugs.
“I thought that the one out there to Jay, I thought we had a chance to get a couple runs on that one,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “That saved the game, really, for them, those defensive plays in the outfield.”
4. Appropriately, Jay led off the bottom of the fourth and became the first Cubs baserunner of the game when Scherzer hit him in the right hip. Anthony Rizzo then legged out what would have been an inning-ending double play and moved to second on a throwing error before Willson Contreras drew a walk. But the threat ended with Zobrist’s groundout to shortstop, leaving the Cubs hitless still.
5. In his first postseason start, Quintana matched zeroes with two-time Cy Young winner Scherzer. He struck out the side in the fifth, the first of four strikeouts in a row. He finished with six.
6. Kyle Schwarber made the error – two, actually, on the same play – in the sixth inning that led to the Nationals’ first run, but Quintana was the one who was taken out of the game and Joe Maddon was the one booed for doing it. Schwarber misjudged Daniel Murphy’s fly ball with two out, then kicked the ball, allowing Murphy to reach third base. Pedro Strop came in, Ryan Zimmerman doubled and it was 1-0 Nationals.
7. When Jay flew out to deep center field to end the sixth, Scherzer became the author of the longest no-hit bid against the Cubs in postseason history. He pumped his fist after coaxing Rizzo into an inning-ending double play.
8. The Cubs finally got to Scherzer with one out in the seventh, when Zobrist doubled off the wall in left-center field for their first hit. Scherzer was removed, pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr. singled Zobrist home and the score was tied 1-1.
“He was dominating us, there’s no two ways about it,” Rizzo said. “And ‘Zo,’ with that hit, the double, to get him out of the game was big for us.”
“I don’t care. I’d have screamed, too,” Baker said.
9. Another inning-ending double play doomed the Cubs in the seventh inning, though. Jason Heyward, who followed Almora’s single with one of his own to bring in the third Nationals pitcher of the inning, was doubled off first base on Addison Russell’s fly out. Heyward had rounded second base by the time Taylor caught the ball in center field. Taylor threw to second baseman Murphy who, despite slipping, still threw to first baseman Ryan Zimmerman in plenty of time to make Heyward pay for a rare baserunning blunder.
10. Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr., who allowed a game-tying home run to Bryce Harper in the Cubs’ loss in Game 2, was brought in to face the top of the order in a 1-1 game. This time Edwards struck out Harper and retired the Nationals in order, thanks in part to a diving grab by Zobrist to rob Trea Turner of his first hit of the playoffs to start the inning. Edwards Jr. wasn’t shy about showing his emotions, either, violently fist-pumping as he walked off the field.
“Harper, the guy can hit, man,” Edwards said. “He’s not Bryce Harper for nothing. It’s just nice to get back up there against him.
11. After pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella walked and moved to second on Jay’s sacrifice bunt, Anthony Rizzo blooped a single to short left field that dropped between three Nationals and allowed the Cubs to take the lead. Rizzo said during a TV interview afterward that he would have walked himself to get to Willson Contreras. TV cameras caught Rizzo yelling, “Respect me!” after he reached.
“That’s the mentality I take always with the base open,” Rizzo said. “I want to make guys pay. I hit where I hit in the order. I drive in runs. Usually I keep that stuff behind the scenes and say that stuff, but just my emotions got me there.
12. Cubs closer Wade Davis, who entered the game with a career 0.81 ERA in the postseason, was in. The Nationals were done. Davis struck out Cubs problem Daniel Murphy to start the ninth and got Jayson Werth to pop out to Rizzo to end it and give the Cubs a 2-1 win and 2-1 series lead.
“We made mistakes. We made some errors, but then we made some great plays,” Maddon said. “We made a couple base running gaffes. Part of it is possibly guys trying just a little bit too hard. But at the end of the day, you’ll always take that effort.”