Cubs Record: 21-6
W: Hendricks 2-2
L: Ross 3-1
CO-MVP: Zobrist & Hendricks
On this Cinco de Mayo, the Cubs welcomed the Washington Nationals and manager Dusty Baker into Chicago for the first of a four-game series. This game featured the two best teams in all of baseball going head-to-head for the first time this season. Unlike the Mexican Army’s upset over the French in 1862, there was no upset tonight as the best team in the majors continued its winning ways by defeating the Nationals 5-2.
Neither could really muster any scoring chances through the first three innings. The fourth inning saw Bryce Harper induce a leadoff walk only to be picked off and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs starting pitcher, was able to complete the frame unscathed. in the bottom of that same inning the Cubs scored two runs off of Washington’s starter Joe Ross. Tommy La Stella stroked a line drive single to start the inning, followed by a ringing double by Kris Bryant that ended up in the brown roots of the ivy. The Nationals elected to intentionally walk Anthony Rizzo before Ben Zobrist made them pay with a laser of a ground ball single though the infield that drove in two runs.
Neither team had any additional serious scoring opportunities until the top of the 8th, when Pedro Strop hit the first batter he faced and then walked pinch hitter Clint Robinson to put the tying runs on base. Strop found his command with a strikeout and induced an inning-ending double play ball off the bat of Anthony Rendon to get out of the jam.
Ben Zobrist added two insurance runs by smoking a home run into the left field bleachers in the bottom of the 8th. Zobrist drove in four runs for the Cubs and has delivered the game-winning RBI the last two games. Addison Russell added a run-scoring scorched double to left (though Jayson Werth badly misplayed it) to complete the scoring.
Werth subsequently clubbed a two-out home run in the top of the 9th inning to account for the Nationals scoring on the night. Hector Rondon entered the game to record the final out and preserve the win.
Kyle Hendricks pitched an outstanding game in picking up his 2nd victory of the year on eight days of rest. He threw six shutout innings and only gave up two hits and two walks while striking out four. Hendricks was able to handle both Bryce Harper (1/1 with two walks) and Daniel Murphy (0/3), both of whom came into the game as the top hitters for the Nationals. Limiting the damage to these hitters was a must for Hendricks and the Cubs. The slight righty was able to get nine ground ball outs tonight while only allowing two fly ball outs. Cubs fans should appreciate a fifth starter who understands how to pitch and who can attack a talented offense and keep the ball on the ground.
Joe Maddon continues to use the depth of this team to his advantage. The Nationals’ Joe Ross came into the game allowing right-handed hitters an average of .128. Tonight, La Stella, Zobrist and Ryan Kalish all had hits against Ross batting from the left side.
Dusty Baker is back in town and so are the questionable decisions. Intentionally walking Rizzo to pitch to Zobrist in the 4th inning backfired. His refusal to sacrifice bunt with runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs in the 8th also backfired. These moves aren’t horrible, but they did not work out this evening.
The ejection of Dexter Fowler in the bottom of the third inning by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza was ugly. Although the pitches may have been strikes, Dexter Fowler took exception in a respectful manner as he discarded the protective gear he uses during at-bats. The discussion was mild in nature, probably lasted a little too long, but Carapazza became frustrated when the Cubs dugout starting chirping loudly. At that point, Fowler calmly added a few more comments and found himself headed to the clubhouse because of these words. Carapazza should have turned away and let this argument go. Poor judgment by the umpire in this case.
The Cubs host the Nationals in game two of this four-game set on Friday afternoon. On the mound for the Cubs will be John Lackey (3-1, 4.32) and he will be opposed by Max Scherzer (3-1, 3.55). The game will begin at 1:20 CT and will be televised by CSN Chicago.