CI Recap (NLDS Game 2) – Cubs 3, Nationals 6: Bullpen Struggles, Blows Late Lead
Fresh off a dominant 3-0 win in Game 1 of the NLDS, the Cubs were hoping more timely hitting and strong pitching could help them steal another road victory in this best-of-five series. The Cubs started the game off well and held a 3-1 lead in the 8th inning, but the Nationals offense scored five runs in the 8th to steal the win with a score of 6-3 (Box Score).
Why the Cubs Lost
The bullpen gave this one up late, allowing a handful in the 8th inning on home runs by Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. Mistakes over the plate are magnified this time of year, and two swings of the bat changed the dynamics of this game.
Leading off the 4th inning, Kris Bryant hit a double to deep left field. Anthony Rizzo came to the plate and took a 74 mph curveball to right field for a two-run home run to give the Cubs the early 3-1 lead. Bryant and Rizzo continue to lead the offense through the first two games.
Jon Lester cruised through the first four innings without much of an issue, only giving up one run. Ryan Zimmerman singled to left to lead off the 5th, after which Lester induced back-to-back flyouts by Jayson Werth and Matt Wieters. Zimmerman stole second base before advancing to third on a wild pitch. Lester struggled with his command as he issued consecutive walks to Michael Taylor and Howie Kendrick to load the bases. The playoff-tested lefty then struck out Trea Turner swinging to get out of the jam and preserve the Cubs’ 3-1 lead.
The 8th inning proved to be a crucial one for the outcome of this game. Carl Edwards Jr. came on to pitch and gave up a leadoff single to Adam Lind. After striking out Turner, Edwards surrendered a two-run home run to right field off the bat of Bryce Harper to tie the game 3-3. Edwards continued to struggle, walking Anthony Rendon before being replaced by Mike Montgomery.
The lefty swingman allowed a single to Daniel Murphy to put runners on first and second, then gave up the game-deciding three-run home run to Zimmerman to put the Nationals up 6-3 and seal the outcome.
Stats That Matter
- Lester continued Cubs’ strong starting pitching and kept the Nationals in check: 6 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2K, 1 HR allowed.
- Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant continue to be the driving force for this Cubs offense – Rizzo – 3-for-8, HR and 4 RBI, Bryant – 3-for-8, with 2B, 2 R, RBI.
- C.J. Edwards and Mike Montgomery struggled: 1.0 IP combined, 5 ER, BB, 4 H, 2 HR.
The Cubs and Nationals are tied 1-1 in this best-of-five series as it heads to Chicago. Lester had a good outing, only needing 86 pitches to get through 6 innings, but the Cubs were ultimately undone by their inconsistent bullpen. It’s a tough loss to swallow as they held the lead until the 8th inning, but the good news is that they were able to win a game on the road and steal homefield advantage from the Nationals. The series shifts to Wrigley Field now.
The Cubs will send lefty Jose Quintana to the mound for his playoff debut while the Nationals will counter with right-hander Max Scherzer. First pitch is slated for 3:08 p.m. CT and will air on TBS.