By Michael Marzzacco
A base hit by Jayson Werth in the 12th inning ended a long afternoon of exciting baseball in DC. After his teammates mobbed him Werth, while interviewed by MASN’s Dan Kolko, expressed his passion after coming through in the clutch for the second time in four days. It was the perfect postgame interview after one of the most thrilling June regular season baseball games you will ever witness.
The Nationals and the Cubs could meet in October in the NLCS. It would be a shame if they didn’t get that far considering the thrilling three game series that took place at Nationals Park. Each team took a game which left Wednesday’s match as the rubber game.
The pitching matchup featured Jason Hammel of the Cubs and undefeated Nats ace Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg got a no-decision but went seven strong innings allowing just one run on six hits with eight strikeouts.
Chicago struck first in the opening inning with a home run by Ben Zobrist. The Nats answered in the bottom frame and would continue to answer after trailing throughout the afternoon. With Daniel Murphy at the plate, the Nats got a gift when Hammel corked a wild pitch to score Ben Revere from third.
The Nats took the lead in the bottom of the eighth with a line drive home run by pinch hitter Stephen Drew that landed into the seats in right field. It was his sixth of the season. Nats Park erupted as their Nationals were just three outs away from a big series win over the best team in baseball.
With Drew’s pinch hit home run, the Nats have a total of nine this season coming from pinch hits, a club record. Drew and Chris Heisey are tied for the team lead.
“I think everyone picks each other up. We are not just one. We are a whole team. The guys that are not playing, we are trying to pick the guys up. It’s funny how that works,” Drew said. “You pick somebody up and you get a chance to win a game.”
The Cubs showed why they had baseball’s best record with a rally in the ninth inning to put them out front 3-2. Oliver Perez took the mound to attempt to close out the game due to regular closer Jonathan Papelbon being placed on the 15 day disabled list due to a right intercostal strain. With Kris Bryant on base, Anthony Rizzo took a 1-1 pitch over the right field wall for his 15th homer of the season to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
It was the Cubs turn to try to close it out as they turned to Hector Rondon. With Bryce Harper on, Wilson Ramos got a base hit into left field to tie the game and force extra innings. Free baseball on a Wednesday afternoon between the two best teams in the National League? The sellout crowd of 42,000 got their money’s worth indeed.
Nobody scored until the top of the 12th. Addison Russell drove home Albert Almora and the Nationals were once again down to their final three outs. In the 12th, they showed a lot of heart and passion and you can see it in the player’s eyes how much they wanted this game for their fans.
Anthony Rendon led off and, after what looked to be a check swing, got called out on strikes. Despite Rendon only holding his arms up and not saying anything, umpire Bob Davidson tossed him out. Danny Espinosa followed by getting hit by a pitch and stealing second base with Michael Taylor up. Taylor got a big base hit that landed into the centerfield gap to score Espinosa and tie the game at 3. Two batters later, with two outs, Jayson Werth got a base hit off the centerfield wall. Taylor raced around from first base and scored to give the Nats a dramatic 4-3 win.
An excited Werth had this to say following the game:
Dusty Baker was thrilled of his team’s effort and huge win on his 67th birthday.
“That was one heck of a ballgame,” Baker said. “It was a change of emotion about 10 times. That was one heck of a birthday present, because I think I’ve lost about 10 years in a row on my birthday. It’s not a good record on my birthday. It was one of the best birthdays I’ve ever had.”
The Nationals head out to the west coast to begin a four game series with the San Diego Padres with tonight’s game at 10:10 eastern. Tanner Roark will get the start.