When the bottom of the eighth inning began of Washington’s Game Two against the Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series, the Nationals’ offense was downright offensive. In the 16 innings played since Game One, the offense had only produced one solitary run, a first inning opposite field homer by Anthony Rendon, which coincidentally gave the Nationals their first lead of the series.
That lead lasted just three pitches.
Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman watches the path of his three-run homer off Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Mike Montgomery, clear the fence during the eight inning in Game 2 of baseball’s National League Division Series, at Nationals Park, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Washington. Behind the plate is Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. National won 6-3. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
With the offense virtually nonexistent, the sold out crowds at Nats Park were reduced to church mice. That was until possibly the greatest rally in Nationals’ history was started by pinch hitter Adam Lind’s single to left field. After another awful at-bat by leadoff hitter Trae Turner — who batted a miserable .000 in both games with four strikeouts — ended with him flailing at another off-speed pitch out of the strike zone, franchise player Bryce Harper was up to bat.
If anyone has had a flair for the dramatics in Nationals postseason history, it has been Harper. Now, with a rejuvenated crowd behind him, Harper absolutely obliterated a 3-1 curveball from Carl Edwards Jr. into the second deck to tie the game at 2-2. It was no better time for Harper to seemingly get back into some sort of rhythm at the plate, and it may have saved the series.
As the inning continued the Cubs would allow a walk to Rendon and a single to Daniel Murphy which gave the opportunity for stalwart Ryan Zimmerman to become a hero.
Zimmerman tacked on a three-run shot that barely made it over the wall, sending the fans into a tizzy and lifting the Nationals to a 6-3 comeback victory over the defending World Series champions.
The series is now tied at one game, apiece with a jolt of energy that this offense needed. After the Nats wasted a possible historic-level start in Game One from Stephen Strasburg, Game Two was a must-win. Gio Gonzalez pitched well enough to win in Game Two but because of Washington’s awful offensive performance, he had to pinch-hit, just like Strasburg the game before.
The Division Series moves to Wrigley Field for Game Three on Oct. 9 and the Nationals will finally send out two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who was pushed back in the rotation because of an injured right hamstring.
For the first time in any of the previous playoff failures, this moment seems as if it could be a real changing of the narrative—a franchise/city changing moment. Game Three means a lot for obvious reasons, now it’s up to the lineup to take this tremendous win and elevate their play for the rest of the series.
This team is too talented offensively to depend on late-game heroics.