David Bote’s walk-off grand slam stuns Nationals, sends Cubs to wild 4-3 victory
By TEDDY GREENSTEIN | Chicago Tribune | Published: August 13, 2018
CHICAGO, Ill. (Tribune News Service) — This had the feel of a playoff game, starting with the pitching matchup — three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer versus the ace of the Cubs staff.
Wait, you didn’t think Cole Hamels would vault to the top of the pyramid after the Cubs acquired him from the Rangers for Eddie Butler and a bag of peanuts?
Hamels, who was 5-9 with a 4.72 ERA before the trade, pitched brilliantly Sunday night in his Cubs home debut. He retired 18 straight batters from the second through the seventh, striking out nine total and allowing only one hit.
Scherzer was even better.
But you know what was best of all? David Bote.
The rookie infielder had an all-time moment, hammering a walk-off grand slam in the Cubs’ 4-3 stunner over the Nationals. Bottom of the ninth, with two outs and two strikes, Bote sent one deep over the center field wall. And he celebrated in grand style, flinging his helmet to the heavens after rounding third and getting mobbed by teammates.
The Cubs trailed 3-0 heading into the ninth, and the rally started unassumingly, with Jason Heyward hitting a one-out dribbler to second. Wilmer Difo, inserted into the game for defense, flubbed it.
Closer Ryan Madson then hit Albert Almora on the elbow with a pitch. Kyle Schwarber fouled out, but Willson Contreras hung in long enough to take a breaking ball off his left arm. That loaded the bases for Bote, who hammered Madson’s 2-2 fastball into the batter’s eye in center field.
Scherzer threw seven shutout innings, fanning 11. He entered the night 15-5 with a 2.28 ERA and a resume with those three Cy Youngs and a 20-strikeout game.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon countered by inserting lefty-hitting Ben Zobrist for Bote and having Almora bat fifth. This seemed a bit curious, given that Almora had no previous plate appearances against Scherzer.
“The way certain hitters profile for us against Scherzer,” Maddon said, “I definitely wanted Albert in there.”
Asked if he would like to elaborate on that “profile,” Maddon politely declined.
Almora struck out and grounded to third in his first two at-bats but came through in the seventh with the Cubs’ third hit. Scherzer jammed him with a four-seam fastball, but Almora was strong enough to line it into left for a double.
Scherzer intentionally walked Schwarber, who got the first hit against him, then whiffed Contreras on a 2-2 off-speed pitch at the ankles for the third out. It was Scherzer’s 106th and final pitch.
Right-hander Koda Glover came on in the eighth and needed help to get through it. With one out and pinch hitter Tommy La Stella at first, Javier Baez chopped one to third and motored to first, showing his emphatic respect for 90.
First-base umpire Todd Tichenor ruled that Baez beat Mark Reynolds’ sidearm throw, but a replay review flipped the call.
Brandon Kintzler leaked in the ninth, accounting for the Nationals’ second and third runs.
The Cubs took two of three in the series and have Monday off before welcoming the Brewers for a two-game set.
Hamels’ Cubs ERA actually rose from 0.82 to 1.00. That’s how spectacular he has been in his three starts.
The 34-year-old lefty did allow that first Nationals run, which came after a leadoff walk to Ryan Zimmerman in the second. Daniel Murphy singled to left, and Reynolds skied one to right. Jason Heyward got some heft on his throw, but it was off line.
On a night with a fervent crowd and national TV crew from ESPN, this really did resemble a postseason game. The Cubs hope to have more just like it.
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