Postgame analysis of the Nats' 5-4 walk-off win over the Chicago Cubs in extra innings on Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park.
How it happened: Sometimes a head-to-head record, no matter how lopsided one way or the other, can only tell so much about how two teams compare, even if one club takes five of seven matchups in a span of six short weeks.
After their walk-off win on Wednesday at Nationals Park, the Nats now sit just 2-5 against the Cubs this season, but the lessons are in the details. Look at the run differential, a slight 31-29 advantage for the Cubs. And look at what happened on Wednesday in what was one of the most closely fought thrillers you will see the Nationals play this season.
The day began with a slugfest between starters Stephen Strasburg and Jason Hammel and ended with a walkoff hit by Jayson Werth in the 12th inning, his second game-winner in a span of four days. It was an emphatic final scene for a season series that will leave many rooting for the two teams to meet again in October.
Werth's big swing followed a pinch-hit homer by Stephen Drew in the bottom of the eighth, a two-run bomb by Anthony Rizzo in the top of the ninth, a game-tying single by Wilson Ramos one frame later, a go-ahead single by Addison Russell in the top of the 12th and then another game-tying knock by Michael Taylor in the bottom of the 12th.
The Nationals' bullpen failed them, recovered and then crumbled again, yet each time their lineup responded. The 12th inning rally started with Danny Espinosa getting hit by a pitch. He then stole second to set up Taylor's game-tying single. Taylor then came all the way around from first on Werth's line drive against Cubs reliever Trevor Cahill.
What it means: The Nats won this series against the Cubs and moved to 2-5 against Chicago this season. If these two teams match up again it will be the in the playoffs, and regular season records can only tell you so much once October arrives. The Mets, for instance, went 0-7 against the Cubs last regular season and then swept them in the NLCS.
Drew homers again: The Nats and Cubs remained locked at 1-1 for 6 1/2 innings before Drew broke the tie in the bottom of the eighth with his sixth homer of the season. It was the ninth pinch-hit home run for the Nats this year, which is a club record.
Drew has now clubbed a homer once every 10.8 at-bats this season. That leads the Nationals. Behind him are Chris Heisey (15) and Bryce Harper (15.4).
Strasburg, Hammel square off: Put two of the best scoring lineups on a baseball field in the middle of June and you might expect a barrage of extra base hits and runs. On Wednesday, Strasburg and Hammel had other ideas.
The two right-handers barely budged through a back-and-forth pitchers duel in the season finale between the Nats and Cubs. Strasburg went seven innings of one-run ball and Hammel matched him step-for-step.
Strasburg's lone run came in the first at-bat of the game on a leadoff homer by Ben Zobrist. Hammel's only blemish was a wild pitch in the bottom of the first that scored Ben Revere from third. After that both pitchers locked into place and didn't look back.
Strasburg recovers: If it weren't for the first at-bat of the game, this would have been one of Strasburg's most dominant starts this season. He rebounded from the Zobrist homer to go seven innings with six hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. Each of the first four innings saw the leadoff batter reach base, but in three of those he left the frame without any harm. Strasburg finished his outing by retiring 12 of the last 14 batters he faced. Strasburg earned a no-decision, which preserves his perfect 10-0 record. He now holds a 2.90 ERA on the season through 14 starts with a Monday night matchup opposite Clayton Kershaw awaiting him in L.A.
Rendon ejected: Following Russell's go-ahead hit, Anthony Rendon was tossed by home plate ump Bob Davidson for arguing balls and strikes in the bottom of the 12th. It was the first ejection of his career and it got Dusty Baker all sorts of animated after he came out to intervene. Baker was spared on what just happened to be his 67th birthday. The Nats were lucky to end it when they did, as Baker was out of infielders after Rendon's exit.
Zobrist sets the tone: The Nationals had held Zobrist in check so far this series after he killed them in the first series at Wrigley. He went 1-for-6 with a walk across Monday and Tuesday night, but came through for Chicago in the finale. Zobrist homered in his first at-bat and also drew a walk. Through seven outings against the Nats this season, Zobrist is 8-for-24 (.333) with three homers, 10 RBI and seven walks. That's no way to treat a team that made him a generous free agent offer this past winter.
Up next: The Nationals move west to begin a 10-game road trip in San Diego against the Padres. Tanner Roark (5-4, 2.93) gets the start for the Nats opposite Padres right-hander Erik Johnson (0-1, 9.64).