Bryant, Cubs Power Their Way Past Nationals

Washington, D.C.,-(ENEWSPF)- The Cubs (25-16) were in our nation’s capital Friday night taking on the Washington Nationals (18-25).

The Northsiders were looking to snap their two-game losing skid and maintain their lead in the NL Central division.

The game featured two of the best pitchers in all of baseball with Cole Hamels (3-0 3.08) squaring off against Max Scherzer (2-4 3.64).

The Cubs got to Scherzer right off the bat to start the game as Kyle Schwarber led off the game drawing a walk. Kris Bryant would follow with a sharp single to left to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Anthony Rizzo, who was back in the lineup after missing the last four games due to back stiffness, grounded into a double play, advancing Schwarber to 3rd. Javier Baez was up next and hit a double deep to left field, over the head and off the glove of Nats left-fielder Juan Soto, scoring Schwarber to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.

Cubs’ starter Cole Hamels worked himself out of a jam in the bottom half of the frame after giving up singles to Trea Turner, who was also back in the Washington lineup after missing the last 39 games with a broken finger, and a  two-out single to Howie Kendrick, along with a walk to Juan Soto to load the bases. Hamels forced Kurt Suzuki to lineout to Almora Jr. to end the Nationals’ scoring threat.

In the 2nd, with one out and Jason Heyward on 1st, Albert Almora Jr. took an 0-2 Scherzer offering deep into the left-field seats for a 445ft blast and give the Cubs a 3-0 advantage.

Washington would get on the board in the 3rd. With Victor Robles on 1st, Hector Rendon hit a long home run just left of dead-center to cut the Cubs’ lead to 3-2.

After the Rendon home run, Hamels went on to retire 9 of the next 14 hitters he faced without surrendering a run. Hamels left the game as the pitcher of record going five innings. He finished his night with giving up 2 runs on 7 hits, striking out 5 and walking 3.

On to the 7th, with Justin Miller now on the mound for Washington and  Addison Russell on 1st, Kris Bryant hit a one-out, 2-run home run into the Cubs’ bullpen off of Nats reliever Justin Miller to increase their lead to 5-2.

The Nats answered back in their bottom half of the inning. After a one-out double by Juan Soto, Kurt Suzuki drove him in with a single down the left-field line to make the score 5-3. Later in the inning, after advancing to 3rd following a Brian Dozier single, Suzuki scored after Carl Edwards Jr. committed a balk, cutting Chicago’s lead to 5-4.

In the 8th, the Cubs busted the game wide-open. With one out and Almora Jr. on 1st, Kyle Schwarber worked a 12-pitch at-bat to a full count and sent pitch number 13 into the Cubs’ bullpen for a 2-run shot and give the Cubs a 7-4 lead. Kris Bryant was up next and hit his 2nd home run of the night into the Cubs’ bullpen again to put the Northsiders up 8-4. The Cubbies weren’t done yet, with Mark Zagunis later hitting a bases loaded 2-run single giving the Cubs a commanding 10-4 lead.

On to the 9th. With Schwarber on 1st and one out, Kris Bryant sent another deep-fly into the Cubs’ bullpen for a 2-run shot, giving him his 3rd home run of the game in three consecutive innings and his 11th of the year. That increased the lead to 12-4. Bryant went 4-6 on the night with 3 runs scored and 5 RBIs.

Two batters later and Javier Baez on 1st, Willson Contreras got in on the fun and hit a 2-run home run to right-center field for the Cubs’ 6th home run of the game and give them a dominating 14-4 lead.

Washington scored two runs in the bottom of the 9th off of Mike Montgomery, but it was too little, too late as the Cubs take the series opener 14-6. Cole Hamels earns his 4th win of the season and remains undefeated with a 4-0 record. A Brewers loss helped the Cubs get their NL Central lead back to 1½ games.

The 2nd game of the series continued Saturday at 6:15 PM with Jon Lester (3-1 1.16) vs. Stephen Strasburg (3-3 3.63).

Bryant spoke after the game about his current hot streak. “I’m seeing it good, and being on time is the biggest thing. I think early in the season my timing was off. Now I feel like I’m right where I need to be. So, that’s a good thing, walking up to the plate and knowing that your timing is there and all you have to do is see the ball and hit it.”

It was around this time last season when Bryant’s season fell off track when he suffered a shoulder injury sliding headfirst into a base against the Reds. Despite remaining in the lineup for the next month, Bryant went on to miss 50 games last season posting career-lows in batting average, home runs, RBIs, slugging %, and OPS.

Bryant never doubted and remained optimistic that he could recover from his injury. He stated, “It wasn’t an injury that required surgery or stuff like that. It was really just rehab and getting it strong. So no, it never crossed my mind. I don’t think as an athlete you can let those creep in because that’ll just paralyze you.”

Manager Joe Maddon spoke of how impressed with Bryant over the past few weeks. “He’s gradually been getting back on track. We’ve seen him consistently hit the ball harder over the past two or three weeks. Even some of the pitches he fouled off tonight, I liked the swing. He was very forceful and on time. He just looks like he did a couple of years ago, and he’s also reacting with the same kind of confidence, so it’s a good thing to watch.”

Bryant also spoke of Kyle Schwarber’s 13-pitch at-bat. “I think that’s one of the best at-bats I’ve ever seen in person. I was right there on deck, so maybe I’m a little biased, but I thought that was the best I’ve ever seen. He was battling, fouling off tough pitches, changeup after changeup, and then gets a fastball and hits it the other way. He’d probably say it’s one of the best at-bats of his life.”

GAME NOTES:

  • Javier Baez extended his hitting streak to 14 games when he hit an RBI double in 1st off of Max Scherzer.
  • When Kris Bryant singled in the 1st inning, he extended his on-base streak to a career-best 26 games.
  • The 3-HR performance by Kris Bryant was the 2nd of his career.
  • According to STATS, Bryant is the 12th player in MLB history to homer in three consecutive innings, but only the 2nd player ever to do it in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings since J.D. Martinez accomplished the feat when he hit 4.