Cubs 2 Nationals 1
CHICAGO — A calmness persisted in the Cubs’ dugout Monday despite four errors, no hits for 6 1/3 innings and a baserunning gaffe.
“When you make mistakes as a team, the mantra is ‘So what? Now what?’ ” Ben Zobrist said.
The Cubs were able to overcome their mistakes with superb defensive plays and timely hitting that brought them one step closer to advancing beyond the National League Division Series.
Anthony Rizzo’s bloop single with two outs in the eighth inning provided the winning touch as Cubs rallied to beat the Nationals 2-1 to take a 2-1 lead in this best-of-five NLDS.
They hope to clinch the series Tuesday when Jake Arrieta, making his first start since Sept. 26 because of lingering discomfort in his right hamstring, opposes Tanner Roark.
“We know that having our home crowd behind us at Wrigley (is important),” Zobrist said. “We anticipate it being an exciting environment.”
The press box rocked after pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr. singled to score Zobrist with the tying run in the seventh, and a crowd of 42,445 paused briefly before erupting when Rizzo’s bloop fell between three defenders to score pinch-runner Leonys Martin with the winning run.
Television cameras caught Rizzo screaming “respect me, respect me” after Nationals manager Dusty Baker summoned left-hander Oliver Perez to pitch to Rizzo with first base open instead of walking Rizzo and using Ryan Madson to pitch to Willson Contreras.
“I want to make guys pay,” Rizzo said.
Said Baker: “I don’t care. I would have screamed, too.”
Rizzo and his teammates were elated after overcoming Max Scherzer’s no-hit bid. The Nationals ace was pulled after allowing a double to Zobrist on his 98th pitch in his first appearance since tweaking his right hamstring on Sept. 30.
Almora was happy to contribute and take the attention off teammate Kyle Schwarber, who dropped a Daniel Murphy fly near the left field foul line and booted the carom that allowed Murphy to advance to third and subsequently score the game’s first run on Ryan Zimmerman’s double in the seventh.
“I did it for the whole team, but more for (Jose) Quintana and Schwarber, to help them in that situation,” Almora said.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon pulled Quintana after Schwarber’s twin gaffes despite his only allowing two hits. Zimmerman immediately smacked a double off Pedro Strop to give the Nationals their only lead.
During the pitching change, Schwarber walked toward center and received support from fellow outfielders Jon Jay and Jason Heyward.
“It’s a tough spot, and we know he wants to come through,” Heyward said. “We all do.”
Both Heyward and Jay had made sterling defensive plays earlier.
During their 17-5 run that started after the Brewers swept them three games in September, the Cubs have spoken openly about their resiliency and confidence that started when they overcame a 3-1 deficit to win the 2016 World Series.
Those traits have persisted in their victories in games the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg and Scherzer started. Each of them flirted with no-hit bids entering the sixth inning of their respective starts.
Monday’s triumph was more challenging because of the four errors (Quintana, Zobrist and Schwarber’s two) — equaling their most in a postseason game since Game 2 of the 2008 NLDS against the Dodgers.
“It really does say a lot about us,” Kris Bryant said. “We’re not going to get down if things aren’t going our way early. There’s just something about this team.
“We turn it on later in games. It has been pretty special to be a part of these two wins.”