I’ve seen many bizarre nights at Nationals Park, but Tuesday night’s matchup between the Washington Nationals and the Chicago Cubs had to be among the weirdest. A ballpark that was full throughout the summer saw just 17,648 official attendees, but there were far fewer actually in the stands. Those that attended got quite the treat and a fun, weird game.
The Nats went on to beat the Cubs 11-5. With the win and a Braves loss, the Nats extended their lead in the NL East to 7.5 games with a magic number of 20 to win the division.
The Nats offense got moving early and put on five runs in the first two innings. Ian Desmond hit is 20th home run of the season, a two-run shot that scored Jayson Werth, in the first inning. Desmond always had a lot of untapped power, but before this season, he had never hit more than 10 in one year. Michael Morse got thrown out at third on a questionable decision, but it certainly didn’t matter in th eoverall outcome of the game.
In the second, Jesus Flores hit his fifth home run of the season. In the fourth, Adam LaRoche hit his 26th bomb of the year, and Tyler Moore hit a moonshot two-run homer two batters later for his eighth of the year. Ryan Zimmerman was the last Nats starter to record his first hit of the game, and it, too, was a home run for his 18th on the season. Are you sensing a theme here? LaRoche added his second homer on the night in the eighth, his 27th this season and the Nats’ sixth blast of the game. That tied a team record since 2005 for most home runs in a game, and the last time they did it was on May 20, 2011 in a 17-5 rout of the Baltimore Orioles.
For the Cubs part, they put out seven pitchers, and every one of them was a rookie. Only one pitcher threw more than one inning, and it wasn’t their starter, Chris Rusin. It was a motley crew of pitchers by one of the worst teams in the National League.
Edwin Jackson was locked in early in the game, facing just two over the minimum through the first five innings. In the sixth, an untimely walk to Anthony Rizzo put two runners on with two outs, and Jackson was never able to recover. He didn’t record another out as Christian Garcia made his MLB debut to record the final out of the inning. Jackson has been prone to the blow up inning all season, and this was a perfect example of that.
With their 83rd win of the season, the Nationals continue controlling their own destiny. With a 7.5 game lead, it seems impossible that the Nats could do anything but win the NL East. It’s early to say for sure obviously, but a 7.5 game lead with just 27 games remaining is a whole lot for the Braves to make up. Watching this September might be the most fun you’ve ever had while watching the summer end.