With the Nationals down 3-1 to the Cubs, the National League Division series hung in the balance heading into the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 2 at Nationals Park Saturday.
The Nats were down to their final six outs, all that remained between that moment and Washington trailing 2-0 in the series, a devastating predicament to face knowing they’d head to Wrigley Field next for Games 3 and 4.
“Essentially, the series is hanging in the balance going into the bottom of the eighth,” Ernie Johnson, who’s calling the series for TBS, told The Sports Junkies Monday morning. “You don’t win that game, you drop those first two in your place…”
“It’s over,” Eric Bickel said. “Yeah. You’re done,” his co-host, Jason Bishop added.
“Yeah,” Johnson said. “And nobody wants to say ‘it’s done,’ but it’s because a 2-0 is not impossible to come back from, but man alive, when you lose those first two at your place,” Johnson said. “And it’s been funny, because [Game 1 was] the only game a home team has lost so far. ”
The Nationals, facing the ghosts of postseasons past, erupted.
Adam Lind led off the half-inning with a single to left. Trea Turner struck out in the next at-bat, bringing Bryce Harper to the plate against flame-throwing reliever Carl Edwards, Jr. On a 3-1 curve ball, Harper delivered when Washington needed it most, drilling a picturesque two-run bomb into the second deck in right field.
“And now, all of sudden, here comes Bryce Harper with a bomb,” Johnson said. “Here comes Zimmerman. It was just one of those… it was really kind of a cool half-inning, guys, when you think about it. Because [34-year-old] Adam Lind comes up, he’s never played in a postseason game. He gets the rally started.”
Anthony Rendon drew a walk on the next at-bat, forcing a pitching change. Then Daniel Murphy singled off lefty reliever Mike Montgomery, putting runners on first and second for Ryan Zimmerman.
Zimmerman looked at the first strike, then on the next pitch, sent a 1-0 change up towering high into the air. With a trajectory bordering the left-field warning track, Ben Zobrist tracked the ball all the way to the wall. The only thing that was clear is that the ball’s endpoint wouldn’t be known until it landed: either in Zobrist’s glove or barely over the fence.
“You’ve got Harper, who had been looking for the stroke,” Johnson said. “And then Zimmerman, who has been the guy who’s been there for so long after being the first draft pick. All those things, it was the perfect storm in the bottom of the eighth, and now we’re all tied up and we have a playoff game — a day game — at Wrigley. Baseball’s a beautiful thing.”
“It really was, I gotta say, one of the craziest turnarounds I’ve seen in my life,” Bickel said. “They went from dead to now full-blown ‘it’s on.'”