David Bote slugged a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Chicago Cubs a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals on Sunday night at Wrigley Field.
Bote hammered a low 2-2 fastball from Washington right-hander Ryan Madson (2-5) well over the fence in center field to turn an apparent shutout loss into a memorable victory.
“I got that pitch and I was like, ‘Just get it in the air. Hit it as hard as I can to center field,’” Bote told reporters. “That was the approach, and get underneath it.”
The stunning turnaround boosted Chicago’s lead in the National League Central to three games over the second-place Milwaukee Brewers.
Multiple media outlets reported that Bote’s shot was just the second walk-off grand slam ever to erase a 3-0 deficit. The other was hit by Cincinnati Reds pinch hitter Sammy Byrd to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 23, 1936. Byrd, part of a World Series championship team with the New York Yankees in 1932, later became a golfer and won six times on the PGA Tour.
The Cubs’ most recent walk-off slam when down by three runs was hit by Ellis Burton on Aug. 31, 1963.
Washington was in good shape entering the ninth after right-hander Max Scherzer struck out 11 over seven shutout innings, Mark Reynolds hit a sacrifice fly and Ryan Zimmerman delivered a two-run single to give the Nationals a 3-0 edge.
Madson retired the first batter in the bottom of the ninth before Jason Heyward reached on an infield single when second baseman Wilmer Difo was unable to handle his slow bouncer. Madson hit Albert Almora Jr. with a pitch before retiring Kyle Schwarber on a foul pop.
Madson then plunked Willson Contreras in the left shoulder on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases.
Bote then produced the decisive blast that leaves the Nationals 5 1/2 games behind both the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies in the National League East.
“It’s a great feeling,” Bote said, according to MLB.com. “The teammates that we have on this team, the support, every single guy, we’re in it from Pitch 1 every single day. When you round those bases and you got the ‘W’ and I see my teammates at home plate jumping around, it’s magical.
“It’s incredible. It’s an unbelievable feeling. It couldn’t happen to a better team or a better group of people in that clubhouse. I’m so blessed to be part of it.”
The blast earned Bote an audience with actor/comedian Bill Murray, a noted Cubs fan who was among the Wrigley faithful shown cheering the dramatic comeback.
The team tweeted a photo of Bote and Murray together on the field postgame with the caption, “Legends.”
Left-hander Justin Wilson (4-3) retired two batters for the Cubs to pick up the win.
Scherzer gave up three hits and a walk while dueling with Chicago’s Cole Hamels, but Madson’s blown save prevented him from becoming the first 16-game winner in the majors this season.
Reynolds’ second-inning sacrifice fly provided an early lead, and Zimmerman’s ninth-inning hit added to the margin.
Hamels allowed one run and one hit over seven innings in his first home start at Wrigley Field since being acquired from the Texas Rangers. The left-hander struck out nine and walked one.
Washington pushed across its run against Hamels in the second inning.
Zimmerman drew a leadoff walk and moved to third on Daniel Murphy’s single to left. Reynolds followed with a fly to right field, and Heyward’s throw was wide as Zimmerman crossed home plate.
The Nationals added to their lead in the top of the ninth. Trea Turner hit a one-out bouncing triple down the left field line, Juan Soto walked, and Bryce Harper was intentionally walked. Right-hander Brandon Kintzler fell behind 2-0 to Zimmerman, who sharply smacked a two-run ground single on the following pitch to give Washington a 3-0 edge.
—Field Level Media