Rizzo comes through in 8th as Cubs edge Nationals
CHICAGO — For more than six innings Monday, the Chicago Cubs couldn’t find a way to touch Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer.
Once they found a way to manage a hit, though, a critical Game 3 victory in the National League Division Series ending up taking care of itself.
Anthony Rizzo delivered a go-ahead, two-out RBI single in the eighth inning as the Cubs beat the Nationals 2-1 to give the defending World Series champions a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
Game 4 is Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
As long as Scherzer was on the mound on Monday, the Cubs’ chances at gaining a series advantage looked bleak.
“He was dominating us, there’s no two ways about it,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo, whom the Nationals chose to pitch to in the eighth rather than walk him to get to catcher Willson Contreras, dropped a bloop single into shallow center field off Oliver Perez. The hit, which Nationals manager Dusty Baker said landed in “no-man’s land” scored pinch runner Leonys Martin, who entered after pinch hitter Tommy La Stella led off the eighth with a walk.
After Rizzo was thrown out in a rundown following Martin crossing the plate, television cameras caught the Cubs first baseman yelling, “Respect me.”
“That’s the mentality I take always with the base open,” Rizzo said. “I want to make guys pay.”
Cubs closer Wade Davis preserved the victory with a scoreless ninth inning, earning his second save of the series.
Carl Edwards Jr. (1-0) — who surrendered a game-tying home run to Bryce Harper in the Cubs’ Game 2 loss — pitched a scoreless eighth for the win. Brandon Kintzler (0-1) took the loss, as he walked La Stella.
After being held without a hit for 6 1/3 innings, the Cubs tied the game at 1 in the seventh. Ben Zobrist’s double into the gap in left-center broke up Scherzer’s no-hitter before pinch hitter Albert Almora Jr. followed with an RBI single off of reliever Sammy Solis.
Baker said he thought Scherzer had had enough after throwing 98 pitches, prompting the manager to bring in Solis after Scherzer allowed his only hit.
“We thought we made the right decision,” Baker said. “(Solis) got a changeup up to Almora and ... they continue to get clutch hits. You know, we haven’t gotten them ... but we will.”
Scherzer, who started Monday’s game after battling a hamstring injury, baffled the Cubs until Zobrist’s double. The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner struck out seven and walked one. His effort came after Chicago didn’t collect a hit off Stephen Strasburg for 5 2/3 innings in the series opener — a 3-0 Cubs victory.
The Nationals took 1-0 lead in the sixth inning thanks to a Chicago defensive miscue. With two outs, Daniel Murphy reached on a fly ball to left field that Kyle Schwarber dropped and then kicked.
Ryan Zimmerman followed with an RBI double off reliever Pedro Strop.
The Cubs won despite committing four errors.
Jose Quintana, who made the first postseason start of his career, allowed just two hits and an unearned run over 5 2/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked one.
The Nationals threatened in the third inning when they put runners on first and third with two outs. After Michael A. Taylor singled and advanced to second on a throwing error, Washington extended the inning when second baseman Zobrist booted a Harper ground ball.
However, Quintana got out of the jam when he got Anthony Rendon to fly out to right field.
An inning later, Cubs center fielder Jon Jay again kept the Nationals from scoring when he robbed Matt Wieters of an extra-base hit with a lunging catch.
The defense — along with stellar outings by Quintana and the Cubs bullpen — now has the Cubs within a victory of their third straight appearance in the National League Championship Series.
“We made mistakes. We made some errors, but then we made some great plays,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We made a couple baserunning gaffes. Part of it is possibly guys trying just a little bit too hard. But at the end of the day, you’ll always take that effort, always.”
NOTES: Nationals SS Trea Turner continued to struggle in the leadoff spot. Turner went 0-for-4 in Game 3 and is now 0-for-12 for the series. ... Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta will make his first start since Sept. 26 when he takes the mound in Game 4. Arrieta missed 2 1/2 weeks with a right hamstring injury, but said after throwing two bullpen sessions, the injury would be a “non-issue.” RHP Tanner Roark will start Tuesday for Washington. ... Cubs manager Joe Maddon elected to keep 2B Javier Baez on the bench Monday in favor of Ben Zobrist to allow for another left-handed bat against Nationals RHP Max Scherzer.