Nationals fall short despite Scherzer's gem

Nationals fall short despite Scherzer's gem

CHICAGO -- In Game 1 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile, it was the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg who stymied the Cubs, but Chicago eventually rallied for a win. On Monday, it was Max Scherzer, who was dominant, yet once again, the Cubs came through late.

The Cubs survived four errors, a baserunning gaffe and a dominant outing by Scherzer to post a 2-1 come-from-behind victory on Anthony Rizzo's tiebreaking bloop RBI single with two outs in the eighth inning. The win gives Chicago a two games to one lead over the Nationals in the NLDS.

Game Date Matchup TV/Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 CHC 3, WSH 0 WATCH
Gm 2 Oct. 7 WSH 6, CHC 3 WATCH
Gm 3 Oct. 9 CHC 2, WSH 1 WATCH
Gm 4 Oct. 11 WSH 5, CHC 0 WATCH
Gm 5 Oct. 12 CHC 9, WSH 8 WATCH

"It's just an attitude, an attitude we've had on this team since I came up," Kyle Schwarber said of the Cubs' mantra. "I remember in '15, we had the same attitude -- we're not going to quit -- and we'd just got swept in the [NL Championship Series]. We're not going to quit."

The win was huge for the Cubs. When a best-of-five series is tied at 1-1, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the series 75 percent of the time (36 of 48 times). Game 4 will be today at Wrigley Field at 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT on TBS.

"We have to do our best against them again," Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said. "They're a tough team. They're not going to give it up. We have to play 27 outs."

Pitching and defense win games, right? Scherzer did his part, holding the Cubs hitless over 6 1/3 innings and striking out seven. But the first and only hit off him was a one-out double to Ben Zobrist in the seventh, and he was then pulled after a long conversation on the mound with manager Dusty Baker.

"Well, it was very difficult, but we thought Max had had enough, especially coming off the injury, and Schwarber is a dangerous man," said Baker. "I probably couldn't live with myself if Schwarber had hit one out of the park, which he's dangerous [enough] to do."

Scherzer added: "When they made that decision, I wasn't going to override anybody. These are pressure-packed situations. They've done their homework, and they've done their job to come up with the best scenario in that situation."

Debatable decisions don't go Dusty's way

Zobrist breaks up the no-no

Pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr. then greeted Sammy Solis with a single to score Zobrist and tie the game at 1. That also was Almora's first postseason hit; he was 0-for-14 before that.

Almora Jr.'s game-tying knock

The Nationals had taken the lead by taking advantage of Schwarber's two errors on one play in the sixth. The Cubs' left fielder couldn't close his glove on Daniel Murphy's fly ball, then kicked the ball. Murphy then scored on Ryan Zimmerman's double.

Nats score on errors, double

"We made mistakes," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We made some errors, but then we made some great plays. 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."

That unearned run was charged to Cubs starter Jose Quintana, who held his own in his playoff debut, fanning seven over 5 2/3 innings.

"We got it done because our pitching was so good, quite frankly," said Maddon. "You had to match [Scherzer's] great pitching performance with another one, and we did."

Quintana's terrific outing

Scherzer had been projected to open the series but was pushed back because of a tweak in his right hamstring. He seemed just fine Monday. This was the longest postseason no-hit bid by a pitcher against the Cubs since Strasburg held them hitless over 5 2/3 innings in Game 1 on Friday.

The Nationals, who won 97 games and cruised into the playoffs with their deepest and most talented team in recent years, now find themselves on the brink of elimination.

"We've won two games in a row before. It's not a record," Zimmerman said. "It's not an ideal situation to be in; obviously, I'd rather be up 2-1. It's playoff baseball. We'll come back out tomorrow, play a game, hopefully come out on top and go home and have an exciting Game 5."

In the Cubs' eighth, pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella walked to lead off and was lifted for pinch-runner Leonys Martin, who moved up on Jon Jay's sacrifice. Brandon Kintzler struck out Kris Bryant, and left-hander Oliver Perez took over. Rizzo dropped a single between three Nats players in shallow left, which was enough time for Martin to score. Rizzo, however, was tagged out trying to stretch his single to a double.

Extended Cut: Rizzo's RBI single

"That ball can't get down," Nationals outfielder Michael A. Taylor said. "As the center fielder, I have to take over, take charge and make a call on that."

Rizzo was confident coming to the plate.

"I'm thinking, 'Don't pitch to me right there,' to be honest," said Rizzo. "I love this situation, with a base open. We have a history facing each other. … I knew he was going to throw me a fastball. Obviously, it blooped in there, but that's what this game's about. Those situations, I love being up in. It's my job to drive in runs, and I came through there."

'Respect me!' Rizzo makes Nats pay dearly

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Lapse in left: Schwarber is known more for his tape-measure homers than his glovework, and he fouled a ball down the right-field line onto Sheffield Avenue in the second. With two outs in the Nationals' sixth, Murphy lifted a fly ball to left that Schwarber couldn't squeeze in his glove, and then he knocked it away when he tried to pick it up. The two errors allowed Murphy to reach third and prompted Quintana's exit. Zimmerman greeted Pedro Strop with a double to center to score Murphy.

Murphy reaches third on errors

"I'm going to take full responsibility for that before anyone asks me," Schwarber said. "It's my fault. The ball should've been caught."

Almora, Cubs back Schwarber after error

Doubled up: After the Cubs tied the game on Almora's single in the seventh, they had two on and one out against Kintzler. Addison Russell lined a ball to right-center, but Taylor caught up to it and Jason Heyward, who was on first, was doubled off to end the inning on an 8-4-3 relay.

Nats relay for key double play

"I already had it in my head that Addy was going to come through with a big knock there and I was going to score from first," Heyward said. "Reading that ball, it looked like it was going to fade away from him, but Taylor's a good outfielder and made the play. Guys were telling me, 'Hey, so what? We've got baseball to play.'"

Missed opportunity: The Nationals were unable to take advantage of two Cubs errors in the third. Taylor singled to lead off and moved up on a throwing error by Quintana on a pickoff attempt. After Quintana struck out Scherzer and got Trea Turner to pop up to first baseman Rizzo, Bryce Harper reached on a fielding error by second baseman Zobrist, who couldn't pick up the ball cleanly. Right fielder Heyward ended the inning with a nice running catch of Anthony Rendon's fly ball in right center.

Quintana escapes a jam

"I thought we took a lot more positive swings with guys in scoring position today. We just didn't find the holes," catcher Matt Wieters said. "We just had some balls that they made plays on."

QUOTABLE
"We've got to be in attack mode. There's no relaxing just because we're up in the series. I'm a big, big believer in, you know, travel-day wins. You've got to get that win on a travel day because it makes everything better. The flight's better, the morale is better. [Tuesday] we have a chance to seal it up here at Wrigley Field, and I expect our fans to be insane, just like they always are, and we'll be ready to go." -- Rizzo, who spiritedly celebrated the Game 3 win

Rizzo on reaction after big hit

"We're right there. Playoff games are crazy. Sometimes they're low-scoring, sometimes they're high-scoring. It hasn't really gone our way just yet, but we still got a big game tomorrow. Get this series back to D.C., I like our chances." -- Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, on the club's mindset going into Game 4

"It's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to it. I think everyone on our team is, too. Like Zim said, we've won two before. We've faced elimination before as well. I look forward to going out there tomorrow." -- Harper, on facing elimination

Game of inches could turn back in Nats' favor

WHAT'S NEXT
Nationals: After originally planning to go with Tanner Roark -- even following Tuesday's rainout -- the Nationals will turn to Strasburg, who allowed two unearned runs on three hits in seven innings in a Game 1 loss.

Cubs: Jake Arrieta will start Game 4 on Wednesday, facing the Nationals for the second time this season. He took the loss on June 27 at Nationals Park, giving up five earned runs on six hits and six walks over four innings. Arrieta was pushed back in the playoff rotation to give his right hamstring time to heal. First pitch will be at 4:30 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.