WASHINGTON (AP) — Wade Davis struck out big league batting leader Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to blunt Washington’s ninth-inning rally, and the Chicago Cubs held off the Nationals, 5-4, on Monday night.
In jeopardy of being shut out for the first time this season, the NL East-leading Nationals scored four times in the ninth. Their comeback began against Hector Rondon and continued when Davis became the Cubs’ eighth pitcher of the game.
With Washington down 5-3, Bryce Harper’s single loaded the bases with two outs. Davis threw a wild pitch that scored a run before striking out a swinging Zimmerman, who’s hitting .344. The final pitch bounced, and catcher Willson Contreras zipped a low throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to close out the victory.
Contreras hit a leadoff home run in his first career game-opening at-bat and Eddie Butler (4-2) worked five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs ahead.
Gio Gonzalez (7-2) allowed a run and two hits, striking out eight over six innings.
Rizzo began the day in a 2-for-20 rut, so manager Joe Maddon moved the big first baseman out of the leadoff spot and put another unlikely hitter there. It paid off immediately when Contreras hit his eighth homer, a drive about 10 rows deep into the seats in left.
Chicago made it 2-0 on Albert Amora Jr.’s squeeze bunt single in the eighth. The Cubs three more in the ninth, capped by Javier Baez’s two-run double.
Baez made two exceptional plays at short, diving to snatch Harper’s liner in the third, then racing a long way into foul ground to make a sliding catch on Adam Lind’s popup in the eighth. He also caused havoc on the basepaths in the eighth, stealing third with one out before scoring on Almora’s bunt.
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Contreras said he wasn’t fazed when he saw Maddon had inserted him into the leadoff spot.
“Everybody knows how he likes to work,” Contreras said. “Everybody needs to be ready for every spot.”
Cubs: SS Addison Russell struck out as a pinch hitter, a day after making an early exit before of a sore shoulder. Maddon said Russell’s injury is “not serious, but I don’t want to push it.” For some infield depth, Chicago recalled INF Jeimer Candelario (who started at third) from Triple-A Iowa and optioned RHP Dylan Floro there.
Nationals: LF Jayson Werth has been taking swings in BP and is getting closer to a rehab assignment. “I’m not quite there, but I’m definitely improving,” he said.
UP NEXT: The series continues Tuesday when Washington’s defending NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (7-1, 2.96) and Cubs 2016 All-Star Jake Arrieta (7-5, 4.36) both go in search of their third win in June.
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