By Bruce Levine —
CHICAGO (CBS) — How do you win baseball games when you spend most of the time being no-hit?
Just ask the Chicago Cubs, and they’ll tell you it’s about staying in the moment.
For the second time in three games in this National League Division Series, the Cubs on Monday were without a hit against the Nationals until the later stages of a tight contest. And for the second time in three games, the Cubs found a way to earn a gutsy win.
Chicago rallied for a 2-1 win against Washington in Game 3 at Wrigley Field, taking a 2-1 lead in the tightly contested series. This time, it was Nationals ace right-hander Max Scherzer who stymied the Cubs by holding them hit-less until there was one out in the seventh inning. His gem came three days after teammate Stephen Strasburg no-hit Chicago for 5 2/3 innings.
“This has been all about pitcher’s duels,” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said. “That was especially true today against Scherzer. That was huge for us to get that win.”
On Monday, it was Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist who came through with the first hit, a double that chased Scherzer after 6 1/3 innings as manager Dusty Baker kept a close eye on him in his first start since tweaking his hamstring. Pinch-hitter Albert Almora Jr. followed with an RBI single to tie the game at 1-1.
“Experience and confidence are what I can say we see in every locker in here,” Almora said. “It is in writing on our World Series rings — we never quit. I truly believe everyone on this team believes that. When one of us is in a pressure situation, we know they have a great chance to get it done.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Anthony Rizzo’s two-out RBI bloop single plated the winning run. He swung at the first pitch he saw from lefty reliever Oliver Perez after Baker declined to pitch around him, a call that had Rizzo screaming “respect me” after his big hit.
“Well, the other option would have been to walk Rizzo and pitch to (Willso) Contreras,” Baker said “So you have to pick one or the other. You know he blooped the ball in there. Of course, it was a clean hit, but it was a blooper. I thought we had a chance to catch it.”
Chicago can clinch the series when it hosts Game 4 at Wrigley Field on Tuesday. Steeled by their championship of a year ago and a never-quit attitude, the Cubs carry great confidence, no matter the circumstance.
“We believe in all of our guys,” Zobrist said. “A lot of us have had more rest days than usual throughout the season. There is kind of a rotating thing going on with us. We really do not know who is going to start on a given day. We accept that as a club and stay focused in that moment to stay flexible and come off of the bench or start the game. You saw that tonight with Albert sitting all game and being prepared for that pinch-hitting moment. Tommy (La Stella) did it with his walk to lead off the eighth. It is not about who is doing it. It is about being ready when your name is called upon.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.