The Chicago Cubs topped the Washington Nationals 2-1 on Monday in Game 3 of the National League Division Series (GameTracker). The Cubs now hold a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five series, meaning they could advance to the NL Championship Series with a win on Tuesday.
First, here are some things you need to know about Game 3.
Cubs overcome the odds
Dusty Baker tried playing matchups. He brought in Sammy Solis in the seventh, only to see Joe Maddon counter with Albert Almora Jr., who subsequently tied the game with a single. In the eighth, Baker summoned Oliver Perez to face Anthony Rizzo, only to see Rizzo hit a looper that plated the go-ahead run.
In other words, Baker's attempts at playing matchups -- at playing smart baseball, in theory -- might've been good in process, but failed in result. Unfortunately, for Baker and the Nationals, the results are all anyone cares about this time of the year.
As for the Cubs, they had to scratch and claw their way to their two runs. Yet that was enough. They were eight outs away from being no-hit, and it didn't matter. They made four errors, and it didn't matter. They made multiple silly outs on the basepaths, and it didn't matter. Somehow they pulled off a win. That's what matters -- that's all that matters.
If the Nationals lose this series -- and it seems likely -- they'll have nothing to blame other than themselves and some shoddy luck. The Cubs gave it to them on a platter -- they just wouldn't take it.
Scherzer's hamstring was a non-issue
Remember all that talk about whether or not Max Scherzer would be 100 percent due to his hamstring woes? So much for that.
Scherzer took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and ended his day having struck out seven batters and allowed three walks. He sat in the mid-90s with his heater, and induced 11 swings and misses on 98 pitches. It appeared that Dusty Baker might leave in Scherzer following Ben Zobrist's double, but in the end opted instead for left-hander Sammy Solis. Solis subsequently allowed a game-tying knock to Albert Almora Jr.
Regardless, Scherzer had an outstanding outing -- one that nearly forced Baker into an even tougher decision: if he could remove his ace from an in-progress postseason no-hitter.
Quintana held his own
The Cubs went out and got Jose Quintana in part for games like Monday. In his first postseason appearance, he traded zeroes with a bonafide ace.
Quintana went 5 ⅔ innings, struck out seven batters, walked one, and allowed two hits. He leaned on a four-pitch mix that saw him throw 58 fastballs and 38 changeups and curveballs. He induced 11 swinging strikes, including five on the breaking ball, per Statcast.
Quintana exited following a comically bad error by Kyle Schwarber (Chicago's fourth of the day), and a run then scored. But that wasn't on Quintana. He did his job, and he did it well -- to the extent that, having thrown just 96 pitches, he probably should have been left in a little longer.
Turner remains absent
Heading into the series, the thinking was that Nationals leadoff hitter Trea Turner would play a huge role in a potential series victory. His game-changing speed would come in handy on a stolen-base attempt, or a ball in the gap, or whatever. Through three games, that's been a bust.
Turner entered Monday 0-for-8 without a walk, hit by pitch, or anything else that would allow his wheels to positively contribute. Nothing changed in Game 3. Turner went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and a man stranded. He also erred on defense, completing an ugly game.
We'll see if Turner can get going in Game 4.
Nats offense goes back to sleep
Turner is far from the only Nationals hitter yet to come through in the NLDS.
It's crazy to think, but the Nationals' offense has essentially had one outburst the entire series thus far -- and that was nearly enough for them to stake out a 2-1 series lead.
As Jorge Castillo noted before the Nationals pushed across a run in the sixth:
The Nationals had 5 runs and 4 hits in the 8th inning in Game 2. They have 1 run and 6 hits in the other 21 innings this series.— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) October 9, 2017
On to Game 4
The Cubs are a win away from a return to the NLCS. The Nationals, meanwhile, need to win to avoid being sent into another winter without a postseason series victory. Tanner Roark is set to face Jake Arrieta -- it could be Arrieta's final start with the Cubs, should they lose the series.