WASHINGTON — Before we get started on the catastrophe that arrived in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the National League Division Series between the Cubs and Nationals on Saturday, let’s have a quick show of hands:
Who remembers the names of the pitchers who got the Cubs through the 10th inning of Game 7 of the World Series last season?
The Cubs not blowing that late lead was kind of a big deal, you’ll recall. Something about ending a curse and eight long years — oops, make that 108 long years — of frustration. Anyway, good job to those of you with your hands in the air. Indeed, it was Carl Edwards Jr. and Mike Montgomery who got the Cubs to the finish line in Cleveland.
So back to Saturday, when the Cubs lost their grip on what would have been a gigantic victory because, yep, first Edwards and then Montgomery served up possibly the two biggest home runs in Nationals history.
Edwards hung a curveball that Bryce Harper sent into orbit, a two-run shot that tied the score 3-3. With two runners on, Montgomery let a changeup run too far inside to Ryan Zimmerman, who did what a player of his stature does in such a situation. Two really good relievers flopped. Two All-Star sluggers made them and the Cubs pay, stealing all the momentum as the teams head back to Wrigley Field.
What the heck now?
‘‘I want [the ball] right back,’’ Edwards said. ‘‘Same situation.’’
But this isn’t about what Edwards wants to happen. It’s about what ought to happen. And it’s about manager Joe Maddon’s circle of trust, which was so tiny by the time the 2016 World Series came around that Aroldis Chapman was the only member of the bullpen who comfortably fit in it.
Should Chapman’s successor in the closer role, Wade Davis, start doing pushups and schedule some extra yoga sessions in preparation for three-inning stints?
The answer is an emphatic no. Even Maddon agrees with that. Take Edwards against Harper, for example. Edwards, a right-hander, led the majors in batting average against this season at a puny .134. Harper is one of the most dangerous lefties on the planet, but guess what? Edwards is even better against lefties, who hit .119 and slugged an anemic .193 off him.
‘‘C.J. was the right man for the job,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘Harper is good; C.J. is really good. . . . I have all the confidence in the world in him. If that happens again, you’re going to see C.J. back out there.’’
Edwards said failing to get the job done is ‘‘hurtful.’’ Montgomery said the whole thing ‘‘sucks.’’
But the Cubs were far from down-in-the-mouth after such a series-shifting defeat. The vibe in the clubhouse after the game wasn’t all that different, if you can believe it, than it had been following the victory in Game 1. The team’s confidence remains high.
‘‘If [Edwards and Montgomery] don’t feel any support in this room, something’s wrong,’’ said starting pitcher Jon Lester, who was in line for another playoff victory. ‘‘We’ve all got their backs. Hell, we’ve all been there. . . . Hopefully the situation arises [in Game 3], and they go right back out there and dominate.’’
Pedro Strop, the one member of the bullpen who worked spotlessly in Game 2, had his own bumper-sticker-style take: ‘‘[Expletive] happens.’’
‘‘Those guys have been there the entire year,’’ Strop said. ‘‘Last year, too. Those are the boys. C.J. and Mike? Come on, man. We really believe in them. Like, no doubt.’’
No doubt? There’s always some doubt. But the Cubs head home in fine shape. The bullpen limps home, but it’ll live. And on we go.
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