They spent most of the game in the field kicking the ball around for four errors, and they spent even more of the game getting no-hit by Max Scherzer.
So of course the Cubs tied it in the seventh and went ahead in the eighth for a 2-1 victory Monday over the Nationals that puts them one victory away from their third consecutive National League Championship Series.
“I don’t know if we’re trying to do it, or if it’s something else,” Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said. “I don’t know why we’re able to do it. I certainly think anything thrown our way we can get over all the adversity, especially this year.”
The team that trailed in its division at the All-Star break by 5½ games and trailed in this game 1-0 without much of a peep to show against Scherzer until the seventh used a pinch-hit single by Albert Almora Jr. to tie it and later used a pinch walk, sacrifice and bloop single to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five NL Division Series.
“It was a little bit odd early in the game; we made a few mistakes as a team,” said veteran Ben Zobrist, who made one of the errors — then knocked Scherzer from the game with a one-out double in the seventh.
“We just hung in there,” he added. “There was no panic in the dugout. There was no thought that it wasn’t going to happen. It was just when is it going to happen, that was the question.
“When you make mistakes as a team, the mantra is: ‘So what? Now what?’ ”
Now the Cubs try to close out the series Tuesday with Jake Arrieta on the mound.
“It’s going to be like the first game of the World Series, for sure,” catcher Willson Contreras said of Tuesday’s urgency.
“It’s important,” Zobrist said. “We know that having our home crowd behind us, playing at Wrigley, we anticipate it being a very exciting environment. It’s always more fun to celebrate at home than it is on the road. But we’re focused on the game itself, not the celebration.”
If Stephen Strasburg couldn’t beat them in Washington in Game 1 after pitching into the sixth with a no-hitter, and Scherzer couldn’t do it pitching into the seventh with another bid, what chance could the Nats have Tuesday?
The Cubs couldn’t even beat themselves on Monday despite the four-error effort — including two on one play by left fielder Kyle Schwarber in the sixth that led to the Nationals’ only run.
That came with two outs when Schwarber loped to reach Daniel Murphy’s tailing fly to left only to have it bang off his glove for the first error — only to kick it for another error as he tried to recover the ball.
Murphy wound up on third, at which point Cubs manager Joe Maddon emerged to a cascade of boos to take the ball from starter Jose Quintana — who was brilliant in his playoff debut.
Ryan Zimmerman followed with a run-scoring double off Pedro Strop.
“It’s my fault. The ball should have been caught,” said Schwarber, who said he was more “pissed off” than disappointed when he was denied a chance to atone in the seventh as Maddon responded to Nats lefty reliever Sammy Solis with Almora after the Zobrist double.
“For us to be able to come back like that just speaks volumes about this team,” Schwarber said.
A team whose finishing kick to win the division might have been just the beginning.
“To the naysayers, they’re entitled to their own opinion,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “But I think a ballclub’s more than just names on a lineup.”
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