Cubs hit six home runs in epic beatdown of Nationals


by - Senior Writer -
Cubs slugger Kris Bryant stayed red-hot at the plate with a superb 3-homer performance. (Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)
Cubs slugger Kris Bryant stayed red-hot at the plate with a superb 3-homer performance. (Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Entering the seventh inning of their series opener against the Washington Nationals (18-26) on Friday, the Chicago Cubs (26-16) clung to 3-2 lead. Three innings and five home runs later, the Cubs finished off a 14-6 victory that can be best described as a tale of two games. On the one hand, a pitching duel between veteran aces Cole Hamels of Chicago and Max Scherzer of Washington was the primary focus of the first half of the contest. On the other hand, the Cubs hitting the cover off the ball in the final three innings completely overshadowed the starting pitching. Regardless, the Cubs put on quite an offensive show at Nationals Park to start the 3-game series.

Leading the way for the Cubs on the night was third baseman Kris Bryant, who, for the second time in his career, hit three home runs in a game. The trio of dingers came in three consecutive at-bats, which spanned three consecutive innings. In a game that saw Bryant increase his active MLB-leading on-base streak to 26 games, the former MVP continued his hot-hitting stretch by going 4-for-6 at the plate with three runs scored and five RBI. Bryant now has 11 homers and 31 RBI on the season. Also of note, Cubs shortstop Javier Baez increased his own MLB-leading streak by going 2-for-4 with the bat, as he currently boasts a league-high 15-game hitting streak.

A 2-out double by Baez put the Cubs on the scoreboard on the first inning, with left fielder Kyle Schwarber coming home on the 2-bagger. The next inning saw Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. go yard for his fourth homer of the year on a mammoth 2-run shot that traveled 445 feet and scored right fielder Jason Heyward.

Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon returned the favor with a 2-run blast in the bottom half of the third that made the score 3-2, but Washington wasted numerous scoring opportunities over the course of the remainder of the game. The Nationals left 11 men stranded on base and went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Hamels escaped several jams in his five innings of work, and Bryant made the Nats pay with his first round-tripper of the evening that came in the form of a 2-run dinger in the top of the seventh. Second baseman Addison Russell was ushered in to score on the blast. During his stint on the mound, Hamels collected his 2,465th career strikeout to move into 40th place on MLB's all-time strikeout leaderboard. The 2,465 Ks are the ninth-most ever recorded by a left-handed pitcher.

Former Nationals reliever Brandon Kintzler struggled against his old club in the bottom of the seventh, giving up three straight hits at one point, including an RBI single by catcher Kurt Suzuki. With two outs and two runners in scoring position, Carl Edwards Jr. took the mound for the Cubs. Although the reliever, who has dealt with his fair share of struggles this season, was able to get out of the tight spot without giving up the Cubs' lead, it was not pulled off without a couple of scares along the way.

Moments after toeing the rubber following the resumption of play, Edwards committed a balk that brought a run across. He then threw a pitch in the dirt that somehow ricocheted back toward the mound after catcher Willson Contreras was unable to corral it behind the plate. Edwards was quick to field the loose ball and proceeded to catch Nationals second baseman Brian Dozier in a rundown between third and home. Dozier second-guessed himself after initially darting for the plate, and it cost him, as he was forced out of the baseline by a pursuing Edwards for the inning-ending out.

With all of that being said, the drama of the bottom of the seventh was quickly forgotten when the Cubs opened the floodgates at the plate in the top of the eighth. Almora led off the frame with a single, and, two at-bats later, Schwarber wore down Nationals reliever Kyle Barraclough in a 13-pitch plate appearance that culminated in a 2-run homer to left for Schwarber's sixth long ball of 2019.

Barraclough remained in the game after that, but he was unable to recover, as Bryant picked up his second 4-bagger of the contest just two pitches after Schwarber hit his moonshot. The 383-foot solo shot to left provided the Cubs with a comfortable 8-4 advantage that escalated following a pitching change. Washington relief pitcher Dan Jennings fared no better than Barraclough, and, after allowing the Cubs to load the bases, he placed his team into an even deeper hole by giving up an RBI single to pinch hitter Mark Zagunis. A throwing error suffered by shortstop Trea Turner enabled an additional run to score on the play, making the score 10-4 in favor of the North Siders.

For good measure, the Cubs tacked on two more home runs in the ninth inning. After Schwarber drew a walk, Bryant capped off his legendary performance with a 2-run jack that was skied 410 feet out to left. Baez went on to register a 2-out infield single, which was followed by a 2-run tater off the bat of Contreras, who has 11 home runs to his name this season. Leading 14-4 at that point, the Cubs were unable to accrue a double-digit victory in the bottom of the ninth, as Dozier hit a 2-run double, but the 14-6 beatdown was quite emphatic, nonetheless.

With 18 hits, including six home runs, and seven walks in all for the Cubbies, it is safe to say that Cubs hitters had their way with Nationals pitchers in the commanding Chicago triumph. Contreras went 4-for-5 in one of his top offensive showings of the season, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo went 1-for-5 in his return to the lineup following a short injury layoff.

Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals
May 17, 2019 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chicago (26-16) 1 2 0 0 0 0 2 5 4 14 18 0
Washington (18-26) 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 2 6 13 1
W: Cole Hamels (4-0) L: Max Scherzer (2-5)

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Tags: Cole Hamels, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr, Jason Heyward, Addison Russell, Brandon Kintzler, Willson Contreras, Mark Zagunis
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