Almora knocks in go ahead run in ninth to beat Nationals


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<span style=Photo by Ben Mills / USATODAY">
Photo by Ben Mills / USATODAY

WASHINGTON -- Rookie left fielder Albert Almora drove in the go-ahead run with a ninth-inning double as the Chicago Cubs defeated the Washington Nationals 4-3 to even the series on Tuesday.

Cubs starter John Lackey produced another quality start, a theme of the past month for the veteran ace, but closer Hector Rondon garnered the victory. Nationals reliever Sammy Solis, by giving up the what proved to be the winning run for Chicago, was named the loser on the night.

With no action to speak of in the first two innings, Lackey, surprisingly, was the one to incite the offensive fireworks, hitting a two-out single in the top of the third that sparked a Cubs run. Center fielder Dexter Fowler followed up Lackey’s hit with a double of his own, and, with runners on second and third, right fielder Jason Heyward came up with a clutch single to right that scored both runners. Heyward has struggled to produce with runners in scoring position this season, but he has improved in that regard recently.

The Nationals cut the Cubs’ lead to 2-1 in the bottom half of the third, with shortstop Danny Espinosa scoring on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Jayson Werth. Prior to that, the bases were loaded with only one out, and they were loaded once again after Lackey walked right fielder Bryce Harper following Werth’s sacrifice fly. However, a lineout by second baseman Daniel Murphy allowed Lackey to escape with only one run against his name.

Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist was walked to start off the fourth, and, after advancing to second on a groundout, he stole third. The gutsy steal enabled Zobrist to score on a single by catcher David Ross, giving the Cubs a 3-1 advantage.

After an offensive lull, the Nationals cut their deficit to one run in the bottom of the seventh, as Espinosa scored yet again via a sacrifice fly, this one off the bat of center fielder Ben Revere. The Nats knotted the game up at three runs apiece the following inning. Harper took advantage of a leadoff walk and later scored on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Anthony Rendon.

A leadoff walk led to a run being scored again in the ensuing half inning. In the top of the ninth, shortstop Addison Russell drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ross. Almora then produced the biggest hit of his young career, hitting a double to center that scored Russell in what turned out to be the game’s winning run. To make matters more impressive, this was Almora’s only at-bat of the evening. In the bottom of the ninth, Rondon, who had entered the game in the eighth, forced the Nationals into a three up, three down inning, and the Cubs escaped with a 4-3 victory.

A riveting matchup of the National’s League’s two best teams, Tuesday night’s game was a back and forth thriller that could potentially be an NLCS preview. The Cubs will look to follow up their exciting victory tomorrow night in the series finale, as Chicago starter Jason Hammel will seek to rebound from a loss in his previous start. Hammel will have his work cut out for him, though, because his opponent, Washington starter Stephen Strasburg, is a remarkable 10-0 on the year.



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