Levine: Cubs Stay Even-Keeled After Bullpen Meltdown Changes Complexion Of Series

"Going into Chicago 0-2 would have been a pretty tough hole to dig ourselves out of", said Zimmerman, a former U.Va. standout.

The two of you, pry loose the Chicago Cubs' grip from around the Nats' throat.

Until then, the Cubs managed only one baserunner, and that was via a walk. Now, who knows when it will be done - or who will win? Plus that, the changeup, it makes him even more effective.

And so Harper dug in.

I take some solace that members of Cubs' front office have said they wanted to emulate the Cardinals' success when they started their rebuild.

However, the fine people who designed Nationals Park smartly did it so that there is a gap between the fan barrier and the outfield wall, to minimize any possible fan interference.

At least this Cubs team, at last, can sing a different tune when it comes to the fates working for them instead of against. A couple of times they've been declared the on-paper pennant and/or World Series victor, but never have they come close to the real-life accolades. Worse: Would there ever be one?

The 25-year-old Bryant, who is about 9 months older than Harper, recalled some of their earliest encounters in baseball and chuckled while acknowledging: "He was always better than me". As soon as Harper made contact, the sellout crowd of 43,860, which had spent the first seven innings just waiting for a reason to lose it, did just that, springing to its feet as fireworks exploded from the top of the stadium. This is his time.

But the Cubs were finally able to get to the starting pitcher in the sixth inning and made it count. "There's this pressure for him".

Slugger Edwin Encarnacion is hoping to play again this postseason after spraining his right ankle during a frightening moment in Game 2 of the AL Division Series against the New York Yankees.

In the bullpen, Washington dropped right-hander Joe Blanton and kept a total of four lefty relievers, including Enny Romero and Sammy Solis. "The more at-bats I get, the more comfortable I get", he said before Game 2, adding, "If you don't get it done your first or second at-bat, the third or fourth at-bat could be huge". Bolstered by the pitching performance of Kyle Hendricks, Chicago took Washington fans out of the game, reducing their loud pregame cheering to quiet murmuring by the late innings. He's actually hitting a lot of - I don't know how accurate their gun is, I don't know if it's a little bit hot or not; sometimes I wonder but if the gun was accurate, he hit as high as 91. Maddon trusted Edwards because left-handed batters hit only.119 against him this season. They can get back to being a team that makes the playoffs every year.

There was, first, the issue of the at-bat.

In Game 1, Harper was one of the only Nationals who did hit the ball, lining a first-inning single to right field that accounted for 50 percent of his team's base knocks. Strikeouts and weak contact abounded, particularly from the middle of the lineup, with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth combining to go 3-for-32 as they headed into the eighth inning of Saturday night's contest trailing 3-1. But when Edwards fell behind 3-and-1, he went to the well again, flipping another curve.

  • Julie Sanders