Bote stings Nats again as Cubs grind out win

Infielder delivers go-ahead hit in 10th nearly a month after his walk-off slam vs. Washington

September 7th, 2018

WASHINGTON -- did it again -- even if he didn't exactly know what happened.

Bote doubled to the right-center-field gap to drive in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning and later scored an insurance run as the Cubs continued their long road trip with a gritty 6-4 victory over the Nationals on Thursday at Nationals Park.

Mired in a 2-for-24 slump, Bote drove another stake into the heart of Washington, this time by hammering a 100.3-mph fastball from Nationals reliever just past the outstretched glove of center fielder to score Albert Almora Jr., who had doubled with one out. But Bote initially wasn't sure of his heroics.

"I actually didn't see where it went at first -- you can kind of see me looking around," Bote said with a laugh. "I didn't know where it went and then I heard the dugout kind of screaming, and I'm like, 'Oh, it's gotta be somewhere good.' I was trying to find out and saw them running."

It was Bote's second big hit against Washington, as he blasted a walk-off grand slam against the Nationals on Aug. 12 at Wrigley Field -- a fact that wasn't lost on the crowd at Nationals Park.

"I heard the boos today," Bote said. "I love it. That's fun. You love to play in those kind of atmospheres. It's kind of like, 'Let's do this.'"

Pinch-hitter added an insurance run with an RBI single, and closed out the victory with his third save for the Cubs, who improved to 9-8 in extra-inning games this season. Chicago's bullpen was excellent, as six pitchers combined to throw five scoreless innings after starter allowed four runs (one earned) on six hits over five frames. (5-1) picked up the victory with a clean ninth.

With the win, Chicago's lead in the National League Central stretched to 4 1/2 games over the idle Brewers, and the team's magic number for clinching the division is 18.

"What an interesting game," manager Joe Maddon said. "You talk about a complete team victory, my God. That's exactly what that was. We played hard, man. Give the boys credit."

The Cubs are in the middle of a stretch of 23 games in 23 days, including their current 11-game road trip, and when you factor in travel days, extra innings and the grind of a long season, sometimes the onus is going to fall on players like Bote to deliver in clutch situations.

"Like I said since the beginning, anything I can do to help the team win, whether it's starting or coming off the bench, I'm just being ready every single time I'm put in the game," Bote said. "Each win at this point of the season is key. You can't let whatever the circumstances are change how we approach the game. We've got to be ready to go, and that's how this team goes about their business."

The Cubs opened a 2-0 lead in the third inning behind RBI hits from and , who each had two knocks on the night, and the team rallied from deficits of 3-2 and 4-3 to improve to 12-5 in the 23-game stretch.

"We've really fought through some very difficult moments recently, and the whole team has been playing," Maddon said. "Not just a couple of guys, the whole group has been getting it done."

Murphy cheered by Nats fans in return to DC

MOMENT THAT MATTERED

Maddon pushed the right bullpen buttons in the eighth inning, removing after he allowed a walk and a double while recording just one out. Left-hander came into the game to face righty slugger , who has been solid against left-handed pitching. But the counterintuitive move paid off as Wilson won an eight-pitch battle with a strikeout and then got to fly out and end the threat.

"That's the game," Maddon said. "That moment is the game. [Wilson] got ready fast, he came out and he threw strikes, like really strikes right where he wanted to."

SOUND SMART

is known for his speed, and he swiped second base in the eighth as a pinch-runner with a sprint speed of 31.4 ft/sec -- well above the MLB average of 27 ft/sec. Gore now has 23 career steals during his MLB career, but just 15 career plate appearances, and he has yet to record a big league hit.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

Zobrist caught a big break in the third inning to help stake the Cubs to a 2-0 lead when he ripped a ball down the first-base line that was heading toward Reynolds. But the ball took a wicked carom off the outside corner of the base and ricocheted into right field, allowing Rizzo to easily score from second.

HE SAID IT

"He's a pitcher, man. He's a pitch-maker. He slows things down. He's the Ben Zobrist of relief pitchers. He can do so many different things out there." -- Maddon on Chavez, who picked up the sixth save of his career

UP NEXT

will take the hill in a 6:05 p.m. CT start at Nationals Park on Friday against Washington's Joe Ross, who is making his season debut. Lester will be looking to bounce back against the Nats after allowing nine runs (eight earned) in a loss to them on Aug. 11 at Wrigley Field.