CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo delivered without swinging his bat on Friday afternoon, including a bases-loaded walk in the seventh inning that led to the Cubs' go-ahead run in a 3-2 victory over the Nationals. Unfortunately for Cubs manager Joe Maddon, he didn't get to see the last at-bat after being
CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo delivered without swinging his bat on Friday afternoon, including a bases-loaded walk in the seventh inning that led to the Cubs' go-ahead run in a 3-2 victory over the Nationals. Unfortunately for Cubs manager Joe Maddon, he didn't get to see the last at-bat after being ejected.
Nationals starter Jeremy Hellickson did not give up a hit over 5 2/3 innings, but Rizzo helped knock him out with a 13-pitch at-bat in the sixth that was key to the game.
"That at-bat by Riz swung the momentum," Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks said.
Rizzo eventually drew a walk, and Hellickson walked the next two batters before he was pulled. Jason Heyward greeted Sammy Solis with a two-run single to break up the no-hitter and tie the game at 2.
"That got Hellickson out of the game," Maddon said. "Anthony's at-bat shifted the tide."
The Wrigley Field crowd of 41,531 was cheering every foul ball during the at-bat.
"It makes your hair stick up a little bit," Rizzo said. "They're into it -- we need that."
"You could see Hellickson grabbing his breath after that at-bat was over, leading to the other walks," Maddon said. "It's a tough bind for [manager Dave Martinez] on the other side. The guy's got a no-hitter, and you're trying to play it all the way through."
Hendricks has had those types of at-bats before.
"You just have to keep trying to make a good pitch," Hendricks said. "I've had a few of those in my career, and you have to keep pounding the zone and get after it. That was a hell of a job by Riz."
In the Cubs' seventh, the game was tied at 2 when Kyle Schwarber singled to lead off and Willson Contreras bunted toward third. Anthony Rendon threw to first, and the ball sailed into foul territory. But first-base umpire Nick Mahrley called Contreras out, saying he interfered with first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Maddon not only argued the call with crew chief Bill Miller, but he ran to first to re-enact some of the play. It didn't work, and Maddon was ejected for the second time this year.
"I know what the rule is," Maddon said, "but there has to be some interpretation of the rule where in a situation like that the defense gets rewarded and the offense gets penalized. That's my problem with the whole thing. It could've changed the game."
The Cubs loaded the bases against Greg Holland, as pinch-hitter Ian Happ and Addison Russell followed with singles, and Rizzo drew a walk to force in the go-ahead run.
This is the first meeting between the two teams since the Cubs edged the Nationals, 9-8, in Game 5 of the National League Division Series last October. At that time, Martinez was Maddon's bench coach. Now, Martinez is the Nationals' manager, back at Wrigley Field, where he made his Major League debut as a player at the age of 21 on June 15, 1986.
• Martinez returns to Wrigley: 'I've learned a lot'
Hendricks remembers the NLDS well. He started Game 5, although he did not get a decision. Hendricks did not get a decision on Friday either, scattering eight hits over six innings.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rover: With one out in the Nationals' first, Trea Turner singled and Rendon was hit by a pitch. Third baseman David Bote then made an amazing over-the-shoulder catch in foul territory to end Bryce Harper's at-bat, but Juan Soto followed with an RBI single.
Lucky 13: Hellickson's outing changed with one at-bat. Rizzo faced the right-hander for the third time in the game with two outs in the sixth. The count was 2-2 before Rizzo fouled off five pitches in a row, took a ball, then fouled off two more pitches before drawing a walk. Hellickson threw everything in his repertoire during the 13-pitch at-bat, from an 89.5-mph fastball to a 73.6-mph knuckle curve. Hellickson then walked both Javier Baez and Benjamin Zobrist to load the bases before he was lifted for Solis. Hellickson's final nine pitches were balls.
"He's one of the pitchers where he can throw anything at any time," Rizzo said. "You just have to pick a side and hopefully it goes that way because he has a two-seamer, a cutter, a curve. He was good today, really good."
Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler, who was with the Nationals at the start of the season, knew what his former teammate was going through.
"Rizzo's done that to me a few times, but I knew that was a big spot," Kintzler said. "They don't like to let Hellickson go through the lineup third time around. I knew if we could flip it over, and we could get some runners on, they'd take him out and you never know what could happen after that."
"I think I tried everything," he said. "That's why he's one of the best hitters in our game. He's just always up there battling. Two outs, nobody on. Starts a little rally. I just can't walk guys right there. It just can't happen that way. I've got to make them put the ball in play."
Hellickson is the first pitcher since Matt Clement to pitch at least five innings and give up zero hits and at least two earned runs. Clement did so in 2003 with the Cubs.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Nationals threatened in the eighth and had Harper at second and Soto at first. But catcher Contreras picked off Soto, throwing from his knees, for the first out of the inning. It was the second time in the game that Soto got picked off at first -- Hendricks also did so in the sixth. Contreras recorded a pop time of 1.49 seconds in the eighth, the fastest Statcast™ has tracked on a successful pickoff at first this season.
"It's first and second, a do or die play because [Soto] is far, and I'm far," Rizzo said. "If I go too early, [Soto] is going to know. Willson made a great throw. We had our little sign that we give to each other and he saw it and we made a good play."
Can either Rizzo or Contreras start the play?
"I don't know how it works," Rizzo said innocently. "Joe called it from his office."
However, Maddon claimed to not know what the sign is and said he didn't want to know. He was just happy to see it executed at that time.
"Never be afraid of making a mistake when it's the right thing to do," Maddon said of the play. "He did that to them last year with [Jose] Lobaton, he did it today. It was the right player, the right attempt to make. Do it without concern of making a mistake."
Said Hendricks: "Willie is so dynamic and brings so much more to the game."
HE SAID IT
"We've been here the last few years and we know what it takes to take care of business. We have to focus on what we do and come in each day and take care of the task at hand, and that's each ballgame every day. We know Milwaukee is a tough club. We just have to take advantage every day we can and get all the W's we can." -- Hendricks, on the close Central race
All-Star Jonathan Lester is looking for his first win in the second half. The left-hander (12-4, 3.44 ERA) was 12-2 in the first half with a 2.58 ERA. In four starts since the break, he's 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA. The Cubs have won one of those outings. He did not get a decision against the Nationals in two starts in the National League Division Series last October. Washington will counter with Tanner Roark (6-12, 4.21). First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CT from Wrigley Field on Saturday.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.