WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper has become fond of the mantra "when we're down, we're never down" to sum up the Nationals' top-ranked offense.So even after they lay dormant for eight innings, in danger of being shut out for the first time all season, they still believed they had a chance
WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper has become fond of the mantra "when we're down, we're never down" to sum up the Nationals' top-ranked offense.
So even after they lay dormant for eight innings, in danger of being shut out for the first time all season, they still believed they had a chance to come back. And they nearly did Monday night at Nationals Park. Trailing by five runs in the ninth, the Nats sent nine batters to the plate and scored four runs before falling just short in a 5-4 loss to the Cubs.
Ryan Zimmerman, the National League's leading hitter, matched up with Cubs closer Wade Davis with the tying run at third and the winning run at second before Zimmerman struck out on a nasty curveball to end the game.
A loss is still a loss, but the Nats could come away with a bit of a positive feeling for the way they battled despite trailing from the opening batter.
"There's no consolation prizes or anything like that, but to come back and make it a game, I think it says something about our team," Zimmerman said.
Matt Wieters first drove in a run with an RBI single against Hector Rondon, and Cubs manager Joe Maddon immediately brought in Davis to protect what was a four-run lead with one out. Davis was greeted by a double from Michael Taylor and a two-run double from pinch-hitter Stephen Drew to cut the lead to 5-3. Eventually, Davis got to Zimmerman, who came to the plate with the bases loaded.
It brought back memories of 2016, when the Cubs decided not to pitch to Harper for virtually an entire series and chose to make Zimmerman, in the midst of the worst season of his career, beat them. He could not, and Chicago swept the Nats during a four-game series at Wrigley Field.
However, this was a much different Zimmerman, in the midst of a career resurgence and enjoying the best first half of his career. The Cubs would have rather not had Zimmerman up in that spot.
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"I think Joe's a pretty smart manager. I'm pretty sure he just looks at the matchups and the numbers," Zimmerman said about the difference between the Cubs' approach last season and now. "And last year, the matchups favored him, so he did what he was supposed to do. And I'm sure if the opportunity arises this year, he'll look at the numbers again. And whatever matchup gives him the best chance to succeed, that's what he's going to do."
A wild pitch allowed the Nats to score another run and give Zimmerman a chance with runners on second and third. And although the Cubs held on for the victory, the Nats can take some positives from the way they battled.
"As long as you got outs [remaining], you got a chance," manager Dusty Baker said. "That's how I look at it. Especially with the offense that we have. You don't know when and who they are going to erupt against. The fact that we had action on winning that game, we were a hit away from winning that game, and our guys didn't quit."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.