Teddy Greenstein, MSN
Hamels, 5-9 with a 4.72 ERA before the trade, pitched brilliantly Sunday night in his Cubs home debut, striking out nine and allowing one hit in seven innings.
Scherzer was even better.
But you know what was best of all? David Bote.
The rookie infielder had an all-time moment, hammering a walk-off grand slam in the Cubs’ 4-3 stunner over the Nationals. Bote celebrated in grand style by flinging his helmet to the heavens after turning for home.
“When you round those bases and see your teammates at home plate jumping around because we got the win, it’s magical,” Bote said. “An unbelievable feeling.”
Bote said he anticipated getting a sinking fastball from closer Ryan Madson on the 2-2 count. And he did.
His approach: “Get it in the air. Get underneath it … hit it as hard as I can to center field.”
Not bad for a former 18th-round draft pick, a rookie getting his shot mainly because of Kris Bryant’s shoulder injury.
“I like his self-confidence,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He shows it in a way that’s not offensive, not in a braggart kind of way.”
Maddon later joked, “It was really a boring game, wasn’t it?”
And then he called it what it was, a “classic performance.”
The Cubs trailed 3-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth, and the rally started unassumingly, with Jason Heyward hitting a one-out dribbler to second. Wilmer Difo, inserted into the game for defense, flubbed it.
Madson then hit Albert Almora on the elbow with a pitch. Kyle Schwarber fouled out, but Willson Contreras hung in long enough to take a breaking ball off his left arm. That loaded the bases for Bote, who crushed Madson’s pitch into the batter’s eye in center field.
“My jersey got shredded,” Bote said with a smile.
Scherzer threw seven shutout innings, fanning 11. After Javier Baez flailed at a 1-2 slider, he tossed up his bat, smacked it and then slammed down his helmet.
Remarkably, this came in the third inning. Scherzer got in their heads early.
His first pitch came in high and tight enough to Anthony Rizzo that the Wrigley Field crowd went, “Ooooh.”
Hamels was nearly his equal, dealing again in his third start for the Cubs.
“The energy that we have after the games, that was something special,” he said.
The 34-year-old lefty did allow the first Nationals run, which came after a leadoff walk to Ryan Zimmerman in the second. Daniel Murphysingled, and Mark Reynolds skied one to right. Heyward’s throw was off line.
Hamels retired the last 18 batters he faced.
“What does his birth certificate say?” Maddon asked. “He doesn’t look it. He’s in great shape.
“Did you see him swing the bat? This guy will have a significant hit or two before the season’s over. He’s a really good athlete and of course he’s probably been reborn a little coming to us.”
Hamels is reborn, and on this night, a rookie gave the Cubs new life.