WASHINGTON—First, Stephen Strasburg and Jason Hammel duelled to a scintillating draw.
Then the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs engaged in a back-and-forth drama that stretched into extra innings.
Afterward, both sides agreed: it was a game better suited for late fall than the middle of June.
Jayson Werth singled in the winning run with two outs in the 12th inning, giving the Nationals a 5-4 victory yesterday before a sell-out crowd of 42,000—largest of the season in Washington.
The Nationals won two of three in this showdown between the NL East and NL Central leaders.
“It kind of had a playoff feel, the way it was fought and played, especially at the end,” said Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo.
“It was a fun game, a crazy game, the kind you see in October.”
Facing Adam Warren, Werth hit a liner off the wall in centrefield to score Michael Taylor, who had hit an RBI single against Trevor Cahill (0-2) earlier in the inning.
“It was awesome,” Taylor said. “It’s the kind of game you want to part of.”
Addison Russell had given the Cubs the lead in the 12th with a run-scoring single off Yusmeiro Petit (2-0).
“They have a good team. We have a good team,” Werth noted.
“It was a battle, a good series.”
Strasburg gave up one run in seven innings for the Nationals while Hammel did the same for Chicago.
After they departed, both teams received shoddy bullpen work.
Pinch-hitter Stephen Drew gave Washington a 2-1 lead with a homer in the eighth off Pedro Strop.
It was the Nationals’ club-record ninth pinch-hit home run of the season.
With closer Jonathan Papelbon on the disabled list, Washington manager Dusty Baker summoned Matt Belisle to protect the lead in the ninth.
But when Belisle promptly gave up a lead-off double to Kris Bryant, Baker turned to Oliver Perez to end it.
Rizzo greeted the left-hander with a two-run shot to right.
Cubs’ closer Hector Rondon added his name to the list of ineffective relievers in the bottom half.
He issued a lead-off walk to Bryce Harper and then a two-out RBI single to Wilson Ramos.
“The two best teams in baseball going at it, exchanging punches,” Hammel said. “It was exciting.
“We had our chances to do it and they answered back.
“Just a hard-played series on both sides,” he added. “An October preview, maybe.”
Hammel remained 9-0 lifetime against the Nationals after giving up five hits while striking out four and walking nine.
He ended his outing by getting Anthony Rendon to ground out with a runner on third.
Strasburg, meanwhile, struck out eight, allowing six hits and a walk. He wasn’t involved in the decision so he’s 10-0 with a 2.90 ERA after 14 starts this season.
“Fastball command got better as the game went on,” the right-hander said.
Ben Zobrist opened the game by hitting a 1-2 pitch from Strasburg over the wall in right.
Jason Heyward followed with a double but was cut down trying to steal third.
Chicago didn’t put another runner in scoring position until the seventh, when Albert Almora Jr. doubled with one out.
The Nationals got a first-inning run when Ben Revere singled and scored on a wild pitch.
After Ramos led off the Washington second with a single, Hammel retired 13-straight batters.
The Nationals next face San Diego and the Dodgers on the road over the next seven days—a journey that will test the team’s focus.
“I’ve seen the West Coast destroy teams,” noted Dusty Baker. “Everybody has friends, relatives, couple fleas, couple parasites.
“It’s no joke going to the coast,” he stressed.
Elsewhere in the NL, L.A. nipped Arizona 3-2, San Diego doubled Miami 6-3, San Francisco dumped Milwaukee 10-1, Atlanta topped Cincinnati 9-8 (13 innings), and N.Y. bombed Pittsburgh 11-2.