WASHINGTON – Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. said he has hung a few curveballs this season and gotten away with them.
But not on this Saturday night.
And not to this batter.
Edwards hung a 3-1 curveball to the dangerous Bryce Harper in the eighth inning with one out and the Cubs holding a 3-1 lead.
Until then, the sellout crowd at Nationals Park had seemed resigned to another loss for their Washington Nationals.
One pitch changed all that.
Harper launched the hanging curve deep into the right-field stands to stun the Cubs and bring the crowd to life. A few minutes later, Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer off Mike Montgomery, and just like that, the Nationals were on their way to a 6-3 victory.
The best-of-five National League Division Series is tied at one game each, with Games 3 and 4 to be played at Wrigley Field on Monday and Tuesday.
Edwards addressed reporters at his locker in a clubhouse that was quiet but not downcast.
“Right pitch, just hung it,” said Edwards, who worked a scoreless inning of relief in the Cubs’ Game 1 victory. “I didn’t get it down where I wanted to. I left it up.”
Edwards is a right-handed pitcher. Harper is a left-handed batter. During the season, left-handers batted .119 with two homers against Edwards, while right-handed hitters went .148 with four homers.
Manager Joe Maddon said Edwards was the right man for the job.
“That was the only option,” Maddon said. “That was the right option. CJ was the right man for the job. Harper is good. CJ is really good. CJ’s numbers against left-handed hitters are among the best in all of baseball.”
The Cubs will take a breather on Sunday, with a light workout at Wrigley Field before sending lefty Jose Quintana to the mound, likely against Nationals ace Max Scherzer on Monday. Scherzer is nursing a bad hamstring.
So one way to look at this is the Cubs suffered a devastating blow and have to face one of the best pitchers in baseball in Game 3.
The other way to look at it is they achieved a split on the road and can win the series by holding serve at Wrigley Field.
As Anthony Rizzo pointed out, the Cubs have been hit by body blows before, including in Game 7 of the World Series last year. They weathered it and won.
“It’s baseball,” Rizzo said. “You’re not going to knock us down. We gave up a home run to Rajai Davis to tie [Game 7 of the World Series]. It’s part of the journey. You’ve got to embrace it. It’s obviously not a good feeling to lose the way we did, but it’s part of it.”
Jon Lester started on the mound for the Cubs, and he gave up a first-inning home run to Anthony Rendon. Willson Contreras tied the game with a homer against Nats starter Gio Gonzalez in the second. The Cubs went ahead, 3-1, in the fourth when Kris Bryant doubled and Rizzo homered to right.
The Nationals challenged the call, arguing a fan in a Cubs shirt reached over the wall and interfered, but replay upheld the homer.
Lester wound up working six innings, giving up two hits.
“They beat us,” he said. “We played a good game. They played a good game. They had a couple good swings there toward the end of the game and beat us. You can live with getting beat. It’s just a matter of when you do it to yourself. That’s the hard part.”
Harper insisted that the Nats weren’t dead at all.
“I think our whole team here does a great job,” he said. “I think everyone has a thing where we’re all pulling that same rope every single day. You play for 27 outs, and that’s what we do.”