CHICAGO - The Nationals threw everything they had, up to and possibly including the kitchen sink, in an attempt to do what no team in baseball has been able to do since last summer and actually beat Jake Arrieta.
That still wasn't enough to pull off the implausible, though, certainly not when an overworked bullpen couldn't hold a late lead and a lineup that had countless opportunities to score runs throughout couldn't do it enough times to win.
The Cubs rallied to score two runs in the seventh to tie the game, then won it in the 13th on Javier Baez's walk-off homer to finish off a 4-3 win and complete a four-game sweep of the shell-shocked Nationals on a day Bryce Harper tied the all-time record with six walks.
Baez's homer off a 3-2 pitch from Blake Treinen soared into the left field bleachers, leaving what remained of a crowd of 41,233 in ecstasy and the Nationals completely demoralized.
For the Nats, it was a bitter conclusion to what once looked like a dominant road trip. After taking five-of-six in St. Louis and Kansas City, they wound up finishing an even 5-5 on this long swing through the Midwest.
The Nationals gave themselves a boatload of scoring opportunities against Arrieta. They failed to deliver far more than they would have preferred, but they came through just enough to score three runs off the right-hander and put themselves in position to become the first opposing team to beat the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner in his last 20 starts.
The Nationals didn't score their runs via big hits in big moments but via hustle, shaky defense and one hit at just the right moment.
Harper got them on the board first by scoring all the way from first base on Ryan Zimmerman's sharp grounder past Kris Bryant at third base that rolled into the Chicago bullpen. It was a vintage display of hustle from Harper, who first made a name for himself doing that kind of thing during his rookie season in 2012.
The Cubs would only let Harper attempt to beat them with his legs, though, not his bat. He reached base seven times via six walks and a hit-by-pitch to complete a bizarre series. The six walks tied the all-time record for a single game, done only three previous times (Jimmie Foxx in 1938, Andre Thornton in 1984, Jeff Bagwell in 1999). Not one of Harper's last 12 plate appearances ended in an official at-bat. He walked 10 times, was hit by one pitch and had a sacrifice fly. He walked 13 total times in the four-game series.
And the guys behind Harper in the lineup couldn't take advantage of all the walks. Zimmerman stranded the bases loaded three times in this game; the Nats collectively went 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position.
Having knocked Arrieta out of the game after five innings, the Nationals felt like they were in an advantageous position. But the Cubs lineup battled Tanner Roark as well, knocking the right-hander out after six innings and 110 pitches.
With a shot now to rally against a depleted Nationals bullpen, the Cubs delivered. Trying to avoid using both Blake Treinen (who had pitched two straight days) and Shawn Kelley (who had pitched three straight days), manager Dusty Baker turned to Oliver Perez and Yusmeiro Petit in the bottom of the seventh. Perez wound up putting two men on base; Petit then served up Bryant's two-run single up the middle that tied the game and ensured Arrieta wouldn't take the loss after all.
Petit would go on to pitch 3 2/3 innings of relief, throwing 56 pitches, before calling it a day. Jonathan Papelbon was forced to pitch in a tie game in the 11th and nearly took the loss, needing a perfect relay from center fielder Michael A. Taylor to shortstop Danny Espinosa to Wilson Ramos to nail Jason Heyward at the plate and prevent the winning run from scoring.
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