“He’s got a clutch gene,” the Nationals starting pitcher, Gio Gonzalez, said. “He’s unreal.”
Harper took advantage of a fluttering curveball left over the plate by reliever Carl Edwards Jr.
Cubs Manager Joe Maddon had the left-handed Mike Montgomery warming up and closer Wade Davis at his disposal, but he stuck with the right-handed Edwards against Harper, a lefty hitter. Maddon trusted Edwards because left-handed batters hit only .119 against him this season.
“If that happens again, you’re going to see C. J. back out there,” Maddon said, using Edwards’s nickname. “He made a bad pitch and the guy didn’t miss it, and that’s it. Sometimes that happens.”
But the move backfired against Harper, who has played only seven games over the past eight weeks because of a knee injury.
“I saw the loop in the curveball and said, ‘Why not swing as hard as you can?’” Harper said.
After Edwards walked Anthony Rendon, Maddon inserted Montgomery to face the left-handed Daniel Murphy, who bested him for a single. Then Montgomery fired a changeup over the plate to Zimmerman, who did not miss.