Everything was going as planned heading into the ninth inning for Nationals bettors. Max Scherzer dominated, striking out 11 over seven scoreless innings, and even mixed in a few trademark grunts for good measure:
The Nats added to their one-run lead in the top of the ninth, thanks to a clutch two-run single from Ryan Zimmerman. Joe Maddon opted to intentionally walk Bryce Harper to pitch to Zimmerman, despite the fact that Zimmerman has been scorching hot against the Cubbies all series. After his clutch hit, he moved to 10-for-21 with three homers and 12 RBIs over his past seven games.
All in all, Washington bettors were feeling fantastic with three outs to go.
If there was a reason for optimism for Cubs backers (+122), it was that All-Star closer Sean Doolittle was unavailable after being placed on the disabled list with a toe injury, giving Ryan Madson and his 4.43 ERA the save opportunity instead.
Still, Madson got Ben Zobrist to ground out harmlessly to first base for the first out of the inning. Good start.
Then things got interesting.
Madson, facing Jason Heyward, induced another soft ground ball, but defensive replacement Wilmer Difo made a mess of it at second base. He wasn’t awarded an error, but Difo’s bobble allowed Heyward to reach first.
Madson compounded the problem by plunking Albert Almora Jr. two pitches later, and just like that, the Cubs were in business.
After Kyle Schwarber popped out in foul territory, Madson plunked Willson Contreras with a 2-2 count. The Cubs suddenly had the winning run at the plate without hitting a ball out of the infield.
With the pitcher’s spot in the order due up, Maddon called on 25-year-old David Bote to pinch-hit. Bote has spent the majority of the season alternating between Triple-A and the big league club, but has seen a lot of playing time recently with Kris Bryant on the DL. He has taken advantage of it, owning a ridiculous 52.0% hard-hit rate since the All-Star break.
Madson once again got within one strike of closing the game out, but Bote promptly deposited his 2-2 fastball over the center-field fence:
Bote became the first player with two strikes to hit a walk-off grand slam with his team down by three since Alan Trammell did it for the Tigers way back on June 21, 1988.
With the victory, the Cubs move to three games up on the Brewers in the NL Central race, while the loss leaves the Nationals 5.5 games behind the Phillies and Braves in the NL East. Depressing night for the Nats, and the bettors who backed them.