The Cubs and Nationals played in a tight, back-and-forth game yesterday, but the Cubs simply gave themselves more chances to pull away late than the Nationals did, and then took advantage of those chances.
In the bottom of the 7th inning, after the Nationals had tied things up at five on a near inning-ending double play in the top half of the frame, Addison Russell came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.
On the fifth pitch of the at bat, he managed to put the ball in play down the right field line:
The wind, the movement of the ball, the angling in of the wall, and the gulls all probably conspired to make that a really tough play for Bryce Harper, who was on the ball, but couldn’t reel it in. Harper said after the game that he intentionally pulled up short because he didn’t want to run into the wall (Nationals.com) – a wise move for an MVP who could easily break a wrist trying to go all out for that one.
As for Russell, the double improved his season line to .237/.363/.355, which may not look like much at first glance, but it’s a 94 wRC+ (four points better than last year, and very good for a shortstop). It features that excellent OBP there in the middle. It comes despite a .290 BABIP, which I’m willing to bet is a good 20+ points below his true talent level. And it comes with a 15.0% walk rate(!) and a mere 20.4% strikeout rate.
Russell’s also made much less soft contact this year, and you don’t have to think too hard to remember a stretch a couple weeks ago where he was absolutely crushing the ball right at guys. He deserved a little dink-and-dunk double like that one (and then some, probably.
That bat is going to keep coming around for Russell, who, you’ll recall, only just turned 22 at the start of this year.
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