CHICAGO -- When you were a kid playing baseball in the backyard, did you pretend to come up to the plate with your team trailing by three runs, the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning? Cole Hamels dreamed it. David Bote did it.
Bote hit a home run he'll never forget, smacking a pinch-hit grand slam with two outs in the ninth on Sunday night to lift the Cubs to a stunning 4-3 victory over the Nationals. It was just the 25th known "ultimate slam" -- a walk-off shot with the bases loaded and his club down by three runs -- on record (play-by-play data is not fully complete prior to 1974). Among those grand slams, it was the 15th hit with two outs.
"This is the ultimate excitement," Hamels said of Bote's blast, the first walk-off grand slam by a Cubs player when trailing by three runs since Ellis Burton hit one on Aug. 31, 1963. "It's the thing that when you're a kid in the backyard and you're visualizing trying to win games, it's always bases loaded, you're down by three and trying to hit the grand slam, and for Bote to be able to do it, what a way to be able to experience that."
With one out and the Cubs trailing, 3-0, against Ryan Madson, Jason Heyward reached on an infield single and Albert Almora Jr. was hit by a pitch. One out later, Willson Contreras got plunked to load the bases. Bote launched a 2-2 pitch from Madson 442 feet to straightaway center.
It was the 37th come-from-behind win for the Cubs, who lead the Brewers by three games in the National League Central with the Crew coming to Wrigley for a two-game set on Tuesday.
On Saturday, Bote struggled against the Nationals and an overload of two-seamers. He knew Madson had a sinker and a four-seam fastball and said he had to pick one.
"Today, I said, 'You know what, I'm not going to get beat down there,'" he said. "The one that was down and away that he called a strike, I was like, 'Oh, that's what I'm looking for.' It was a close pitch. I got that [2-2] pitch and I was like, 'Just get it in the air. Hit it as hard as I can to center field.' That was the approach and get underneath it."
It was only his third grand slam ever -- he hit one in high school and another in 2015 in the Minor Leagues at Dayton. However, it wasn't Bote's only clutch hit. He hit a game-tying, two-run homer in the ninth inning on July 26 against the D-backs.
"He's the kind of guy who gets overlooked, and even when he gets into an organization, based on his Draft status, he's not talked about often until he does something spectacular," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Bote, an 18th-round pick in 2012. "He's one of those guys who has to show it for people to believe it. He's worked his way to this situation. Give him credit. It's going to keep getting better."
Promoted from Triple-A Iowa to fill in while Kris Bryant nurses a sore left shoulder, Bote is just going to enjoy the ride.
"One of the hitting coaches was saying, 'Stay underwater. Just stay underwater, stay where you're at. Keep grinding. This is one game, it's a big game, but we have an off-day tomorrow and we're on to the Brewers,'" Bote said.
For seven innings, this game was a pitchers' duel between Hamels and Max Scherzer.
Making his Wrigley Field debut for the Cubs, Hamels allowed one run on one hit while striking out nine over seven innings. He walked only one batter, Ryan Zimmerman leading off the second inning, but that batter scored on Mark Reynolds' sacrifice fly.
That was enough to put Hamels on the hook for a loss, as Scherzer padded his NL strikeout lead with 11 K's while holding the Cubs scoreless on three hits before turning over a 1-0 lead to the bullpen after seven innings.
Hamels has made it clear he likes pitching at Wrigley Field. He threw a no-hitter there in July 2015 in his last start with the Phillies and threw eight innings of one-run ball in July 2016 with the Rangers.
Acquired from Texas last month, Hamels retired the last 18 batters he faced. In three starts for the Cubs, he's given up two earned runs, has not allowed an extra-base hit and has struck out 20 over 18 innings.
Monday is an off-day and a chance for Bote to catch his breath. What are his plans?
"I'll go do something fun with the kids and enjoy Chicago," he said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cubs manager Joe Maddon gave Almora a rare start against a right-hander because of something his "stats geeks" saw in the outfielder's swing. It paid off with two outs in the seventh when Almora doubled down the left-field line, the third hit off Scherzer. Kyle Schwarber was intentionally walked but Scherzer struck out Contreras to end the inning with the Nats holding a 1-0 lead.
Bote is the first Cubs player to deliver a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam since Earl Averill did so on May 12, 1959, against Milwaukee.
HE SAID IT
"It's a great feeling. The teammates that we have on this team, the support, every single guy, we're in it from Pitch 1 every single day. When you round those bases and you got the 'W' and I see my teammates at home plate jumping around, it's magical. It's incredible. It's an unbelievable feeling. It couldn't happen to a better team or a better group of people in that clubhouse. I'm so blessed to be part of it." -- Bote, on his emotions as he rounded the bases
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Cubs had one on and two outs in the eighth against Koda Glover when Javier Baez hit a grounder to Reynolds at third base. Baez was called safe at first, but the Nationals challenged and the call was overturned.
After an off-day on Monday, the Cubs will host the Brewers for two games at Wrigley Field. In Tuesday's 1:20 p.m. CT opener, Jose Quintana (10-8, 4.28 ERA) will face Jhoulys Chacin (11-4, 3.91). Quintana is coming off a frustrating outing against the Royals in which he gave up five runs over 6 1/3 innings and had trouble with his command. He's 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in four starts against the Brewers, giving up two earned runs over 19 innings.