WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper took a bad off-balance swing against the first pitch he saw from Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. in the eighth inning Saturday. It was a nasty curveball. Harper guessed Edwards would throw him another, and this time, he didn't miss.
Harper launched a game-tying two-run homer off the right-handed Edwards, and lefty Mike Montgomery served up a game-winning three-run blast to righty-swinging Ryan Zimmerman as the Nationals rallied for a 6-3 win over the Cubs. The comeback allowed Washington to even the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile at one win apiece.
Jon Lester went six innings, Pedro Strop handled the seventh and it was Edwards' turn in the eighth for the second straight game. Pinch-hitter Adam Lind greeted Edwards with a single, and the right-hander then struck out Trea Turner with a curve. Harper, one of the game's most dangerous left-handed sluggers, was next.
"That was the only option. That was the right option," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of having Edwards face Harper. "C.J. was the right man for the job. Harper is good, C.J. is really good. C.J.'s numbers against left-handed hitters are among the best in all of baseball."
Edwards had held left-handed hitters to a .119 batting average this season, giving up 13 hits and just two home runs.
"I have all the confidence in the world in [Edwards]," Maddon said. "If that happens again, you're going to see C.J. back out there. He made a bad pitch and the guy didn't miss it, and that's it. Sometimes that happens. Bryce is good. C.J. is good. Bryce got him."
It was the right pitch, wrong location, Edwards said.
"I just hung it," the right-hander said. "At that time, I couldn't do anything once it left my hand. As soon as it left, I had an idea that it wasn't coming down until it landed."
Edwards liked how Harper had reacted on the first pitch of the at-bat.
"That's the pitch I wanted to throw the last time," Edwards said.
"That first pitch was a curveball in the dirt -- great swing on that pitch," Harper said, laughing at his awkward swing. "The next three were heaters up in the zone. And then, you know, I thought to myself, runner on first, didn't think he was going to throw a pitch over the plate, to tell you the truth. I thought he was going to throw a curveball back down in the dirt. And I thought about taking the whole way. And then I saw the loop in the curveball and said, 'Why not swing as hard as you can?' Got barrel on it and a pretty good moment."
In 11 outings since Sept. 5, Edwards hadn't given up a run over 9 2/3 innings, striking out 13.
"It's Bryce Harper, and he can hit," Edwards said. "I made the wrong pitch. I could've made the wrong pitch to anybody, and it would've probably been the same thing."
Edwards walked Anthony Rendon, and Maddon called on Montgomery to face the left-handed-hitting Daniel Murphy, who singled. One batter later, Zimmerman connected on an 0-1 pitch.
"I just pulled a changeup," Montgomery said. "I knew the ball was carrying well to that side of the field. I saw [left fielder Ben] Zobrist kept going back. I don't know how much it cleared by. It's frustrating but that's how it goes sometimes."
What was Maddon looking for when he called on Montgomery?
"A ground ball," Maddon said. "If you look at the percentages, it's really heavy in our favor, ball on the ground. He hung the changeup; he got the changeup up. He's such a heavy ground-ball guy, righties or lefties. For me it's a perfect situation for him to put the ball on the ground, but it just did not happen."
In Game 1, everything the Cubs did worked out perfectly, resulting in a 3-0 victory. Game 2 stung.
"You can't let one loss affect the rest of the series, and I think we're good at that," Montgomery said. "We're frustrated, but we have to get back out there Monday."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.