In the ninth inning, Cubs manager Joe Maddon took issue with the pitching delivery of Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, who could be seen tapping his toe while winding up to throw home. The Chicago Tribune's Mark Gonzales reported the Cubs played the game under protest.
According to MLB, "Managers can protest a game when they allege that the umpires have misapplied the rules. The umpires must be notified of the protest at the time the play in question occurs and before the next pitch or attempted play begins. If the play in question ended the game, a protest can be filed with the league office until noon the following day."
"It was a thinly (veiled) attempt to throw me off my game," Doolittle said of the Cubs' protest after the game, according to The Athletic's Brittany Ghiroli.
He added: "Sometimes [Maddon] has to remind people how smart he is. ... He put his stamp on that one for sure."
Doolittle also said Maddon was "not trying to do anything other than rattle me, and it was kind of tired," per Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington.
Despite the protest, Doolittle delivered a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to seal the game and give Washington a 19-26 record on the season.
Maddon has already had a run-in with the toe tap in 2019, as the league told Cubs reliever Carl Edwards Jr. that his similar delivery had been deemed illegal, ESPN's Jesse Rogers reported on April 1.
The controversy to end the game overshadowed a solid performance from Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who got the win by giving up one earned run and striking out seven through eight innings pitched.
The plot twist will make the rubber match between the Cubs and Nationals all the more interesting, as it will be featured on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball beginning at 7 p.m. ET.