Game Forty-Six – Cubs 0, Nationals 3
WP – Max Scherzer (6-3) LP – Jon Lester (4-3) Save – Drew Storen (16)
The Cubs could not string together any hits against Max Scherzer and struck out 14 times on the night. The Nationals scored the first run of the game on error and tacked on with two more solo homers and the Cubs were shut out on Wednesday night at the old ballyard.
Jon Lester made only one mistake in his seven innings of work. Lester gave up a solo homer to Bryce Harper leading off the sixth inning. Lester labored through the fourth inning after a throwing error by Addison Russell gave the Nationals a run and extended the inning. Lester had trouble refocusing after the error and while the Nationals did not score again in the inning, the extra pitches Lester threw in the fourth kept him from going deeper in the game.
Jon Lester took the loss after allowing two runs, one earned, on seven hits and two walks. Lester tied a season-high with 10 strikeouts on 106 pitches, 69 for strikes, in seven innings.
James Russell walked the only batter he faced in the eighth. Jason Motte recorded all three outs in the eighth and Travis Wood served up a solo home run to Danny Espinosa in the ninth that removed any doubt about the outcome of the game.
The Cubs offense predictably had a rough time Wednesday night. Scherzer allowed only five hits and walked one batter. Scherzer struck out a season-high 13 batters, 13 of the 27 outs he recorded in seven innings were via a strikeout.
The Cubs best scoring chance came in the eighth inning after Max Scherzer turned the game over to the bullpen. Jorge Soler (1-for-1 with a double) pinch-hit for Chris Coghlan (0-for-3 with three strikeouts) and doubled to start the inning. Anthony Rizzo (1-for-3 with a HBP) was hit by a pitch. Matt Williams brought in Casey Janssen to face Kris Bryant (0-for-3 with a walk) with two on, no outs and the Nationals leading 2-0.
Kris Bryant popped out to second (infield fly). Dexter Fowler (0-for-3 with a sac bunt and two strikeouts) tried to bunt his way on. Janssen made a diving stop on the third base side of the mound. And from his knees threw out Fowler at first base. With the tying runs in scoring position, Starlin Castro (2-for-4) rolled over another pitch and grounded out to short to end the inning.
Wednesday was another rough night for the Cubs’ defense … three more errors. Starlin Castro was charged with two and Addison Russell with the third. But it was Russell’s miscue that led to the first run of the game.
Yunel Escobar singled to start the fourth. Lester did not get the call on a 3-2 pitch to Harper and walked him. Ryan Zimmerman hit a routine grounder to short, a tailor made double play ball. Castro fielded the ball cleanly and flipped to second. Russell stepped on the bag but rushed his throw to first. The ball skipped past Rizzo, Escobar scored and the Nationals took a 1-0 lead. Lester really had trouble throwing strikes after the error. Lester walked Wilson Ramos. Lester caught Dan Uggla looking at a 3-2 pitch and Tyler Moore struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.
The Cubs have problems making the routine plays in the field. All three errors Wednesday night were on plays that Major Leaguers, regardless of their age or amount of experience, simply have to turn into outs. When the Cubs make mistakes, it seems like the opponent has capitalized each time this season.
The Cubs found out over the last three days that they can compete with one of the best teams in the game … the next step in the development, figuring out and learning what it takes to beat the top teams in the league.
With Wednesday’s loss, the Cubs slipped to 25-21 on the season.
Thursday is an off-day for the Cubs. The Royals make their way to Wrigley for a weekend series that starts Friday afternoon (3:05pm CDT). Jake Arrieta is scheduled to face Edinson Volquez in the opener.