Game Sixty-Four – Cubs 4, Nationals 5 – 12 innings
WP – Yusmeiro Petit (2-0) LP – Trevor Cahill (0-2) Save – None
Gotta make ‘em earn it and the Cubs did not Wednesday in the finale against the Nationals. The bullpen gave the Nationals too many opportunities and Dusty Baker’s team cashed them in and beat the Cubs in 12 innings to take the series.
The Cubs took the lead in the top of the 12th on a single from Addison Russell that drove in Albert Almora Jr. But the Cubs bullpen could not hold the lead. Trevor Cahill hit Danny Espinosa with one out in the bottom of the 12th. Espinosa stole second and tied the game on a single from Michael Taylor. Jayson Werth delivered the game-winner, a single to center, with Taylor running, off Adam Warren. And the Nationals celebrated walking off the Cubs.
Wednesday was another heavyweight match between two of the best teams in the National League. The Cubs lost the series at Nationals Park (1-2) but won the season series (5-2) and finished the nine-game road trip with five wins and four losses (5-4).
The game was tied at one after seven innings. Stephen Drew drilled a pinch-hit homer in the eighth off Pedro Strop and the Nationals thought they had the game in the bag. Kris Bryant (1-for-4 with a double, a HBP and a run scored) led off the ninth with a double off Matt Belisle. Dusty Baker went to his pen for lefty Oliver Perez. Anthony Rizzo (1-for-4 with a home run, a walk and two RBI) launched a two-run homer to right and the Cubs took a 3-2 lead.
Hector Rondon did not get the call on a 2-2 pitch to Bryce Harper leading off the ninth. Rondon ended up walking Harper and he scored the tying run on a two-out single to left off the bat of Wilson Ramos. After a stretch of converting 22 save opportunities, Rondon was hung with a blown save in back-to-back games.
The game remained tied at three until the 12th. Albert Almora Jr. (2-for-5 with a double and a run scored) led off the inning with a single to center. A wild pitch with Javier Baez (0-for-5) allowed Almora Jr. to take second base. Baez was called out on strikes (3-2 pitch). Addison Russell (2-for-4 with a walk and a RBI) singled to center on a 1-1 pitch. Almora Jr. scored, 4-3 Cubs. Russell took second on the throw to the plate. Trevor Cahill batted for himself and was caught looking for the second out. Ben Zobrist (1-for-5 with a home run and a walk) grounded out to second to end the inning.
Trevor Cahill struck out Anthony Rendon looking to start the 12th inning. Rendon was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. Homeplate umpire Bob Davidson had a horrible day behind the plate. Rendon could not take it any longer and Balkin’ Bob tossed him out. Cahill plunked Danny Espinosa and the game got away from the Cubs. Espinosa stole second and scored on a single from Michael Taylor. Baker put Taylor in motion on a 1-0 pitch to Werth and the always classy Jayson Werth singled to center out of the reach of Albert Almora Jr. Taylor scored the winning run.
The Cubs pretty much gave the game to the Nationals. The Cubs hit into four double plays and made two very costly out on the bases early in the game with Stephen Strasburg on the hill. A team cannot expect to beat a pitcher the caliber of Strasburg if they give him two outs.
The Cubs bullpen was exposed Wednesday and showed why the front office is looking to upgrade it. A walk in the ninth led to the Nationals tying the game. A hit batsman put the tying run on base in the 12th. And both free runners scored. Home runs happen, basehits to drive in the winning run happen. But it is imperative to make the other team earn it. The Cubs did not on Wednesday at Nationals Park.
Jason Hammel matched Stephen Strasburg pitch-for-pitch on Wednesday afternoon. Hammel allowed only one earned run on five hits in seven innings. Hammel arguably put together his best start of the season. Hammel had excellent command of his fastball and slider, threw strikes and gave up very little, if any hard contact.
The only run off Hammel scored in the first inning. And it was a gift run, the Nationals did not earn it. Ben Revere led off with a single to left. Revere stole second with Werth at the plate. Teams are running at will when Miguel Montero is catching. After Werth grounded out to short, Bryce Harper rolled out to Zobrist at second. Revere went to third with two outs. Hammel jumped ahead of Daniel Murphy 0-2. Hammel’s next pitch was high and outside. Hammel missed his mark by several feet. Montero got a glove on the ball, thought he had. The ball popped out of his mitt and Revere scampered in with the tying run.
Jason Hammel found a rhythm and retired 17 of the final 19 batters he faced on the afternoon. Hammel turned the game over to the bullpen in the eighth inning. Hammel was charged with one run on five hits and no walks. Hammel struck out four on 84 pitches, 64 for strikes.
Ben Zobrist led off the game with a home run off Stephen Strasburg and for a majority of the afternoon with the way Hammel was pitching it felt like the Cubs would find a way to scratch out another win. It was not meant to be.
With Wednesday’s loss, the Cubs slipped to 44-20 on the season.
Thursday is an off-day. The Cubs begin a six-game homestand Friday afternoon (1:20pm CDT) with the first of three against the Pirates. Jake Arrieta is scheduled to face Francisco Liriano.