Cubs Record: 44-20 (1st Place NL Central)
W: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0, 2.90)
L: Trevor Cahill (0-2, 2.83)
MVP: Jason Werth: 2-5, 1 RBI, 1 BB.
Not sure where to begin with this crazy game today, so I guess I’ll start from the start. The Cubs took on the Nationals in the rubber match of their three-game series on Wednesday afternoon. Nats fireballer Steven Strasburg, looking to stay perfect, pitched against Jason Hammel.
Ben Zobrist, batting leadoff for the resting Dexter Fowler, opened the game with a home run to right field. Washington tied it up immediately when Ben Revere scored on a Hammel wild pitch to make it 1-1. Then the pitchers took over, trading zeroes for the next 6 innings.
Pinch hitter Stephen Drew broke the logjam in the bottom of the 8th inning, blasting a solo shot to right. The Cubs would not go down without a fight, however, as Anthony Rizzo blasted a go-ahead two-run homer to the second deck in right to take the back the lead in the 9th.
Hector Rondon came in to close the game, but was unable to earn the save. Wilson Ramos singled home the tying run in the form of Bryce Harper, who had reached on a decidedly iffy walk. The 10th and 11th innings passed with no additional runs crossing the plate.
The seesaw game was decided in a dramatic 12th inning that saw the Cubs take the lead as Addison Russell drove home Tuesday’s hero, Albert Almora, with a single to center. The Nats were able to rally off the Cubs pen once again, though, when Michael Taylor tied the game with a RBI single off Trevor Cahill. Then grown-up Teen Wolf Jason Werth walked it off against Adam Warren with a ball off the wall.
Hammel was very good today, going seven strong innings with only one run on five hits. He gave the Cubs every chance to win the game, the pen just could not hold it.
Russell had a big game, going 2-4 with a walk and the go-ahead hit in the 12th. As I have written before, I see big things from him; hopefully the young shortstop can go on a hot streak to boost the Cubs offense.
I have to give some praise to the D.C. ballclub today, they did not quit. The Nats got two gut-punches in this game in Rizzo’s bomb and Russell’s go-ahead hit, yet they rallied back twice to tie and win. I have a feeling this isn’t the last time the Cubs will see the Nationals, as they might have a date in October.
There is no way around it, the Cubs bullpen just didn’t have it on Wednesday. They gave up two leads, not to mention a go-ahead homer before that. It really is a letdown to give up a late lead, it’s the kind of loss that really hurts, especially twice in one game.
I do want to preach one note of caution, which is that you can’t overreact to one bad game. The Cubs need some pen help, we can all agree on that, but I don’t think they need a massive overhaul. They certainly are not “one of the worst pens in baseball.” So everyone take some deep knee bends, it’s going to be alright.
I do not like to blame umpires when my team loses. That is often an easy card to play, and rarely do umpires change games. Bob Davidson, however, has put this theory to the test for me big time. Davidson really squeezed Rondon on a couple close calls against Bryce Harper in the 9th. It’s hard to know if that cost the Cubs the game, though it would have been a different series of events if Harper had gone down, and Rondon knows he should have closed it. Still, I wouldn’t criticize others if they wanted to blame Davidson.
Friday afternoon is Jake Arrieta Day, as the ace looks for win number 11 as the Cubs take on the Pirates. The reigning Cy Young is 10-1 with a 1.86 ERA so far in another dominant season. Former Cubs-killer Francisco Liriano (4-6, 4.92) goes for the Bucs at 1:20 CST. The Cubs now begin a key home stand against the two teams, the Pirates and Cardinals, behind them in the standings. A good stretch now can really give the Northsiders a stranglehold on the NL Central.