After being blown out in the first game of a Saturday’s doubleheader, the Cubs looked to salvage the second game at a rainy Nationals Park. Things looked good early before the bullpen fell apart and the Northsiders got swept.
Cole Hamels and Jefry Rodriguez were strong early on, with neither allowing a hit through the first three innings. The Cubs broke through in the 4th as Kris Bryant walked, Javy Baez doubled, and Kyle Schwarber was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. Victor Caratini was the unlikely hero, blasting a grand slam to right-center to give his team a 4-0 lead.
The Nats were not ready to go quietly. Adrian Sanchez tripled on a ball Albert Almora Jr. got to but couldn’t catch to cut the lead to 4-1. Then Hamels ran into big trouble in the 6th inning as the rain started to fall. Anthony Rendon homered and Sanchez doubled to cut the lead to 4-3.
Bryant doubled home Terrance Gore to build the lead back up to 5-3 in the top of the 7th, but Steve Cishek surrendered an infield hit on a dribbler by Trea Turner. That weak hit turned out to be disastrous for the Cubs, as Rendon doubled in Turner. Joe Maddon went to Justin Wilson to attack Bryce Harper, which resulted in the slugging outfielder blasting the game-winning homer to center.
The teams had to wait through over an hour long rain delay before Greg Holland (no relation) closed out the one-run victory. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Lost
The Cubs had a four-run lead and the pitching couldn’t hold it. The Nationals’ powerful lineup roared back to life and won the game.
I could say Harper’s homer was the key moment as it won the game, but I will go with the 6th inning instead. The Cubs were in complete control of the game and the wheels came off in that frame. Holding a one-run lead after that proved too difficult a task.
Stats That Matter
- Hamels has been so good I feel bad getting on him for this game: 5.2 IP, 3 R, 3 H, 5 K, and 5 BB. He got squeezed a bit on the bottom of the zone, but five walks is not a recipe to go deep in a game.
- Caratini is starting to hit for some power of late. Victory Carrot being a better hitter would allow the overworked Willson Contreras to get a few more games off.
Saturday could not have gone worse for the Cubs. The rough weather has played havoc with the pitching the last 24 hours and the Brewers have crept to within 2.5 games of first place. The series at Wrigley coming up has become bigger than Chicago would have hoped a few days ago.
The Cubs try to split the series and earn a winning road trip Sunday afternoon at 12:35pm CT. Mike Montgomery faces Erick Fedde in a game that airs on TBS. The weather forecast for this game is not good, so another rainout is possible.