Everything that could go right went that way in the Cubs’ sweep of the Giants. Things were very different when the red-hot Nationals came to Wrigley, however. Washington steamrolled Chicago in a three-game whitewash that dropped the home team 2.5 games out of first in the NL Central.
The relentless Nats lineup, led by Anthony Rendón and Juan Soto, wore the Cubs’ pitching down with a barrage of singles hit with all manner of velocity. They scored a total of 16 runs in two lopsided victories to open the series and Chicago hitters could do nothing against starters Anibal Sánchez and Joe Ross, who allowed just five runs.
The North Siders’ offense was most effective in the game started by ace Stephen Strasburg, as they battled back from three separate deficits to force things into extra innings. It was the top of the lineup that again helped the road team to victory, scoring two runs off of Tyler Chatwood in the 11th inning secured the sweep.
Adding to the sour mood at the Friendly Confines were the awful uniforms both teams had to wear. The Cubs’ beautiful pinstripes and blue hats were replaced by bland white hats and helmets. The Nationals’ black unis were slightly more palatable, but still nothing to write home about. Just an ugly weekend all around for the Cubs.
Pedro Strop‘s issues don’t seem to be getting better even in low-leverage spots. He entered in the 5th, the earliest he has appeared in a game since 2015, allowing two inherited runners and one of his own to score. He was wild and his fastball was again sitting at just 92 mph.
The Cubs picked up three garbage runs in the 9th with help from Nicholas Castellanos. Things had been decided well before that point, however and the Nats won easily.
Washington pounced on José Quintana early in Saturday’s game. Howie Kendrick and Yan Gomes singled in a four-run 3rd inning that built up a 5-0 lead and the Nationals’ ability to make contact with runners in scoring position was a big factor in the series.
The Cubs had a golden opportunity in the 4th inning down 5-1 when Anthony Rizzo walked and moved to third on a Javy Báez ground-rule double with none out. Kyle Schwarber and Victor Caratini each struck out, but Tony Kemp walked to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Ian Happ then worked a great plate appearance and should have drawn a walk, but went down on a controversial called third strike to end the inning.
Rizzo was forced to leave with back tightness in the 5th. Jonathan Lucroy hit for Tony and had his own rule-book double to cut the lead to 5-2, after which Báez strike out and Schwarber popped up to strand men on second and third for a second straight inning. Washington tacked on two more runs late and again had a fairly lopsided win.
Cole Hamels did much better work than the Cubs’ first two starters on Sunday, surrendering just two runs in five innings pitched. Rendón broke a scoreless tie with solo homer in the 4th inning and Addison Russell tied the game with a homer off Strasburg in the 5th inning.
Two singles in the 6th ended Hamels’ day and put men on the corners with none out. David Phelps got a double play, but a run scored to give the Nats the lead. Kris Bryant singled home Jason Heyward, who had been hit by a pitch, to even things in the 6th.
Rowan Wick had problems in the 7th inning and loaded the bases on two walks and a single. Kyle Ryan took over with two outs and allowed an infield single to Soto to give the Nats a 3-2 advantage. Asdrubal Cabrera had his own single to knock in two more before the frame ended.
The Cubs would rally back to tie the game for a third time when Caratini went deep in the 7th off of Hunter Strickland to cut the deficit to 5-3. In the 8th, Fernando Rodney walked Báez before allowing a long two-run homer to Schwarber with two out.
The score remained there into extra innings and Castellanos came just a couple feet short of a walk-off homer in the 10th. That would prove costly as Kendrick singled and Trea Turner doubled against Tyler Chatwood in the 11th. A wild pitch and a Rendón single gave Washington the eventual 7-5 win.
- Hamels has only given up five runs his last two starts after allowing 12 in the two before that.
- Castellanos had five hits this weekend as the rest of the offense struggled, especially with men on base.
- Lester keeps getting lit up in the month of August. He has allowed 23 earned runs in 24.1 innings pitched this month, good for a pretty ugly 8.51 ERA in five starts.
- Happ has no hits in his last 12 at-bats. Despite picking up four (should be five) walks over that stretch, he needs to contribute some hits.
Things looked so promising for the Cubs after sweeping the Giants to open the homestand. Even though the Nationals have played inspired baseball since June, failing to win a single game is a huge disappointment. With their well documented road struggles, Chicago can not afford to flop at home.
The Cardinals swept the reeling Rockies to build up their division lead, so the Cubs must now step up against a suddenly scary Mets team or risk falling well back in the division. A Wild Card game with the DC Destroyers doesn’t sound like a very fun time.