Another day, and another blown lead for the Chicago Cubs (10-9). David Ross‘s club made the short trip from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. late Wednesday evening and looked ready to play on Thursday afternoon despite the travel. But a shaky start from José Quintana and an even shakier outing by the bullpen doomed them against the Washington Nationals (9-9), losing 7-6 in extra innings, via MLB The Show 20.
Once again, the Cubs got off to a good start. Kris Bryant walked to start the game and moved to third on a double to right field by Javier Báez. Nats starter Patrick Corbin walked Kyle Schwarber to load the bases with one out, then, after getting Willson Contreras to ground into a fielder’s choice, he had a chance to get out of the inning. Then bench bat Steven Souza Jr., who got the start in right field against the lefty, smashed a single up the middle to take a 2-0 lead.
Quintana looked sharp early, getting through the first two innings unscathed and getting two quick outs in the third. But outfielder Juan Soto dinged Quintana for a two-out, solo homer in the 3rd to bring the score to 2-1. Eric Thames followed with a single and catcher Kurt Suzuki capped the rally with a go-ahead, two-run home run.
The Cubs would retake the lead quickly, rallying after Corbin walked Souza to start the top of the 4th and quickly gave way to reliever Hunter Strickland. The right-hander struck out David Bote but gave up a single to Ian Happ that put two runners on for Quintana. The pitcher bunted the runners to second and third, bringing up Bryant for a three-run bomb.
The homer was Bryant’s fifth of the season, continuing his red-hot play. Although he was ultimately just 1-for-4 in the game, Bryant is hitting .323 with a .419 OBP in his early role as the leadoff hitter. The big swing gave Quintana some breathing room and he went back to the mound with a quick and efficient bottom of the 4th.
The left-hander wouldn’t make it out of the 5th, however, as Trea Turner and Starlin Castro both singled to start the frame and Soto walked to load the bases for Thames with nobody out. The slugger hit a deep fly ball to center that was good enough to score one run, cutting the score to 5-4 and ending Quintana’s day. Righty Casey Sadler came in and induced two quick groundouts, stranding the remaining two runners. Quintana finished the day with four earned runs over 4 1/3, allowing nine hits and two walks with three strikeouts.
The Cubs added a run in the 6th on a pinch-hit, solo home run off the bat of Jason Kipnis, but the Nats just kept on coming. Wilmer Difo reached on a throwing error by Anthony Rizzo with two outs in the bottom of the 8th against Jeremy Jeffress, then scored on an RBI double by Turner to make it 6-5. Castro reached on an infield single and Ross made the decision to go to Craig Kimbrel to get the final out.
Kimbrel had to rush to get ready to pitch the final out of the 8th and may not have had a good feel for the ball early. He walked Soto to load the bases, then forced in the tying run by walking Thames. After going 3-1 against Suzuki, the closer eventually got out of the inning by inducing a weak fly ball to right field to keep the score tied.
The Cubs went quietly in the top of the 9th, but got a scoreless bottom half of the inning from Kimbrel. A leadoff single in the 10th by Báez against reliever Wander Suero was squandered, so Alec Mills came in to attempt to push the game to the 11th inning. Mills was able to get the first two outs, but he served up a fastball to pinch-hitter Michael Taylor for a double off the wall in left field.
With the winning run standing at second, Thames grounded one down the right field line just out of Rizzo’s reach for a walk-off RBI single and a 7-6 Nationals victory.
Bryant – 1-for-4, BB, HR, 3 RBI
Báez – 2-for-4, 2B, R
Souza – 2-for-4, BB, R, 2 RBI
Kipnis – 1-for-1, HR, RBI
Turner – 3-for-5, 2B, RBI, 2 R
Taylor – 1-for-1, 2B, R
Thames – 2-for-4, BB, 3 RBI
Suzuki – 2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI
Winning Pitcher – Suero (1-2)
Losing Pitcher – Mills (1-1)
Save – none
Home Runs – Bryant (5), Kipnis (1), Soto (2), Suzuki (2)