Nationals fall to Cubs in another extra-inning loss
It was just like old times, and a slice of what could have been this October.
Stephen Strasburg was throwing fastballs in a tight game past the Chicago Cubs, who faced the Nationals in the playoffs last fall.
But in this frustrating season, Washington’s 6-4 loss in 10 innings on Thursday night at Nationals Park may go down as just a footnote in a year of mediocre results.
Clutch-hitter Dave Bote had an RBI double in the top of the 10th off Nationals reliever Jimmy Cordero to make it 5-4, and Taylor Davis drove in another run later in the inning. Bote hit a grand slam last month to beat Washington in Chicago.
The Nationals are now 3-8 in extra innings this year, and 1-5 at home in such prolonged anguish.
Bryce Harper struck out looking in the last of the 10th with a runner on base and rookie Juan Soto (2-for-5) fanned with two runners on. That brought up Mark Reynolds, who lined out to center to end the contest against Cubs reliever Jesse Chavez.
Strasburg went 5 2/3 innings and allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits with six strikeouts but failed to pick up first win since May 27. He was taken out after throwing 111 pitches, the second-most this season.
“He has been pitching really well. I really love what he is doing right now,” manager Dave Martinez said of Strasburg.
Strasburg made his 18th start of the year and just fifth since July 20. He departed with a 4-3 lead but the Cubs tied the game against reliever Justin Miller in the eighth as Willson Contreras drove in a run with a groundout.
It was the first outing for Strasburg against the Cubs since his memorable start in Chicago last October in the playoffs.
This time the stakes were not nearly as significant before an announced crowd of 32,070, most of whom had left the premises by game’s end just after 11 p.m.
The third-place Nationals (69-72) are now eight games back of first-place Atlanta in the National League East, as the Braves played Thursday night at Arizona.
Meanwhile, the first-place Cubs (83-57) are three games ahead of Milwaukee in the NL Central.
Strasburg was in line for the win as Trea Turner of the Nationals had an RBI single to give the Nats a 4-3 lead in the last of the fifth. His hit scored rookie catcher Spencer Kieboom, who had singled for the second time and ended the game with a career-high three hits.
The Cubs had tied the game at 3 as Ben Zobrist had a sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth.
Washington’s Anthony Rendon had an RBI double and Reynolds hit a two-run homer in the fourth as the Nationals took a 3-2 lead.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the third as Javier Baez scored all the way from first on a double into short center field by Anthony Rizzo, who beat the shift.
Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs starter, lasted five innings and yielded four runs (one earned) while striking out six.
Cubs second baseman Daniel Murphy batted leadoff in his first game back at Nationals Park since he was traded by the Nationals on August 21.
There was a video tribute to him on the scoreboard before the game and he got a polite ovation when he came to the plate in the top of the first. He is now playing for Joe Maddon, whose bench coach last year was Martinez.
“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Murphy said of playing for the Cubs. “I see a lot of the similar characteristics between Davey and Joe.”
Murphy had a single in the fifth and scored.
Martinez said he hopes injured closer Sean Doolittle, another Virginia product, returns to the active roster this weekend. He has been out nearly two months with a toe injury.
NOTES: It was George Washington University night at Nationals Park ... Joe Ross is slated to pitch Friday for Washington while lefty Jon Lester (15-5) will go for the Cubs ... The Nationals are 14-23 against lefty starters this season and 16-22 in one-run games ... The Washington bullpen has allowed 71 homers, but none Thursday.