Nationals stage comeback, but fall short to Cubs
The Washington Nationals, who trailed by as many as five runs, got a three-run homer from Anthony Rendon to pull within one but lost 6-5 on Sunday night to the Chicago Cubs.
The Nationals (19-27) lost two of three games in the series at home and are now 7-11 this month.
Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks did not allow a hit until the fifth inning, but he yielded the homer to Rendon that trimmed a five-run deficit to 6-4 in the sixth.
Washington cut the lead to 6-5 on a homer by Howie Kendrick in the seventh off Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler, who played for the Nationals last season before he was traded to the Cubs in July.
Later in the inning, Washington had two runners on with two outs when Cubs reliever Steve Cishek retired the hot-hitting Rendon on a liner to short to end the threat. The Nationals had the tying run on base in the eighth, but couldn’t score, and Cishek got the last three outs in the ninth for his fourth save.
The Nationals were aiming to win back-to-back series for the first time since April 4-10. Once again, they were hurt by base-running blunders, as Gerardo Parra was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double for the first out in the fifth. Parra finished with three hits.
Washington starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (2-3) allowed three runs and three walks in just three innings for the loss.
Hendricks (4-4) won his third straight decision even though he gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings twice as many runs as he allowed in his previous three starts.
The loss on Sunday came hours after Cubs manager Joe Maddon announced the team had dropped its protest over the Nationals’ 5-2 win on Saturday night.
In that game, Maddon complained to umpires in the ninth inning that Nationals closer Sean Doolittle had an illegal delivery. The Cubs protested with one out in the top of the ninth, then Doolittle got the last two outs for the victory and his eighth save.
“If he taps the ground (with his foot) it is an illegal pitch,” Maddon said on Saturday. “So we protested the game.”
The Nationals are now eight games back of first-place Philadelphia in the National League East. The Phillies won at home 7-5 over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.
Despite the Doolittle controversy, Maddon offered some moral support for formal protg Dave Martinez, Washington’s second-year manager who is feeling the heat for the team’s underwhelming start to the season.
“When your bullpen is not good, it’s hard to look smart,” Maddon said.
Washington is 9-18 in night games this season.