The Washington Nationals saw their five game winning streak come to a screeching halt today against the Chicago Cubs, losing 8-2.
Through the first four innings the game appeared to be a classic pitcher’s duel. Both Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg and Cubs starter Edwin Jackson were baffling hitters, putting up zeroes along the way.
Strasburg set down the first eleven batters he faced, striking out six in the process. His perfect game was broken up in the fourth by an Anthony Rizzo single. Strasburg got out of the inning on the next batter though, striking out Alfonso Soriano. Jackson meanwhile only allowed a double to a scorching hot Ian Desmond. Both pitchers were very effective, with Strasburg commanding all three pitches to laughable results.
Things fell apart though in the fifth inning. Strasburg got the first two batters of the inning out, the second on a beautiful relay executed by Roger Bernadina and Danny Espinosa to nail Luis Valbuena trying to stretch a double into a triple. He appeared to be out of the fifth when Welington Castillo hit a weak grounder to third, but a bad throw by Ryan Zimmerman extended the inning.
Then the wheels fell off. Strasburg proceeded to walk the number eight hitter, Darwin Barney, Then gave up a two run double to Jackson. Another walk, an infield single and an Anthony Rizzo single later and the Cubs had jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Strasburg escaped when Rizzo ran into the third out on an attempted steal, but the damage was already done.
Strasburg finished the day on 95 pitches, 42 coming in the nightmare fifth inning. All four runs were unearned and Strasburg gave up five hits and two walks, while striking out seven.
The Nationals got a run back in the bottom of the fifth when Ian Desmond hit his sixth home run of the season to the red seats in deep left center. They threatened to score more, getting Espinosa to third, but could not convert.
Zach Duke came in to the game in the sixth and turned a still close game into a blowout. Duke gave up four more runs on four hits, only getting two outs before being taken out of his misery. Ryan Mattheus came in and struck out the first batter he faced on three pitches.
Desmond delivered again in the bottom of the sixth. Back to back walks by Bernadina and Zimmerman and a single by Adam LaRoche loaded the bases for the Nats and chased Jackson from the game. Desmond then singled to left to score Bernadina and make it an 8-2 game. The Cubs were able to escape the potential trouble inning though after Espinosa struck out and Tyler Moore grounded out.
The run counted against Jackson’s final tally and he gave up the two runs in 5.1 innings, giving up four hits, while walking two and striking out three.
Mattheus came back out for the seventh, while Eury Perez made his 2013 debut taking over for Denard Span in center field. The inning got off to a bad start, with Rizzo singling again and Soriano reaching on Ryan Zimmerman’s second error of the game. Zimmerman made up for it by starting a slick 5-4-3 double play to end the seventh.
Henry Rodriguez came in for the eighth inning. His first appearance since April 30. Rodriguez worked around a double to Darwin Barney to pitch a scoreless inning.
Desmond came up in the bottom of the inning for a second chance at the cycle, after missing only a triple last night. Needing that triple again today, Desmond struck out, leaving Christian Guzman as the last National to hit for the cycle.
Rodriguez came back out for the ninth and finished it with little fanfare outside of a Soriano double, making it one of his best outings to date.
The Nationals offense went quietly in the ninth, being set down in order.
With the loss the Nationals dropped to 20-16. They will look to take the rubber match of the series tomorrow with Gio Gonzalez facing Scott Feldman.