The Nationals and the Chicago Cubs played the first game of a four game series at Wrigley Field in Chicago in terrible weather. It was chilly and very foggy. It was so foggy at times the batters had trouble seeing the ball and anything hit to the outfield was an adventure.
The game featured the return of Wilson Ramos to the Nationals lineup. He batted seventh and went 2 for 3 with a walk. It is doubtful Ramos will be batting in the seven hole for long if he keeps producing like that.
Unfortunately the game also featured two base running mistakes by the Nationals and the Nats grounding into three double plays. The Nationals had eight hits but could not survive losing that many base runners.
Doug Fister started for the Nats and Travis Wood pitched for the Cubs. It was the matchup of two good veteran pitchers. It turned out that neither of them were completely on their game. Wood walked too many batters and Fister’s sinker wasn’t sinking. Neither pitcher figured in the decision since both of them left the game when it was tied 3-3.
The top of second inning had enough drama for an entire game. Ryan Zimmerman led the inning off with a double to right center. Cubs center fielder Junior Lake ran into the metal door in the outfield trying to catch the ball and slammed his head into the door. Lake went down and didn’t move for awhile. After a visit from the trainer and team doctor, he came off the field under his own steam but left the game and was replaced in the outfield by Nate Schierholtz.
Ian Desmond flew out when the game resumed, but Ramos in his first at bat singled to shallow left. Third base coach Bob Henley sent Zimmerman home, and you could immediately see he was going to be out at the plate. The umpires reviewed the play at the plate to make sure Cubs catcher Welington Castillo wasn’t blocking the plate. He wasn’t and the Nats lost the base runner. Danny Espinosa then drew a walk, but Fister flew out to end the inning and the Nats wasted a lead off double and got no runs from two hits and a walk given up by Wood.
The Cubs drove Fister’s pitch count up fouling off pitches and not biting on stuff off the plate. Fister started leaving the ball up over the plate making it easier to make contact to foul the pitch or get a hit. The strategy paid off for the Cubs in the bottom of the fourth.
Justin Ruggiano hit the ball to third. Anthony Rendon fielded the ball, but pulled Adam LaRoche off the bag with the throw. Ruggiano would probably been safe anyway, but Rendon’s throw wasn’t even close. The contact was ruled a single. Anthony Rizzo doubled and Starlin Castro singled in both base runners to give the Cubs the 2-0 advantage. Luis Valbuena popped out, but during his at bat Fister uncorked a wild pitch that moved Castro to second. Castro scored on Castillo’s single, and the Cubs were up 3-0.
The Nationals broke through against Wood in the sixth. Denard Span doubled to lead off the inning and Rendon singled to get Span home for the Nats first run.
In the bottom of the sixth, the fog finally got to Denard Span. He had made some great catches in the outfield despite the less than ideal conditions, but with two outs Valbuena hit a ball into center field that Span completely lost. He had no idea where the ball was. It hit the bottom of the wall in center and bounced out. Luckily Zimmerman was backing up the play and got the ball back into the infield. Valbuena ended up with a triple. This could have led to another run for the Cubs, but Fister got Castillo to fly out to center. This time Span caught the ball and the Nats got out of the inning with no damage.
The Nats tied the game in the top of the seventh. Wood walked Ramos and Danny Espinosa to start the inning. Fister was going to be replaced in the lineup by Scott Hairston, but was left in to try to bunt the runners over. Fister put down a perfect bunt half way up the third base line, advancing both runners. Span doubled to drive in Ramos and Espinosa, but was thrown out at second when he rounded the bag too far to get back when the ball was thrown in from the outfield. Wood left the game and the Cubs brought in Neil Ramirez to face Rendon. Anthony popped out to end the inning.
Craig Stammen came out to pitch the seventh inning for the Nationals, and promptly gave the lead to the Cubs again. Darwin Barney doubled and Stammen walked pinch hitter Chris Coghlan, which was really inexcusable because Coghlan is not a good pinch hitter. Stammen got the next batter, Ryan Sweeney, to hit a ground ball and Coghlan was out at second. Next batter was Justin Ruggiano. With Stammen’s history against Ruggiano, he probably should not have been the reliever of choice in this situation. Ruggiano was 5 for 8 career against Stammen. Make that 6 for 9 because he doubled in two runs.
That was the last scoring done by either team. The final score was 5 to 3 in favor of the Cubs.
Next Game: The Nationals play the Cubs again tomorrow afternoon. Game time is 4:05 p.m. EST. The Nationals have a tough assignment against Cubs scheduled starter Jason Hammel (6-5, 2.99 ERA). The Nats have lost all six games Hammel has ever pitched against them. Tanner Roark (7-4, 2.79 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Nationals.