A day after snapping their three-game losing streak, the Washington Nationals failed to muster any offense against the Cubs’ Jason Hammel (5-2), who spent the day befuddling Nationals hitters. Joe Ross, making his Major League debut after being called up from AA Harrisburg, pitched well early but could not get through more than five innings, and the Nationals dropped game three of their four-game series with the Cubs, 4-2.
The Nationals were the the first to strike. Wilson Ramos, leading off the top of the second, crushed a solo home run (his fourth of the year) over the left field wall. It was a monster shot, made all the more impressive by the fact that it went against a stiff wind that had already knocked down a would-be two-run shot by Anthony Rendon in the first. Ross had an early 1-0 lead.
He could not make it last, though. After being perfect the first time through the order, Ross struggled the second go round. Leading off the fourth, Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant hit three straight singles to tie the game at one. A pair of ground balls and a strikeout allowed Ross to escape without any further damage, but the game was now tied at a run apiece.
Chicago would break through again in the top of the fifth. Jonathan Herrera started the rally by reaching on a dribbler down the line that drew an official review. After moving to third on a pair of ground balls, Herrera would come in to score on a two-out single by Fowler. Fowler would come around as well when a ball hit by Rizzo into right field kicked awkwardly off the wall over Bryce Harper‘s head. The Cubs held a 3-1 lead after five, and Joe Ross’ major league debut was finished.
Chicago added a run in the top of the ninth on a two-out RBI single by Herrera to push the score to 4-1, but Bryce Harper answered with a leadoff home run (19) to bring the deficit back to two.
That’s when things got a little interesting. Joe Maddon brought out his closer to finish out the game, but after Rendon drew a walk from Hector Rondon, Maddon went back to his bullpen for hard-throwing Pedro Strop. Ramos grounded into a force at second for the first out. He was able to go to second on a wild pitch, but Robinson and Desmond both struck out to end the game.
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While the rally to end the game was a little encouraging, overall offensive performance was disappointing. The Nats could not get runners on base, mustering just five hits on the day. They allowed Hammel to go through eight innings without ever being in pressure situations, their only runs coming on solo shots.
The loss drops Washington to 30-26 on the season, putting them in a temporary tie with the Mets pending the outcome of New York’s game in Arizona later tonight.
- Felipe Rivero did a fantastic job of keeping the Nats in the ball game. Rivero pitched three scoreless innings, allowing only a single baserunner on a walk. For a bullpen that’s been much maligned over the course of the season, Rivero’s performance was refreshing.
- The thing that killed Washington’s offense was an inability to work deep into counts, allowing Hammel to get out of innings with minimal pitches. Hammel deserves a lot of credit, though; he attacked the zone, forcing the Nats to swing early.