A groundout to second. A grounder to short. A line drive right back at the mound. Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez caught the liner off Chicago Cubs' first baseman Anthony Rizzo's bat for the third out of an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 opening frame in this afternoon's series finale rubber match with the visiting Cubbies. Three pitches into the Nats' half of the first, the home team had a runner in scoring position after Denard Span doubled to left-center off the Cubs' right-handed starter Scott Feldman. One out later, Bryce Harper walked to put two on for Ryan Zimmerman, and the Nats' veteran third baseman hit an opposite field double off the out-of-town scoreboard in right. Cubs' right fielder Scott Hairston tracked it and almost made the catch while leaping into the fence, but dropped it, allowing Span to score on Zim's hit to make it 1-0 early. Adam LaRoche K'd trying to check his swing on a 2-2 curve from the Cubs' pitcher. Ian Desmond spit on the 2-2 curve he got, and walked when Feldman dropped another into the dirt outside, but Danny Espinosa flew out to left to leave'em loaded at the end of a 29-pitch frame by Chicago's starter. 1-0 Nats after one.
Gio Gonzalez missed with a 94 mph 0-2 four-seam fastball outside. Then missed inside with another heater, a two-seamer at 92 that home plate ump John Tumpane saw as inside. A fastball outside missed too, sending the Nats' starter to a full count with Cubs' outfielder Ryan Sweeney, but a foul ball on the eighth pitch of the two-out at bat bounced off Nats' catcher Kurt Suzuki's mitt, off his chest protector and back into his glove. Foul tip strike three and a 13-pitch second for Gonzalez vs Chicago. 21 pitches overall after two. A high throw to first by Cubs' third baseman Cody Ransom pulled Anthony Rizzo off the bag, allowing Kurt Suzuki on and giving Gio Gonzalez a chance to bunt the runner over/give up an out. A groundout to short by Denard Span moved Suzuki from second to third, but Steve Lombardozzi K'd looking at a 2-2 sinker inside to end the second and strand the Nats' catcher. Lombo didn't like the call.
Dioner Navarro entered the bat toss competition as he K'd swinging wildly on a 79 mph 1-2 curve. Two pitches later, Darwin Barney flew to Span in center for out no.2 and the opposing pitcher rolled one out to Adam LaRoche on the 11th pitch of Gio Gonzalez's 1-2-3 3rd, after which the Nats' starter was at 32 pitches overall, having set down the first nine Cubs' batters he faced. Ryan Zimmerman singled through short for his second hit of the game with one down in the home-half of the third. Zimmerman stole second as Adam LaRoche K'd swinging through a high 2-2 fastball for out no.2. Ian Desmond worked the count full, but K'd looking at a sinker outside home plate ump John Tumpane liked. Desmond. Did. Not. Like. It. 1-0 Nationals after three.
Denard Span tracked a fly to right-center off Starlin Castro's bat down in front of the #NATITUDE sign on the center field wall for out no.1 of the Cubs' fourth. Cody Ransom K'd swinging for out no.2, K no.3 and 11 in-a-row set down by Gio Gonzalez. Ryan Zimmerman charged in and caught a pop to third from Anthony Rizzo and it was 12 up and down for the #Nats' left-handed starter, who was up to 43 pitches total after an 11-pitch frame. Kurt Suzuki dumped a backspin liner in over Cubs' shortstop Starlin Castro for a one-out single to short-center in the Nationals' fourth, but Suzuki was doubled up when Gio Gonzalez, faked a bunt, pulled back and sent a low one-hop liner to Starlin Castro at short to start an inning-ending 6-3 DP. 1-0 D.C.
A 1-2 breaking ball in the dirt got Alfonso Soriano swinging for out no.1 in the fifth and Gio Gonzalez's 4th K. 13. Scott Hairston lined out to short. 14. A 2-2 fastball outside got Ryan Sweeney looking. 15. What? 13-pitch fifth for the Nats' lefty. 56 pitches overall after five. Denard Span, Steve Lombardozzi and Bryce Harper went down in order in the bottom of the fifth, after which Scott Feldman was at 80 pitches overall.
Dioner Navarro stepped in to start the sixth and sent a sharp grounder toward the hole at short that Ian Desmond got to, but not even the Nats' #+range, #+arm shortstop was going to make the play from that deep on the left field grass. Infield single. 15 of 16 set down by Gio Gonzalez. And 16 of 17 when Darwin Barney flew out to left. Scott Feldman tried to bunt Navarro over/give up an out, but instead popped one up to a charging Ryan Zimmerman. Navarro got back to first to avoid the DP, and moved into scoring position when Gonzalez issued his first walk to the day to Starlin Castro in the next AB. The Cubs loaded the bases for Anthony Rizzo when Cody Ransom hit a 3-1 fastball to left for the second hit off Gonzalez, but a 1-2 curve to Rizzo got a weak groundout to short. 1-0 Nats after five and a half in D.C. 21-pitch inning for Gio Gonzalez, 77 overall.
Adam LaRoche used his speed to beat out a grounder to third for a one-out hit in the Nationals' sixth. Ian Desmond took another full-count fastball outside. This time it wasn't called a strike by home plate umpire John Tumpane. Desmond took his second walk of the game, and just his fifth walk of the season to put two on for Nats' second baseman Danny Espinosa, but a pop to short by Espinosa and a groundout to third by Kurt Suzuki ended the threat. Still 1-0 Nats.
A 1-2 curve got Alfonso Soriano swinging/guessing for out no.1 of the seventh and K no.6 for Gio Gonzalez. The Nationals' left-hander retired the next two batters in order in a quick, nine-pitch, 1-2-3 inning that had him at 86 pitches overall after seven scoreless vs Chicago. Still just 1-0 Nationals, however. Cubs' right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa took over for the Cubs in the seventh. Chad Tracy hit for Gonzalez in the first at bat of the Nats' seventh, or K'd swinging, more accurately, and Fujikawa retired the next two Nationals in order for a quick, 1-2-3 inning of his own.
Gio Gonzalez's line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 86 P, 55 S, 4/5 GO/FO.
Dioner Navarro singled to right off Drew Storen to start the Cubs' eighth. A bunt by Darwin Barney moved Navarro's pinch runner, Travis Wood, into scoring position at second. Wood tagged and took second when Drew Storen popped David DeJesus up with a fastball inside. LaRoche caught the foul pop for out no.2, but Storen left a 1-0 slider up for Cubs' shortstop Starlin Castro, whose single to center tied the game at 1-1. A single to left by Cody Ransom put two runners on for Anthony Rizzo, but the Cubs' second baseman grounded to second to end the top of the eighth. 1-1 in D.C. Cubs' lefty James Russell took over on the mound for Chicago in the bottom of the inning. Bryce Harper walked to start the inning against the new Cubs' pitcher. Ryan Zimmerman popped to third on a 2-0 pitch for out no.1. Adam LaRoche hit a broken bat bloop to center that David DeJesus caught and Ian Desmond flew to right where Ryan Sweeney made a catch at the wall. 1-1 after eight.
Alfonso Soriano singled to left off Rafael Soriano (no relation) to start the Cubs' ninth with their sixth hit of the game. PInch hitter Julio Bourbon hit a bloop single to center to put two runners on. Ryan Sweeney K'd chasing a high 1-2 heater up high and way outside for out no.1, but the Cubs pulled a double steal with Wellington Castillo up in the next at bat and Kurt Suzuki's throw bounced off Sweeney's bat in the batter's box and was redirected way wide of third, allowing the go-ahead run to score. 2-1 Cubs. Castillo popped to second for out no.2 and Roger "The Shark" Bernadina made a sliding catch in left on a liner from Darwin Barney for the final out of the frame. Kevin Gregg came on in the bottom of the inning and got a fly to left from Danny Espinosa for out no.1. A called strike three on Kurt Suzuki got the Nats' catcher tossed as one more National disagreed with John Tumane's zone. And Roger Bernadina's swinging K ended the game. Ballgame.
Cubs win, 2-1 final.
Nationals now 20-17