Stephen Strasburg's last start ended after just 27 pitches, the last seven of them balls and the last two pitches behind Atlanta Braves' shortstop Andrelton Simmons' back, earning Strasburg an ejection since warnings had been issued after he hit Justin Upton intentionally in the first. Washington's 25-year-old right-hander claimed he had no intention of hitting Simmons with the two fastballs he threw a few feet away from the plate and all the way to the backstop, so there was some concern heading into today's start that something might have been physically wrong with the pitcher, who said he just lost the feel for his pitches after sitting for a long top of the second inning. Strasburg took the mound this afternoon against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field for the first time since Opening Day in 2012, and he had a 1-0 lead when he did, courtesy of Ryan Zimmerman's two-out solo home run to right-center in the top of the inning. #TKCHZ. No.15 of 2013.
A 1-2 curve got Starlin Castro swinging. An 0-2 curve got Anthony Rizzo, who tried to connect late with an emergency hack. Dioner Navarro poked a 1-2 curve into short right field where it dropped in between Steve Lombardozzi going back and Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth coming in, but the Cubs' catcher was forced out at second on a grounder to short by Nate Schierholtz that ended a 16-pitch bottom of the first in Chicago. 1-0 Washington.
Tyler Moore singled to center on an 0-1 curve from Cubs' starter Travis Wood for a leadoff single in the second. One out later, the Nationals' first baseman took third on a double to right by Steve Lombardozzi that fell in fair down the line in right field. Stephen Strasburg battled Wood for seven pitches before he got hold of a cutter and the Nats' starter lined to center for an RBI hit that made it 2-0 Nationals. Lombardozzi took third as Moore scored and Bryce Harper worked a six-pitch walk to load the bases for Anthony Rendon, whose sac fly RBI gave the Nats a 3-0 lead after one and a half.
As the Nationals' pregame notes point out, "... in 31 career starts when provided with 3+ runs of offensive support while in the game, [Stephen Strasburg] is 22-2 with a 2.95 ERA and Washington is 27-4." Given a three-run lead to work with today, the Nats' right-hander went out and walked Junior Lake in the first at bat of the Cubs' second. Strasburg made Donnie Murphy flinch with an 0-2 curve that fell in for a called strike three. Brian Bogusevic flew to center on the first pitch he saw for out no.2. Darwin Barney K'd swinging over a 2-2 bender for out no.3 and K no.4 in two scoreless by the Nationals' starter. 14-pitch inning, 30 overall after two.
Tyler Moore reached on a throwing error by Starlin Castro with two down in the top of the third, but was stranded there when Scott Hairston's groundout ended the inning. Stephen Strasburg issued a one-out walk to Castro in the home-half of the frame, but got Anthony Rizzo looking for out no.2 and K no.5 with an 0-2 fastball that was called strike three. Wilson Ramos threw Castro out when he tried to steal second and Strasburg had three scoreless on 42 pitches after a 12-pitch third.
Travis Wood retired the Nationals' 8-9-and-1 hitters in order in a 1-2-3 top of the fourth. Stephen Strasburg got one out with one pitch when Dioner Navarro grounded to first to start the Cubs' fourth. Nate Schierholtz grounded back to the mound two pitches later. Junior Lake battled for seven pitches, but went down swinging for the final out of a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 frame. 52 total for Strasburg, 6 Ks.
Travis Wood made quick work of Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the fifth. Jayson Werth worked the count full and pushed Wood up to 81 pitches, but flew out to a sprinting Junior Lake in center to end the Nats' fifth. Donnie Murphy K'd swinging through a 97 mph 2-2 heater, but Brian Bogusevich took a first-pitch fastball back up the middle and over the mound for a one-out single to center on Stephen Strasburg's 59th pitch. Darwin Barney chopped a 1-1 curve straight down that bounced out to third where Ryan Zimmerman handled it for out no.2 and Travis Wood took a 2-0 fastball for a ride, but it died on the warning track in center where Bryce Harper made the catch. 3-0 Nats after five in Wrigley. 13-pitch inning, 65 overall.
Wilson Ramos chased an 0-2 change out of the zone for the first out of the sixth. Tyler Moore grounded out to second, Scott Hairston popped out to short and Cubs' starter Travis Wood had retired 14 or 15 after a one-out walk to Bryce Harper in the second with the only Nationals' runner reaching after the second doing so on Starlin Castro's two-out error in the third. Ryan Zimmerman commited his 19th error of the year in the first at bat of the Cubs' sixth. Zimmerman fielded a grounder to third by Starlin Castro on his backhand, but sailed a throw to first that pulled Tyler Moore off the bag. Castro was caught stealing for the second time today in the next at bat and Dioner Navarro lined out to center to end an 11-pitch inning that had Strasburg up to 76 pitches. 3-0 Nationals.
Make that 4-0. Steve Lombardozzi jacked an 0-1 cutter, sending his first home run of the year out to left and over the ivy into the fence atop the outfield wall. Stephen Strasburg singled in the next at bat, and two outs later took second on a Ryan Zimmerman single that ended Travis Wood's outing. Blake Parker took over and fell behind Jayson Werth 3-0, but popped the Nats' slugger up with the 3-0 pitch to end the top of the seventh. 4-0 Nats. Dioner Navarro lined out to first on Stephen Strasburg's 77th pitch. Junior Lake popped up behind second. Donnie Murphy chased a 2-2 change out of the zone. 10-pitch, 1-2-3. 86 overall in seven scoreless.
Tyler Moore singled with one down in the fourth, but the Nats failed to add to their lead and the Cubs cut into it in the bottom of the inning when Brian Bogusevic took a first-pitch fastball to right to break up Stephen Strasburg's bid for a shutout. Pinch hitter Cole Gillespie singled with one down, but he was doubled up on a Starlin Castro grounder to third that started a 5-4-3 inning-ending DP. 11-pitch inning, 97 overall for Strasburg.
Bryce Harper doubled with one down in the Nationals' ninth and Anthony Rendon walked in the next at bat, but they were both stranded after back-to-back Ks by Ryan Zimmerman and David DeJesus. Stephen Strasburg came back out for the ninth at 97 pitches. Anthony Rizzo grounded weakly back to the mound on an 0-2 change. Dioner Navarro took a first-pitch fastball through short for a one-out single. Nate Schierholtz grounded into a force at second for out no.2. Junior Lake grounded sharply to third for what could have been out no.3, but Anthony Rendon bounced one by Tyler Moore at first for the Nats' second error of the game, and Schierholtz scored to make it 4-2 in Wrigley Field. Donnie Murphy stepped in next and... homered to left. NO!! Murphy took a 1-1 curve to left and over the ivy-covered wall for a two-run blast that tied it at 4-4 and ended Strasburg's day...
Stephen Strasburg's line: 8.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks, 2 HRs, 112 P, 77 S, 8/3 GO/FO.
Brian Bogusevic doubled to right on the second pitch from Brian Bogusevic, putting the winning run on second with two out, but Rafael Soriano got the final out of the inning on a line drive to right and the Nats and Cubs went to extras...
Wilson Ramos walked to start the tenth and his pinch runner, Kurt Suzuki, took over at first and took second on a sac bunt by Tyler Moore. Yes, a sac bunt by Tyler Moore. Denard Span took a 2-2 cutter for a called strike three. Steve Lombardozzi flew out to center. 4-4 after nine and a half. Tyler Clippard came on in the bottom of the tenth. Darnell McDonald K'd swinging over a 1-2 change. Starlin Castro K'd swinging at a 1-2 fastball. Anthony Rizzo popped up to the infield. 4-4 after ten.
Adam LaRoche made a pinch hit appearance in the top of the eleventh against Cubs' right-hander Carlos Villanueva, but went down swinging. Bryce Harper flew out to the track in center. Anthony Rendon popped out to the Cubs' catcher to end the top of the eleventh. Craig Stammen took the mound in the bottom of the inning. Dioner Navarro K'd swinging over a 2-2 knuckle curve in the dirt. Nate Schierholtz grounded out to second. Junior Lake grounded out to third to end the eleventh. Still tied at 4-4.
Ryan Zimmerman singled to start the twelfth, then avoided a DP when David DeJesus popped up a bunt attempt and almost started a DP. With Zimmerman on second, Kurt Suzuki grounded out to short and Tyler Moore K'd swinging to end the top of the inning. Donnie Murphy flew to left to start the home-half of the inning. Brian Bogusevic walked with one down but was forced out at second on a grounder to short by Darwin Barney. Logan Watkins stepped in with two down and grounded out to second to end the twelfth.
Denard Span doubled to start the thirteenth, taking an 0-1 fastball from Cubs' right-hander Michael Bowden to left. Steve Lombardozzi bunted Span over to third. Chad Tracy came up in a pinch hit appearance and grounded weakly to first to bring Span in, 5-4 Nationals after twelve and a half. Drew Storen came on for the bottom of the thirteenth, looking for his third save of 2013. Starlin Castro K'd swinging through a 1-2 slider for out no.1. ONE!!! Anthony Rizzo grounded out to second, but an errant throw by Steve Lombardozzi allowed the runner to reach. E:4. Dioner Navarro grounded back to the mound, off Storen's glove and out to second to start a 1-4-6-3 game-ending DP. Ballgame.
Nationals now 63-64