Faced with their biggest challenge of the season thus far, the Nats played what Dusty Baker said afterwards was one of their worst games in a while.
Though they weren't charged with any errors, there were two fly balls misplayed in the outfield, and one botched rundown which led directly and indirectly to the Chicago Cubs' runs scoring.
Joe Ross threw three scoreless before he got into trouble in the home-half of the fourth. Cubs' third baseman Tommy La Stella singled to center to start the frame and Kris Bryant hit a fly ball to deep center field in Wrigley that ended up in the ivy after it glanced off Nationals' center fielder Michael A. Taylor's glove.
An intentional walk to Anthony Rizzo loaded the bases with no one out and Ben Zobrist hit a two-run single to right to bring in the first two runs of the game.
La Stella singled again in the eighth, with Felipe Rivero on the mound for the Nats, but appeared to be picked off with two down and Zobrist at the plate.
Ryan Zimmerman threw high to second in the rundown, however, and La Stella was able to return safely to first, and after an extended review of the call at first base, Zobrist hit a two-run home run that made it 4-0 Cubs.
A reporters asked Baker after the 5-2 loss if the delay while the play was being reviewed played a part in Rivero giving up what ended up being a big home run after Jayson Werth hit a two-run blast in the ninth.
"That's a factor," Baker said, "but Rivero threw him two outstanding changeups and then threw the ball -- he didn't locate it where he wanted to. I didn't see where the pitch was, but it looked like it was kind of down Broadway."
"I wish they would fix that so we don't have to stand around so long," he said of the 3-4 minute review. "I'm hoping that they come up with a better solution."
Before things blew up in the Cubs' half of the eighth, the Nats threatened to tie it up in the top of the frame with Danny Espinosa reaching via HBP and Clint Robinson taking a walk to put two on with no one out against Cubs' righty Pedro Strop.
Michael A. Taylor went down swinging, however, fouling off the one pitch Strop threw in the zone, a 2-1 slider, and striking out on a 2-2 fastball that fell out of the zone inside.
Anthony Rendon sent a grounder to second in the next at bat that started an inning-and-rally-ending 4-6-3 DP.
"He left a slider up, I was little under it and fouled it off," Taylor told reporters, including MASNSports.com's Mark Zuckerman, when asked about the one pitch he fouled off.
"I’ve got to shorten it up right there and put the ball in play."
Baker was asked if he considered bunting with Taylor, even though the Nationals trailed by two at the time.
"If I bunt Taylor, it's not like Anthony has been killing it either, you know what I mean, especially with men in scoring position," Baker explained.
"So I took a chance -- [Rendon] doesn't hit into that many double plays the way he can run -- to try to get [Bryce Harper] to the plate, and then they would have to use a lefty, then come back with another righty and use more men in their bullpen than they wanted to, so, I mean, it's easy to say now, but do you play for the tie on the road or do you play for the win? I went for the win and it didn't work.
"Hindsight [it's] easy to say we should have done this or that, but Taylor had a good pitch to hit. I figured he was going to get a good pitch to hit if he was patient enough to get it and he got a hanging slider right there and fouled it back. And so they got away with one that time."
Taylor's approach over the last few weeks, Baker said, has been up and down.
"He's been working on it. He came out early today to hit. So, the main thing is in that situation I'd rather take a strikeout than I would a double play, to leave it up to the next man in that situation.
"And so, like right now it's still a work in progress. He does a lot of things well, but like I said, we didn't catch some balls, we didn't throw some balls, tonight was overall one of the worst games we've played in a while. We'll be back tomorrow."