Nationals run rampant in dominant win over the Cubs

Washington sets franchise record with seven steals and Scherzer shuts down the Cubs offense

photo courtesy of Arturo Pardavila III via Flickr

Monday’s series opening 5–4 win for the Cubs was crucial for a number of reasons.

  1. It was a road win against a quality team and one of the best teams in the MLB.
  2. The injuries have stacked up big time in the last few weeks (Russell, Zobrist, Hendricks, Heyward) and to win shorthanded is a great sign moving forward.
  3. Two of baseball’s best pitchers: Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, were the next National arms in line to face the Cubs.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the first of those pitchers got the better of them on Tuesday night. Washington took game two of this four game series by a score of 6–1. The game was a matchup of the last two NL Cy Young award winners in Scherzer and Jake Arrieta. In a season where consistency has evaded Arrieta, Tuesday was just another game where he labored and couldn’t produce a quality start.

Scherzer: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K’s, 93 pitches

Arrieta: 4 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 6 BB, 4 K’s, 98 pitches

Image courtesy of Greg Flume via Getty Images

Even though the Cubs managed only two hits on the night, they jumped out to an early lead in the first inning. Rizzo led off the game by getting hit by a pitch and then Kris Bryant’s RBI triple brought him in to give the Cubs a quick 1–0 lead. That was the only offensive bright spot on this night as Scherzer masterfully worked through the Cubs order the rest of the way unscaved.

Washington tacked on a run in the bottom of the first after Trea Turner stole second and third base and was knocked in by Brian Goodwin’s single to right field. Turner ended up with four steals on the night and now leads the MLB in that category with 32 on the season.

Image courtesy of Greg Flume via Getty Images

Not only did Arrieta struggle with command and keeping the Nationals high octane offense off base, the defense didn’t do him any favors. With two outs and runners on first and third in the 3rd inning, Daniel Murphy hit a ground ball to Tommy La Stella and his throw took Rizzo’s foot barely off the bag. That allowed Turner to score giving the Nats a 2–1 advantage.

In the 4th, Washington added two more runs. The first came on a softly hit infield grounder by Scherzer which plated Anthony Rendon. The next run came on a steal of third base by Michael Taylor. Miguel Montero’s throw was well wide of Jeimer Candelario and went into left field allowing Taylor to score making it a 4–1 game.

Along with Trea Turner, Taylor had a solid game for Washington as he went 2 for 4 with that one run and two RBI’s. Both of those runs driven in came in the fifth inning when Taylor doubled to deep right field scoring Murphy and Rendon.

It wasn’t the Nationals big guns like Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman that killed the Cubs in game two of the series. It was the Nationals base running, timely hitting, sloppy defensive play by Chicago, and another dominant Scherzer outing that took any suspence out of this game by the middle of the 5th inning. The loss drops the Cubs record to 39–38 and they are still only one game back in the NL Central thanks to the Brewers loss in Cincinnati.

Up Next: Game 3 of this four game set will once again start at 7:05 ET. The pitchers who will face off in this one with Stephen Strasburg (3.57 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 1.129 WHIP) for the Nats and John Lackey (4.74 ERA, 5.54 FIP, 1.305 WHIP) for the Cubs. Strasburg has allowed five or more earned runs and failed to make it past five innings in two of his last three starts while Lackey is coming off of two of his strongest outings of the season (6/18 @ PIT: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 4 K’s and 6/23 @ MIA: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 K’s).

Nick Konotopskyj is a recent graduate of St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. As a fan of the Cubs, Bills, Sabres and Knicks, winning seasons have been hard to come by let alone title contending teams. Finally, the Cubs were able to lift the curse last fall. You can follow him on Twitter @Nick_Kono11