Thursday, September 13, 2018

It was another late-inning fielding meltdown by the Nationals with one of their top pitchers on the mound against the Chicago Cubs.

And another one-run loss against one of the top teams in the National League.

But instead of postseason play at Nationals Park, it was a makeup game Thursday that left hometown fans shaking their heads and Cubs Nation dancing in the Navy Yard streets as the Cubs won 4-3 in 10 innings over Washington.

“It’s exhilarating to win this game,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “It speaks volumes (of) our guys.”

The first-place Cubs, spending about 20 hours in the nation’s capital, came away with an important victory against the Nationals even though reliever and winning pitcher Pedro Strop hurt his hamstring while grounding into a double play in the top of 10th inning.

“That’s so unfortunate. He was just competing,” Maddon said. “You can never fault an athlete for competing. It was tough to watch.”

With the loss, the Nationals are 4-9 in extra innings and 18-23 in one-run games this season. The game felt like October baseball, and it was last fall that the Cubs beat the Nationals 9-8 in D.C. in the deciding Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

Ace Max Scherzer came on to pitch out of the bullpen in that game. This time, it was Nationals closer Sean Doolittle who was on the mound when the Cubs took the lead in the 10th inning.

The makeup game was a result of the rainout last Sunday at Nationals Park.

The series last weekend with the Cubs included about 11 hours of rain delays and exactly 10 hours of action for three games and two rainouts. The Cubs could end up playing 30 days in a row through September 19 if the weather cooperates.

“It’s been a grinding week, not just for us, but the Cubs as well,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said.

Earlier this week, the Cubs tossed out the option of playing the game on Oct. 1 since the club could end up playing 30 days in a row. It appeared Hurricane Florence would bring a lot of rain or worse to the D.C. area, which was a concern to the Cubs.

The Nationals (74-73) now have 15 games left after starting Thursday eight games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East. The first-place Cubs (85-61) began the day one game up on the Brewers in the National League Central.

A bunt single by the Cubs‘ Javier Baez brought in the winning run in the top of the 10th inning. That came after Nationals second baseman Wilmer Difo couldn’t make a play on a ball hit by the Cubs‘ Daniel Murphy — who the Nationals traded to Chicago last month.

The Nationals tied the game at 3 in the seventh as Trea Turner smashed an RBI double to left to score speedy Victor Robles.

Baez crushed a solo homer to right off Nationals reliever Jimmy Cordero to give his club a 3-2 lead in the sixth.

The Nationals tied the game at 2 in the fifth after Robles drove in a run on a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs grabbed a 2-1 lead in the fourth off Nationals starter Joe Ross, who allowed two runs in five innings. Baez had an RBI double and Victor Caratini followed with a run-scoring single.

Nationals catcher Spencer Kieboom hit a homer in his second straight start to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the third.

Among those behind the Cubs third-base dugout was Billie Whitt, from the northern neck of Virginia. She wore a Cubs jersey with Maddon’s name on the back and said her son-in-law, who passed away at the age of 32 in 2016 due to a heart attack, was buried in a Cubs casket near Richmond

Whitt’s daughter, Bethanie Fielder, was at the game Thursday wearing a jersey of former Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta.

“I grew up watching the Cubs on TV,” Fielder said.

“My daughter was at the game Friday and then came and got me and we were at both games Saturday. We got home about 3 a.m. and I think that was the first time I missed church in a long time,” Whitt said.

The Nationals begin a three-game series Friday night in Atlanta. Ace Max Scherzer (17-6, 2.31) is scheduled to start for Washington against Braves right-hander Kevin Gausman (9-10, 3.89), who formerly pitched for Baltimore.

The Cubs begin a series Friday at home with the Reds.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who wore his jersey on the plane Wednesday night, had two hits while Kris Bryant and Baez had three.

“Rizzo had a great day,” Maddon said.

And so did the Cubs, who didn’t even spend 24 hours in the nation’s capital before flying back to Illinois.

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