The Nationals and Cubs are wrapping up their three-game holiday weekend series with a marquee matchup, with right-hander Jordan Zimmermann against right-hander Jake Arrieta. Zimmermann has allowed two earned runs or less in six consecutive starts, while Arrieta has taken a no-hitter into the seventh inning two starts in a row.
The Nationals are looking to go nine games above .500 for the first time this season, keep pace with the Braves and upset Arrieta, all before the much-anticipated Beltway series commences Monday against the Orioles at Nats Park.
Nationals center fielder Denard Span took care of any no-hitter drama in the first at-bat. He lined a double over the head of center fielder Justin Ruggiano leading off the bottom of the first inning.
Following an Anthony Rendon groundout, Jayson Werth smacked a sharp grounder to third base against a drawn-in infield. Luis Valbuena decided to try not to throw home and conceded the run, partly because Span got such a good jump on the ball. Werth’s RBI groundout plated the first run of the game and the Nationals led 1-0.
Update: The Nationals challenged the first play of the top of the third. Ryan Sweeney was called safe on a grounder fielded by Rendon and thrown to first baseman Adam LaRoche who was drawn off the bag but appeared to make the tag. The umpires checked the video replay and overturned the call on the field. LaRoche clearly tagged Sweeney out as he passed on the first base line. The delay took 1 minute, 2 seconds. The Nationals retain their challenge for the remainder of the game.
Update II: The Cubs loaded the bases against reliever Drew Storen in the seventh. Chris Coghlan and Anthony Rizzo had singles, wrapped around a walk to Ruggiano. Starlin Castro provided the sac fly to Span in center. Span fired home, but Coghlan slid under the tag by Wilson Ramos and was called safe, tying the game at 1-1.
Storen was lifted. Jerry Blevins struck out Luis Valbuena to end the rally.
Zimmermann went six innings, allowed no runs on seven hits, with one walk and five strikeouts. He tossed 105 pitches, 76 for strikes.
Update III: Span led off the eighth with a double. The Cubs challenged the ruling on the field that Span beat the tag by Castro at second base. The video replay review was administered by the umpires. The ruling on the field stood. The delay took 1 minute, 25 seconds. The Cubs lost their challenge for the rest of the game.
Later in the inning, with two outs and two men on against Cubs reliever Pedro Strop, Ryan Zimmerman delivered a run-scoring single to plate Span and the Nationals led 2-1.
Update IV: Rafael Soriano closed out the ninth with a 1-2-3 inning for his 21st save.
The Nationals defeated the Cubs 2-1.
Tyler Clippard improves to 6-2. Strop falls to 1-4.