CHICAGO - Call this the game of missed opportunities.
And not just for the Nationals, for once. For both teams.
The Nats and Cubs have combined to go 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position through the first four innings tonight. Seven of those missed chances have fallen at the feet of the Cubs, who have put runners on early in innings but haven’t been able to do much of anything with them.
Ryan Zimmerman’s RBI double in the first inning and Brian Bogusevic’s solo homer in the fourth have been the only run-scoring hits tonight.
The Nats had opportunities to put up a crooked number in both the first and second, but Wilson Ramos grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to strand runners at the corners in the first and then Scott Hairston, Dan Haren and Bryce Harper went down in order to leave runners at second and third in the second inning.
Not only did Hairston, Haren and Harper not get the job done, they also combined to hit the ball about 25 feet. Hairston tapped out just in front of the plate, Haren struck out and Harper grounded back to the pitcher.
Haren has pitched well through four innings, and if not for a Wrigley Field homer from Bogusevic on a fly ball that rode the wind and barely made it over the ivy-covered wall in right-center, the Nats still lead.
Instead, we have a 1-1 game here in the fifth.
Instant Update: Make that 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Haren stranded two runners in the fifth, picking up Zimmerman by striking out Anthony Rizzo to end the frame. This came after Zimmerman airmailed a routine throw to first, extending the inning and giving him 18 errors on the season.
If you’re a fan of offense, this game is not for you.
Update II: The Nats took the lead in the sixth, but somehow, despite recording four hits and a walk in that frame, they managed to push across just one run.
Tyler Moore’s infield single scored Zimmerman, who led off the inning with a double, but Jayson Werth overran second base and was tagged out by Cubs shorstop Starlin Castro. Later in the inning, after pinch-hitter Adam LaRoche walked to load the bases with two outs, Haren grounded out to leave three more runners stranded.
Through six innings, the Nats have had 12 baserunners and just two runs to show for it.
Yet they still lead 2-1.
Update III: Haren’s run of stellar starts since coming off the disabled list continues.
The right-hander went six innings tonight, allowing just one run on five hits with a wild pitch and a home run allowed. He struck out six and didn’t walk a batter.
Haren threw 103 pitches, 71 for strikes. He leaves in line for his eighth win of the season.
Since that DL stint, Haren has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, posting a 2.16 ERA over 50 innings. This after he had a 6.15 ERA through his first 15 starts.
The Nats still hold their 2-1 lead as we go to the eighth, this after Drew Storen worked a scoreless seventh. Since returning from Triple-A Syracuse, Storen has worked four scoreless innings and retired 12 of the 13 batters he’s faced.
Update IV: The Nats tacked on two insurance runs in the top of the ninth on RBI singles by Ian Desmond and Denard Span, runs that were crucial because Rafael Soriano served up a leadoff homer to Donnie Murphy in the bottom of the ninth.
In the end, Soriano got it together and closed out a 4-2 Nats win, giving Haren his eighth victory of the season and Soriano his 32nd save.