CHICAGO - What was a five-run lead is now gone. And we have a tie ballgame.
The Nationals had a comfortable 6-1 advantage going to the bottom of the fifth, and just like that, the Cubs have come back to knot this game 6-6.
The Cubs batted around in the fifth, sending 10 hitters to the plate and notching seven hits. Ross Ohlendorf surrendered a two-run homer to Anthony Rizzo (Rizzo’s second longball of the night) that made it 6-3, and then the Cubs ran off five straight singles.
The final four of those came off rookie reliever Tanner Roark, a native of nearby Wilmington, Ill., who finally allowed an earned run in his fifth big league appearance.
Pitching in front of a raucous cheering section that includes at least 102 friends and family members (that was the number of people on party buses rented by Roark’s brother for today’s game), Roark got hit hard. The first four hitters he saw all singled, and Welington Castillo’s sacrifice fly tied the game.
In that one inning alone, Ohlendorf’s ERA rose 69 points (from 1.89 to 2.58) and Roark’s rose from 0.00 to 1.69.
Manager Davey Johnson told reporters before the game that Desmond’s back locked up on him during batting practice, but Desmond decided to try and play through the discomfort. He’ll get the rest of the night off, however.
Update: Roark bounced back from that shaky fifth inning with a perfect sixth, in which he struck out the side and sent the Roark supporters in the right field bleachers into a frenzy.
And now, thanks to Scott Hairston, the rookie is in line for his third major league win.
Hairston delivered a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the seventh, giving the Nats a 9-6 lead. The homer came after the Cubs intentionally walked Jayson Werth to get to Hairston, and he delivered a big fly at a big time.
It’s the 11th career pinch-hit homer for Hairston and his second this season. It’s also his first home run since joining the Nats, and it comes against the team that traded him away.
Update II: Rafael Soriano might not be needed tonight.
The Nats pushed across two insurance runs in the eighth on a Denard Span RBI triple and a Ryan Zimmerman RBI single, making it an 11-6 Washington lead.
Span’s triple was his eighth of the season and his first hit of the night.
Tyler Clippard was warming prior to the two-run frame, so he’ll come in to work the bottom half of the inning despite what’s now a five-run lead.
Update III: That’ll do it. Soriano ended up working the ninth after all, with Johnson using this as an opportunity to get his closer back on track. Soriano allowed three hits but gets credited with a scoreless inning after a Cubs baserunning error, locking down an 11-6 win.
The Nats had four multi-run innings and got a big pinch-hit three-run homer from Hairston.
Give the win to Roark, who improves to 3-0 on the season (in just five appearances) despite allowing two runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings. His family and friends in the bleachers won’t mind much. They got to see their boy pick up the victory.
The Nats have won the last two and can get back to a game under .500 by taking the finale of this four-game set tomorrow.