Harper walking up a storm at Wrigley (Nats lose 4-3 in 13)

CHICAGO - The Cubs pitching staff has wanted no part of Bryce Harper this weekend, a strategy that worked for three days but hasn't paid off so far this afternoon.

Midway through the final game of this four-game series at Wrigley Field, the Cubs have walked Harper 10 times in 15 plate appearances. He has only four official at-bats, with one hit.

Bryce Harper gray at bat.jpgChicago beat the Nationals three straight days with that avoid-Harper-at-all-costs approach, but the reigning league MVP finally made them pay for it in the top of the third inning this afternoon. After drawing a one-out walk off reigning Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Harper managed to score all the way from first base on Ryan Zimmerman's sharp grounder past Kris Bryant at third base.

Harper, who was running on the pitch, never stopped until he slid across the plate ahead of catcher Tim Federowicz's tag, giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

They expanded it to 2-0 in the fourth via back-to-back singles by Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa, a wild pitch by Arrieta and a misplayed grounder by second baseman Ben Zobrist that turned what could've been an inning-ending double play into an RBI groundout by Anthony Rendon.

That the Nationals have scored twice off Arrieta (who entered with an 0.84 ERA) in four innings is impressive enough, but they've been in position to score a whole lot more. They're already 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Tanner Roark has pitched his way out of a few jams as well, but the Cubs got to the Illinois native in the bottom of the fourth via a Daniel Murphy error, two groundball outs and a wild pitch, leaving the Nats holding a 2-1 lead as the game moves to the fifth inning.

Update: The Nats threw everything they had at Arrieta today. It wasn't always pretty, but they managed to score three runs off him and knock him out after five innings, no small accomplishment. They got their third run via their first (and to this point only) hit with a man in scoring position: Ramos' one-out single to left in the fifth to score Murphy. Through six innings, they're an astounding 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

The Cubs have threatened against Roark, but the right-hander has battled his way through it and emerged unscathed. He's at 110 pitches through six innings, with the Nats leading 3-1.

Update II: This game is now tied after the Cubs rallied against the Nats bullpen in the bottom of the seventh. Oliver Perez put two men on via a scorched comebacker by opposing pitcher Trevor Cahill and a plunking of Dexter Fowler. With Blake Treinen having pitched the last two days and Shawn Kelley having pitched the last three days, Dusty Baker turned to long man Yusmeiro Petit to try to pitch out of a jam. But Kris Bryant laced a two-run single up the middle off Petit, and so now this is a 3-3 game heading to the eighth, and Arrieta can no longer take the loss.

Update III: We're going extra innings at Wrigley. Petit was able to get out of jams in the seventh, eighth and ninth, sending this game into the 10th, still tied 3-3.

Update IV: To the 11th we go, after Petit again pitched out of a jam, stranding two in scoring position in the bottom of the 10th. The Nats had a chance in the top of the inning, but after Harper was intentionally walked (the fifth time he has walked today), Zimmerman lined out to left to kill that rally and leave the Nationals 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position.

Update V: To the 12th we go, thanks to a brilliant relay from Michael A. Taylor (who has taken over in center field) to Danny Espinosa to Wilson Ramos to nail Jason Heyward at the plate on Kris Bryant's double. Jonathan Papelbon, forced to pitch in a tie game, managed to wriggle his way out of that jam. He may need to pitch another, too, before this one is over.

Update VI: Bryce Harper has tied the all-time record with six walks in a game, something done only three previous times. But that couldn't win this game for the Nats. Ryan Zimmerman stranded the bases loaded for the third time today, sending this game to the bottom of the 12th. But thanks to a double play, Papelbon escaped his second scoreless inning, so we're now going to the 13th.

Update VII: It's over. Javier Baez homered off Blake Treinen in the bottom of the 13th, giving the Cubs a 4-3 victory and sending the Nats to a crushing, four-game sweep here this weekend.

Nats take out Arrieta, but Cubs sweep series with ...
Pregame news and notes from Wrigley Field

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