Runs not at a premium on cold, windy day at Wrigley (Nats lose 8-5)

CHICAGO - On a cold, windy afternoon at Wrigley Field, where the ball isn't likely to leave the yard with nearly as much ease as it did yesterday, the Nationals and Cubs knew they'd have to manufacture their offense.

The Nats did just that in the top of the third, using both a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly to take a 1-0 lead. Moments later, it was the Cubs' turn to advance a runner via bunt, setting up the RBI triple that tied this game. But then Kris Bryant proved it possible to drive a ball through the wind and clear the fence, giving the Cubs a 2-1 lead.

With the gametime temperature only 51 degrees and a 23 mph wind blowing in from left field, starters Gio Gonzalez and Jason Hammel were able to pitch with some level of comfort, not terribly worried about bad pitches ending up in the bleachers.

Though they didn't have anything to show for it early on, the Nationals did make Hammel work. The right-hander needed 45 pitches to complete his first two innings, thanks to so long at-bats despite the lack of results.

The Nats did make the most of their third inning against Hammel, though. Ben Revere led off with a double scorched down the right field line. Revere's first hit with the Nationals snapped an 0-for-8 slump sandwiched around his 32-day stint on the disabled list.

Bryce Harper runs red.jpgChoosing to play for one run, Danny Espinosa (bumped up to the No. 2 spot in today's lineup) put down a sacrifice bunt, advancing Revere to third with only one out. The Cubs could have chosen to intentionally walk Bryce Harper but instead went after him. Harper responded by driving a ball to right-center. It died in the wind, but it was plenty deep enough to score Revere from third and the Nats a 1-0 lead.

Gonzalez was both effective and effective and efficient through his first two innings, retired the side on 27 total pitches. But the Cubs got to him in the bottom of the third, when No. 8 hitter Tim Federowicz singled with one out. That allowed Hammel to bunt him over to second base, putting him in position to score on Dexter Fowler's deep fly to right-center that fell in between Revere and Harper for an RBI triple.

Gonzalez got ahead of Bryant in the bottom of the fourth, but he left an 0-2 fastball over the plate and watched as Chicago's No. 3 hitter drove it right into the teeth of the wind and over the left field wall for a solo homer that put the Cubs on top.

Update: The Nats manufactured their first run of the day, and now they're manufactured two more to take a 3-2 lead. A leadoff walk by Jose Lobaton in the top of the fifth was followed by Gonzalez's sacrifice bunt and Revere's productive groundout to the right side. Danny Espinosa then delivered a two-out RBI single past a diving Ben Zobrist at second base to tie the game. And then, after the Cubs walked Harper for the sixth time in this series, Ryan Zimmerman delivered another two-out RBI single, this one past a lunging Addison Russell at shortstop.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, pitched out of a jam in the bottom of the fifth, getting a nice play from Stephen Drew (filling in at second base for the ill Daniel Murphy) to end the inning with the Nats still up 3-2.

Update II: This has turned into quite a back-and-forth affair. It's now 5-5 in the seventh after the Cubs took the lead with five singles in the bottom of the sixth off Gonzalez and Sammy Solis, but then the Nats battled back in the top of the seventh with Zimmerman legging out a potential 5-4-3 double play to get the tying run across.

Update III: Now the Cubs are back on top, 7-5, by the slimmest of margins. With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, Harper nearly caught Russell's ball right at the right field foul line but couldn't make the play with the wall right there as well. Dusty Baker mentioned this morning how difficult it is for outfielders here, with so little room down the walls. Harper found out the hard way, though in the bigger picture he and the Nats might be better off having not slammed into that wall and injured himself. For the moment, though, the play cost them two runs and means they'll have to try to rally now.

Update IV: Make it three straight losses for the Nats here, this one by a final score of 8-5. They'll need to somehow beat Jake Arrieta tomorrow to avoid a four-game sweep and a 5-5 road trip.

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