Right-hander Max Scherzer kept the Nationals in the game against the Cubs Friday night, battling back from a slow start to pitch six innings.
But it was what happened after he left that will be remembered most.
Down 5-4 in the seventh, the Nationals bullpen surrendered nine runs on nine hits - including four homers in the onslaught - in the final two frames as the Cubs ran away with a 14-6 win.
The bottom fell out of the game for the Nats as the Cubs rolled up the nine runs in the final two innings. Kris Bryant smacked three homers in three at-bats in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to put the game away. Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras also hit a two-run shots.
The Nats lost the game and lost two players due to injury.
Nationals manager Davey Martinez said right fielder Victor Robles, who left the game after getting hit by pitch, has a contusion on his left wrist. He said the Nats will see how Robles feels Saturday, but X-rays were negative.
Reliever Justin Miller left in the seventh with a rotator cuff strain. Martinez said Miller will get an MRI on Saturday, but the manager believes the right-hander will have to go on the 10-day injured list.
Martinez was happy with the bullpen against the Mets on Thursday. On Friday, he had a different view.
“Right now, they got to regroup,” Martinez said. “This is the bullpen we have. Like I said, yesterday they were really good, today they weren’t. So they gotta regroup. The issue is when you fall behind on good hitters, you’re gonna get hit and yesterday they didn’t.
“Today 2-0, 2-1, 3-2, 3-1, and you give those guys a chance, they gotta get ahead in the count and they’ve got to make their pitches, so we missed. I watched (and) we missed location by a lot today.”
Barraclough’s battle with Schwarber was a prime example. The 13 pitch at-bat saw every pitch down and away against the left-hander. Eventually, Schwarber timed a 3-2 fastball after five consecutive changeups, and launched it over the left field wall for his sixth homer of the season.
Kyle Barraclough just keep throwing pitches to the same area, and Kyle Shwarber just kept battling.-- Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) May 18, 2019
13th pitch: Oppo HR.
Victorious Kyle: Schwarber pic.twitter.com/gHbR9SgKjy
Can Barraclough explain how the Nationals were able to find a way against the Mets in the late innings but not Friday night against the Cubs?
“It’s just baseball. Guys can swing it over there,” he said. “It’s a different lineup. Come in and don’t necessarily know them as well as obviously the Mets, but that’s baseball. A lot of ups and downs and (that) can change from day to day.”
Scherzer allowed three runs on six hits, walking four and striking out eight. The Cubs scored three runs on four hits against him in the first two frames. But after that, he settled in and shut them out for four innings.
Scherzer (2-5) blamed the loss on the season-high four walks he gave up. He began the game with a four-pitch walk to Schwarber.
“Just some executions. Just coming out early and getting beat early in games and just not executing early in the game,” Scherzer said. “I was able to settle down and throw up some zeros and keep the game close.
“The four walks is what really sticks out in my mind. I’m completely accountable for those. When you walk four, it’s never going to be a fun night just cause you are giving them too many free passes. So for me, that’s what I really try to dial in on when you reflect on your outing - things you could do better at.”
Anthony Rendon connected on a two-run homer in the third to get the Nats on the board. The Nats found themselves down 5-2 in the seventh when they mounted a comeback. Juan Soto doubled and Kurt Suzuki singled to cut the Cubs’ advantage to 5-3. A Carl Edwards Jr. balk later in the inning scored Suzuki to trim the deficit to 5-4.
Brian Dozier got to third thanks to his single, a sac fly by Michael A. Taylor and the balk by Edwards. With pinch-hitter Gerardo Parra at the plate, Edwards’ pitch got away from catcher Contreras. Dozier headed for home and then hesitated when Edwards quickly retrieved the ball. Dozier was caught between third and home, and was called out for running out of the baseline to end the inning - and any possibility the Nats had to tie the game.
“It’s one of those plays - 0-2, I knew he was probably going to try to bounce one or whatever. He did a really good job of getting off the mound,” Dozier said. “The ball was high and bounced up in the air. Got to be aggressive, got to try to go, but I had to shut it down. I went and saw the play after and I was dead in my tracks.
“What I wish I had done was - hindsight is always 20-20 - is obviously go back to third, knowing that I didn’t see him drop the ball as he tried to come up, but kind of caught me in no man’s land.”
The Nationals fall to 2-13 in series openers and 2-9 against the National League Central.
“We battled, the game was 5-4 going into the eighth, yesterday the bullpen was really good, today not good,” Martinez said. “But our bats were really good but like I said they battled, you watched Suzuki last inning beat out a double play ball. They don’t quit.
“But our bullpen’s got to come in and ... we were right there. The game was a really good game, close game and if the bullpen holds us it’s a different ballgame. Didn’t do it tonight.”
Shortstop Trea Turner returned to the lineup, going 2-for-5. Dozier went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Rendon’s homer was his seventh of the season.