Boy, did things turn in a hurry.
Stephen Strasburg was working on an absolute gem this afternoon, having held the Cubs to just one hit over his first four innings of work, striking out seven and needing just 53 pitches to get through those four dominant frames.
Then in the fifth, after a Ryan Zimmerman throwing error prolonged the inning, it all fell apart for Strasburg.
He had been nearly halfway to the dugout when Zimmerman’s throw sailed wide of the first base bag, then needed to walk back to the mound and get back to work. He couldn’t find his focus, however, and immediately walked the No. 8 hitter in the Cubs order, Darwin Barney, on six pitches.
That put two on with two outs. Up came Edwin Jackson, the opposing pitcher, who worked the count full and then smacked a two-run double to right-center on a fastball right over the heart of the plate.
Jackson’s first hit of the season gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead.
Strasburg’s body language began to deteriorate from there. He hung his head, kicked at the dirt on the mound, looked into the dugout and hunched his shoulders in frustration. He kept trying to get control of the inning.
Strasburg then walked David DeJesus, and an infield single by Starlin Castro loaded the bases. Anthony Rizzo then ripped a single up the middle, scoring two more to make it a 4-0 game.
All four of the runs are unearned, because Strasburg would have been out of the inning if not for Zimmerman’s error.
The error shouldn’t have happened. It was a routine play, one Zimmerman needs to make.
But the error was only the first piece of the problem. Strasburg’s inability to pump the breaks and get a hold of the situation led to the big inning.
Strasburg has had trouble this season controlling his emotions when he gets frustrated by close calls that don’t go his way, errors or slow starts to an outing.
Despite being in a zone through four innings today, he’s now gone from the game after five innings because he was unable to compose himself and stop the bleeding.
His final line: 5 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 Ks, 95 pitches, 64 strikes.
He threw 42 pitches in the fifth inning, 26 of which came after the Zimmerman error.
Ian Desmond got a run back for the Nationals in the bottom of the fifth. It’s now 4-1 Cubs as Zach Duke takes over in the sixth.
Update: Duke didn’t fare too well. He retired just two of the seven batters he faced, one of which came on a sac bunt, and surrendered four more Cubs runs.
Chicago has now had 12 runners reach base in the last two innings, this after they had one batter reach over the first four frames.
Ryan Mattheus came in to relieve Duke and get the Nats out of the sixth, but it’s now an 8-1 Cubs lead. This thing has gotten ugly pretty quickly.
Update II: Desmond has both Nationals RBIs today, and for the second straight day, he’s a triple shy of the cycle.
Over the last two days, Desmond is 6-for-7 with two homers, two triples and five RBIs. He’s locked in.
Outside of him, the Nats haven’t managed much offensively. They had the bases loaded and one out in the sixth, but Danny Espinosa struck out and Tyler Moore grounded out to third, and then left Steve Lombardozzi stranded on third after a one-out triple in the seventh.
It’s 8-2 Cubs as we go to the eighth.
Update III: That’ll do it. The Nats couldn’t recover from the back-to-back four-run innings put up by the Cubs in the fifth and sixth, and they fall to Chicago 8-2.
Zimmerman made two errors, Strasburg didn’t allow an earned run but drops to 1-5 on the season, and the Nats’ five-game winning streak comes to an end.