Confidence was not high heading into this series, and I think everyone would be pretty hapy to be standing level one game a piece at this point prior to the start of the series. The way that the Cubs achieved that though washes away any positive felings at this time. The Cubs played perhaps their best baseball of the season for the first eight and half innings of it, and it has been clown shoes ever since.
Max Scherzer is an imposing figure on the mound. Scherzer dominated the Cubs the last meeting between the two clubs last year, but it wasn't going to be a repeat performance tonight. Anthony Rizzo went down 2 stirkes quickly, but fought off several pitches before Scherzer drilled him with a two seaer. Tommy La Stella had an even better at bat. He was rung up on a extremely borderline pitch on a 3-2 count. Ian Happ popped the ball up in the next at bat. Kris Bryant hit a deep fly ball that center fielder Michael Taylor appeared to be drifting under easily. It seemed like the Cubs would squander the early struggles of Scherzer, but the ball kept drifting deeper and deeper. The ball drove Taylor to the wall who was unable to make the inning ending catch. Rizzo scored easily as Bryant scampered to third. Miguel Montero flew out to end the inning.
Jake Arrieta got an infield groundball at Tommy La Stella from Trea Turner. La Stella hesistated slightly and Turner beat the throw to first. Turner woul not remain at first long as he stole second and then third with Brian Goodwin at the plate. Goodwin hit a sharp groundball that Rizzo was able to grab. Arrieta hesistated coming off the mound, and Goodwin beat him to the bag. Arrieta retire 3 of the next 4 hitters to keep the game tied at the end of 1 inning.
It was a clean second inning for both pitchers, but that would be the one and only zero Arrieta put on the board. Turner walked to start the third inning. Turner stole his third base of the game, but Arrieta struck out Goodwin at the plate. Bryce Harper hit a flyout, and it looked like Arrieta might wiggle out of the small jam. Ryan Zimmerman walked, and Daniel Murphy hit the ball to La Stella. A La Stella error allowed Turner to score, but the inning ended on Zimmerman trying to advance to third on the play. The lead would be enough for Scherzer, but unfortunately the potent Nats lineup was not done.
Anthony Rendon hit a lead off single in the fourth inning. Taylor added a one out single. Scherzer hit a ground ball single to score Rendon. Taylor stole the third base in that inning and wound up scoring on a throwing error by Montero. The Nationals now had a commanding 4-1 lead with Scherzer on the mound. Arrieta went out to start the fifth. Murphy singled and Rendon walked to end Arrieta's night. Felix Pena retired Matt Wieters on a fly ball, but Taylor doubled to drive in another pair of runs. Pena limited the damage to that ending the inning on a Harper strikeout with the bases loaded, but the Cubs could not manage another run in the 6-1 win for the Nationals.
Bullseye on Miggy
The Nationals ran wild on Miguel Montero, and so he rightfully was the subject for a lot of derision from the fanbase. I think the complaints have largely been overblown. Montero has been surprisingly solid at the plate, and he is very good at many parts of being a catcher. I also couldn't think of a better mentor to have around for still developing Willson Contreras. That said it was ugly tonight, and isn't likely to get better at any point. Jake Arrieta feels very comfortable throwing to Montero, but with Arrieta's struggles holding runners makes it a terrible pairing at this point. That is unless Gibson 2.0 shows up again he needs Willson's arm behind the plate.
Bump in the Roll
The Cubs starting pitching had been rolling the past few weeks. It was perhaps a bit of a karmic justice after the 5 shutout innings Eddie Butler threw last night. Arrieta contributed to the first inning woes of the staff with the weakest run given up on the season. Later his command would fail him with the help of the umpire behind the plate. It was not a good night for any phase of the game, and there is plenty of blame to go around for an ugly loss.
A Silver Lining
There was one bright spot and it has been the bright spot for most of the season. Felix Pena gave up a two run double, but those runs were charged to Arrieta. He worked into a bit of jam, but managed to wiggle out of it. Pena then pitched the next couple of innings keeping the Cubs in the game. It will likely be a thankless task with another return trip to Iowa his reward, but they were much needed innings to give the rest of the pen the night off. That is except for Hector Rondon. Myles should write about Cubs players being done more often. Rondon pitched an easy scoreless inning facing the minimum number of batters in the eighth inning.
Three Stars of Game
Third Star-Max Scherzer (2-3, 1 RBI) (6 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 6K)
Second Star-Michael Taylor (2-2, 1 R, 2 RBI, 2 SB)
First Star-Trea Turner (1-3, 2 R, 4 SB)