Jun 26, 2014, 4:39 PM EST
CHICAGO — Hello from the one and only Windy City, where it’s a very pleasant late-June afternoon along Lake Michigan. The Nationals made the short drive down from Milwaukee after yesterday’s loss and now face an unusual, 4-games-in-3-days series against the Cubs. The schedule refresher: Night game today, mid-afternoon game tomorrow, day-night doubleheader Saturday, off Sunday due to the annual Chicago Pride Parade taking place near Wrigley Field.
The Nats have a key reinforcement joining them here in town: Wilson Ramos, who is back after a 15-day stint on the DL with a strained hamstring. Ramos looked very good during his four rehab games, homering twice, and pronounced himself healthy and ready to go. His batterymate tonight is Doug Fister, coming off a fabulous start against the Braves and now seeking to begin his Nationals career 7-2.
Left-hander Travis Wood gets the nod for the ever-rebuilding Cubs. I’ll be posting plenty of live updates from the press box at Wrigley later on, but first I’m appearing remotely from the CSN Chicago studios on today’s episode of The Baseball Show. Be sure to tune in at 4 p.m. EDT…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CHICAGO CUBS
Where: Wrigley Field
Gametime: 8:05 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN, MLB.tv
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500 AM, XM 869, MLB.com
Weather: Partly cloudy, 64 degrees, Wind 8 mph in from CF
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
3B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Ian Desmond
C Wilson Ramos
2B Danny Espinosa
RHP Doug Fister
LF Ryan Sweeney
RF Justin Ruggiano
1B Anthony Rizzo
SS Starlin Castro
3B Luis Valbuena
C Welington Castillo
CF Junior Lake
2B Darwin Barney
LHP Travis Wood
HP Mike DiMuro
1B Mike Estabrook
2B Jerry Layne (cc)
3B Hunter Wendelstedt
8:05 p.m. — And we’re underway on what has turned into a foggy evening here in Wrigleyville. It’s been tough to see the big scoreboard in center field clearly at times, though it’s mostly visible now. Just a strange sight.
8:12 p.m. — Jayson Werth lined a 2-out single to center, but that was it for the Nats in the top of the first against Travis Wood. Given the thick air and a breeze blowing in from center field, I wouldn’t expect the ball to fly too much tonight.
8:20 p.m. — Doug Fister was thisclose to a 1-2-3 bottom of the first, but Anthony Rizzo’s looper to shallow left field fell in between Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman for a 2-out single. No problem, because Fister still worked his way out of the inning on only 12 pitches.
8:34 p.m. — Scary moment in the top of the second. Zimmerman roped a double to deep right-center to start the inning, but Cubs center fielder Junior Lake slammed hard into the metal door out there amidst the ivy and went down in a heap. All the other Cubs position players, plus manager Rick Renteria and trainers ran out to check on Lake, who appeared to hit his leg, his head and his shoulder into that door. Thankfully, he was able to get up and walk off under his own power. He’s out of the game, but it could’ve been a whole lot worse. Meanwhile, Wilson Ramos lined a single to left in his first at-bat off the DL, but a questionable send by Bobby Henley at third base hung Zim out to dry at the plate. So the Nats waste a scoring opportunity there. It remains 0-0 heading to the bottom of the second.
8:52 p.m. — The fog continues to roll in, and the ball continues not to fly much. Both teams might have no choice but to try to manufacture runs tonight. Still 0-0 in the middle of the third.
8:57 p.m. — Fog or no fog, Denard Span is having no trouble seeing the ball in center field tonight. He has looked quite comfortable chasing down several not-so-routine balls, including a pair in the bottom of the third just now to ensure a 1-2-3 inning for Fister. Still just the one bloop single allowed by the big right-hander so far tonight.
9:23 p.m. — Wow, that was not a good bottom of the fourth for Fister and the Nats. The Cubs scored three runs on an infield single (with a wild throw by Rendon), a double down the first-base line, a broken-bat single to left and an RBI single by Castillo. Fister is already at 82 pitches after only four innings. On the heels of a 16-inning game two nights ago, and with a doubleheader coming up Saturday, this really is not what the Nats needed tonight. They now trail 3-0 after four.
9:28 p.m. — Another base hit for Ramos, who is now 2-for-2 in his return. As promised, he’s not exactly busting it on the basepaths, though. He just peeled off after about 50 feet on Espinosa’s 6-4-3 double-play grounder. It may not look great, but Matt Williams won’t have a problem with that. He wants Wilson in the lineup more than anything else.
9:45 p.m. — The good news: The Nats got a run back in the top of the sixth, thanks to a Span double and Rendon RBI single. The bad news: They missed an opportunity to do more, with LaRoche grounding into a double play and Desmond striking out on an 0-2 fastball at his chin. Ian really is pressing at the plate right now. It feels like he’s down 0-2 every time he steps to the plate. Not good. 3-1 Cubs.
9:53 p.m. — We just had our first ball lost in the fog, with Span having no idea where Valbuena’s flyball was. It landed behind him for a triple. Span managed to make the next catch, but you’ve got to wonder how the umps can let this continue right now.
10:07 p.m. — Interesting decision just now for Williams. After Ramos and Espinosa walked to open the seventh, he chose to let Fister step to the plate and drop a sac bunt (which he did exceptionally well) instead of having Scott Hairston pinch-hit against the lefty. That put the pressure on Span to deliver with two in scoring position and one out … and he did, drilling a double off the wall in right field. Span did stray too far off second base and got thrown out, but the game is now tied 3-3 as Craig Stammen enters for the bottom of the seventh.
10:23 p.m. — And Stammen gives two runs right back on Ruggiano’s 2-out double down the left-field line. The Cubs tested Zimmerman’s arm to score the second run, and it paid off. So make it 5-3 Cubs now, with the Nats suddenly down to their final six outs.
10:29 p.m. — Adam LaRoche bunts his way through the shift for a single in the top of the eighth, but Zimmerman follows with a double play grounder. So the Nats are now down to their final three outs. Still 5-3.
10:38 p.m. — Last shot for the Nats. It’ll be Desmond, Ramos and Espinosa against Hector Rondon in the ninth, down two runs.
10:45 p.m. — Game over. The Nats lose this one, 5-3, their second straight loss. Back at it tomorrow at 4:05 p.m. Eastern.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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