Jun 26, 2014, 10:46 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: On a strangely fog-filled June evening at Wrigley Field, it wasn’t always easy to see things clearly. This much was clear, though: The Nationals weren’t in top form in their series opener against the last-place Cubs.
Doug Fister labored, especially during a 3-run fourth inning, and allowed way more balls to be hit into the air than the sinkerball specialist normally prefers. And a lineup that was bolstered by the return of Wilson Ramos — he notched two singles and drew a walk — couldn’t take advantage of a wild Travis Wood on the mound for the Cubs.
The Nationals did rally to tie the game in the top of the seventh on Denard Span’s 2-run double off the right-field wall. But Craig Stammen gave both runs back in the bottom of the inning, and the Nats couldn’t mount another rally against the Chicago bullpen. Thus they dropped their second straight and missed an opportunity to extend their lead on the Braves in the NL East to 2 games.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: Though they managed a couple of clutch hits (Anthony Rendon’s RBI single in the sixth, Span’s 2-run double in the seventh), the Nationals squandered several other opportunities to score more against an often-struggling Wood. They put three men on base in the second but failed to score, in part because of a questionable send by third base coach Bobby Henley. They put four men on base in the sixth but scored only one run because of an Adam LaRoche double play and an Ian Desmond strikeout. And even after Span tied the game with his seventh-inning double, he killed a shot at scoring the go-ahead run when he strayed too far around second base and was thrown out.
PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This wasn’t exactly a typical Fister pitching performance, but ultimately give the right-hander props for battling and giving his team a chance to win the game. Fister was roughed up for three runs in the top of the fourth, an inning in which he threw a whopping 39 pitches. That left his total count at 82, exactly what the Nationals didn’t want to see in the wake of Tuesday’s 16-inning game and with a doubleheader coming up Saturday. But to his credit, Fister finished strong, tossing two more scoreless innings on only 20 pitches. After all that, he still was credited with a quality start, his seventh in 10 outing so far this season.
KEY STAT: Ian Desmond has struck out 23 times in his last 54 plate appearances.
UP NEXT: The series continues with the unusual — though traditional at Wrigley Field — late-afternoon Friday ballgame. It’ll be Tanner Roark vs. Jason Hammel at 4:05 p.m. EDT.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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THU: 2:30 p.m.
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SAT: 10:30 a.m.
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