One team made a key error, after which their opponents broke the game open with a big inning, all after two were out, all the runs being unearned.
The same team failed multiple times with RISP and couldn't break through against a pitching staff that's had its troubles this year.
Surprise! That team wasn't the Cubs -- instead it was the Nats whose third baseman, Ryan Zimmerman, made a throwing error with two out in the fifth inning, and that opened the door to a Cubs rally that included a two-run double by pitcher Edwin Jackson (I'll even forgive him for his anti-DH-argument hit) and a two-run single by Anthony Rizzo. The inning might have been bigger if Rizzo hadn't inexplicably decided to try to steal second; he was thrown out easily. Rizzo did wind up with a 3-for-4 day, raising his BA to .290 after a horrible start to 2013. He also made a spectacular diving catch of a popup into short right field in the eighth inning.
The Cubs weren't done, either; they put up another four-spot in the sixth inning, with the biggest hits being a run-scoring double by Cody Ransom (I still can't figure out how he's hitting as well as he is) and a two-run, bases-loaded single by David DeJesus. Everyone contributed Saturday afternon, even Darwin Barney, who walked, and Welington Castillo, who was hit by a pitch and scored in the sixth. The Cubs wound up with an 8-2 victory, their first win in D.C. since 2011, evening the weekend series at a win each. All of this happened after the first 11 Cubs were retired, six by strikeout by Stephen Strasburg. But Strasburg came apart after Zimmerman's error. The Nats have scored 18 total runs in Strasburg's eight starts, which probably puts a lot more pressure on him.
Meanwhile, Edwin Jackson shut down the Nats pretty well until he ran into trouble and was lifted with one out in the sixth inning; Shawn Camp came in and allowed a run-scoring single, but got out of the inning without further trouble. It was Jackson's best start of the season, and allowed him to post his first win. Camp, after having a horrific start to his 2013, has now posted a 2.61 ERA in his last 12 appearances, covering 10⅓ innings, and has a 1.16 WHIP in those games. This is more like the Camp we saw in 2012; if he can keep this up, he could still be a useful part of the bullpen. The rest of the bullpen did good work, too; Hector Rondon threw a solid eighth and ninth, throwing just 22 pitches, and appears to be improving with each outing.
Amazingly enough, despite reports of storms all over the Washington area, the game was completed without a delay and with just a light shower passing over during the eighth inning.
The only sour note to this win came in that Cubs fifth inning, when Luis Valbuena doubled to the right-field corner and was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple -- in fact, that led to a two-out, nobody-on situation before the Cubs scored all the runs. Valbuena came out for warmups in the last of the fifth, but Ransom replaced him. Here's what happened:
#Cubs Luis Valbuena jammed right pinky finger on slide into 3rd base. Going for X-rays— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 11, 2013
Let's hope it's nothing serious. Would the Cubs actually give Ian Stewart a chance if Valbuena had to go on the DL? After everything that happened to him in the last week? Or would they perhaps give Josh Vitters a chance to show he belongs in the major leagues?
So the Cubs will have yet another chance to win a road series when the suddenly-solid Scott Feldman faces Gio Gonzalez Sunday afternoon. Suddenly, this team is looking better... at least for one day.