Nationals 11, Cubs 6: The Cubs Way

Brian Kersey

They say if you watch baseball long enough, you'll see things you've never seen before. Wednesday night, we saw one of those things.

Hey, Theo! Paying attention?

Because that was about the most Cubs way ever of losing a game.

First, the team battled back from a 6-1 deficit with a five-run sixth inning that included six consecutive hits and a booming two-run homer by Anthony Rizzo to Sheffield. It was Rizzo's second home run of the game; it produced his fourth career two-homer game and got him to 20 home runs for the first time of what we hope is many in his career. That's good, right?

If you didn't see the game, gather round while I describe the oh-so-Cub methods of losing. James Russell entered a 6-6 tie in relief in the seventh and retired the first two hitters easily. After Bryce Harper doubled off the wall in deep center field, Jayson Werth was intentionally walked. (An obvious, and correct thing to do.)

Up stepped former Cub Scott Hairston, who, as you know, I was... well, not so happy with during his three months as a North Sider. Since his acquisition by the Nats, he was hitting .200/.243/.286, a .529 OPS that was even worse than the devilish .666 he posted as a Cub -- 7-for-35, all singles, with no RBI.

You know what's coming, right? Of course. A three-run homer that landed on Waveland Avenue.

Oh, so Cub. SO Cub. Russell has now allowed two home runs in his last three appearances.

But the Cubs weren't done Cubbing up the game. There was the way the game ended -- with Rizzo caught in a rundown between third and home. I have seen thousands of major-league games. I cannot remember a game that ended in a play like this. Ever. Especially when a team is trailing by five runs! But wait! There's an explanation!

Rizzo had a miscommunication with third base coach David Bell as the Cubs were mounting a rally with two outs against Nats closer Rafael Soriano.

"There are two outs and every at-bat counts," Rizzo said. "I was on second base and said I have to get a good jump if [Brian] Bogusevic gets a hit. First he waived me and he hesitated at the end and held me up."

Never mind the misspelling in that quote (it should be "waved", not "waived"; we've had enough "waiving" around these parts for now, I think).

What on Earth is Bell doing? Sending a runner with two out in the ninth, down five runs? The Cubs aren't likely going to win the game anyway, but it'd have been nice to have the bases loaded against Soriano in that situation; the pitcher's spot was due up next and it was likely Dioner Navarro would have hit. Navarro is having the best year of his career and already has two pinch home runs.

Caught in a rundown to end the game. That's a new one for me, but seriously, only the Cubs can do things like this. If, as Rizzo said, "there are two outs and every at-bat counts", why would you even think about trying to score in that situation?

I was glad to see Rizzo break out of his slump with a 3-for-4 day that included the two homers. He's the youngest Cub left-handed hitter to have a 20-homer season since Billy Williams hit 25 in 1961. Batting him second appeared to agree with him, at least for a day; might as well keep doing it.

Starlin Castro, who was also moved up in the order, went 1-for-5 in the leadoff spot, although one of the outs was a line drive smashed up the middle, snared by shortstop Anthony Rendon. If I'm Dale Sveum, I keep these two in those lineup spots for a little while, at least.

Jake Arrieta, who had thrown so well in his first two Cubs starts, got hit hard Wednesday night, allowing six runs in four innings, and also issuing four walks. He appeared to be a bit too amped up, overthrowing at times; this was an issue with him with the Orioles and is why some people think he might be better suited to closing. He'll have six or seven more starts this year to show Theo & Co. whether he belongs in the rotation in 2014, or should be shifted to relief.

The Cubs need to win Thursday's series finale to avoid a 2-8 homestand, which would be the first homestand of 10 games in which the Cubs won only two since August 1-10, 1994 (just before the strike ended that season). They also had a 3-11 homestand from July 30-August 11, 1999; that horrendous stretch began the worst month in Cubs history. The Cubs went 6-24 in August 1999; this month, at 5-14, isn't starting out much better.

How very Cub.

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