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Nationals 2, Cubs 1: Pitchers' Duel

After being blown out Saturday, the Cubs held the Nats' scoring down Sunday. It didn't help the win column, though.

Greg Fiume

Any doubts about whether Jake Arrieta would take a no-hitter deep into a start for the third straight time were erased Sunday by the first batter of the game. Denard Span lofted a double past Justin Ruggiano in center field and two groundouts later, the Nationals had a 1-0 lead.

But you know what? Arrieta perhaps should have had that shot, because Ruggiano appeared to get a late jump and also took a bad route to Span's ball. It looked catchable.

That was one of a few strange occurrences in the Cubs' 2-1 loss to the Nationals. Another was a review called for by first-base umpire Paul Schrieber after Schrieber failed to make a call on a ground ball hit by Ryan Sweeney to Anthony Rendon. Rendon's throw pulled Adam LaRoche off first base, but LaRoche appeared to tag Sweeney out.

Schrieber made no call at all. That's the first time I think I've ever seen that. The umpires had to go to review to get the correct call, which was "out." You can see the whole sequence here. Incidentally, that link says it was a Nationals challenge, but I believe Len & JD mentioned on the telecast that this review was initiated by the umpires.

After the first inning, Arrieta settled into a nice groove. He issued three walks, but gave up only three more singles and the Cubs settled into their usual "groove" of not hitting with runners on base. Through the first six innings they left eight men on base and went 0-for-5 with RISP off Jordan Zimmermann. In all the Cubs stranded 12 runners, not a good way to win games.

Both starters were lifted after six, Arrieta with 90 pitches thrown (probably a good idea after the no-hit bid last Monday) and Zimmermann after 105. The Cubs then broke through off reliever Drew Storen, loading the bases and scoring a run when Chris Coghlan (who had singled batting for Arrieta) made a head-first slide just ahead of Wilson Ramos' tag, following a fly ball to short center by Starlin Castro. I don't know if I'd have sent Coghlan -- the ball was very shallow -- but third-base coach Gary Jones correctly guessed that Denard Span's throw might not be accurate, and the Cubs tied the game. They threatened again in the eighth, getting a pair of runners in scoring position with one out, but both were stranded when Welington Castillo struck out and Sweeney grounded to second.

In the eighth, another review on an apparent leadoff double by Span confirmed he was safe, and with two out Ryan Zimmerman singled him in off Pedro Strop for the eventual winning run. Rafael Soriano, who is having a fantastic year that hardly anyone is noticing, finished up 1-2-3 for his 21st save, and the Nats won the game, and the season series from the Cubs four games to three.

Despite good hitting by Castro and Anthony Rizzo this year, this offense continues to struggle at times. I'm certainly not blaming the big trade this weekend, but the Cubs scored just one total run in the two games following. Instead, good opposition pitching is the likely culprit. Credit to Arrieta, who still looks solid to begin July after his great June, for keeping the game close.

The Cubs head to Cincinnati to begin a five-game series Monday against the Reds, with Edwin Jackson facing Mike Leake Monday evening. In the meantime, at the time of this post Jeff Samardzija was making his Athletics debut; feel free to discuss that in the comments as well.