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Nationals 6, Cubs 1: Running wild

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The Cubs could not stop the Nats’ running game. And after the game, there were complaints.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

With Max Scherzer dominating teams this year, winning Tuesday’s game was going to be a difficult task.

So the Cubs losing this game 6-1 to the Nationals shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise to anyone.

It was the way they lost, and some of the things said afterward, that are troubling.

The Cubs actually took a 1-0 lead. Anthony Rizzo was hit by a pitch, continuing his trend of often leading off games by reaching base. Two outs later, Kris Bryant tripled high off the wall in right-center [VIDEO].

I’m showing you this video because it was the only real Cubs highlight of the game. After this half-inning the Nationals started running like crazy, including Trea Turner beating out what looked like a routine ground ball to second base. On the broadcast, Jim Deshaies said that with a hitter with Turner’s speed, you have to play ground balls like that a bit differently, charging them, and Tommy La Stella didn’t.

Turner stole second and third and scored on an infield hit. But that was just the start of the Nats running like crazy off Miguel Montero, who didn’t even throw on a couple of the steal attempts.

These quotes from Montero... I don’t even know what to say.

Even considering that Montero is probably correct about this, I’m thinking players shouldn’t be calling out their teammates to the media. Here’s what Joe Maddon had to say about this situation:

"It’s an imperfect situation," Maddon said. "It's not about the move to first. It's about the time to the plate more than anything. (Arrieta) is a little slow, gathers late, his leg comes up high. It's something that he works on. There are times he's quicker or better with it. Guys like Turner who are premier runners, it's difficult to get it down to the (time) that makes it (doable) even for a catcher like Willson (Contreras).

Jake Arrieta was one of the best pitchers in baseball in keeping batters off base in the first place back in 2015. Remember? People used to joke that year about him walking a batter just so he’d have practice throwing to first.

That hasn’t been the case with Jake since at least the middle of 2016. Tuesday night, he struggled through four-plus innings, allowing six hits and six walks. Two of the six runs charged to him scored after he left the game, on a two-run double allowed by Felix Pena. The Nats wound up stealing seven bases, and that’s a lot:

Montero is shown in league statistics as catching one runner out of 32 attempts, but if I’m not mistaken, that was a pickoff; he hasn’t actually thrown out a runner on the bases all year. And so when the Cubs face a team that can run like the Nats can, they have two choices: start Willson Contreras behind the plate so they can at least have a chance at stopping their running game, or do a better job of keeping the opposition’s hitters off base.

(Aside: I remember that 1990 game. Let’s just say the pitchers the Cubs used in that game weren’t exactly the best guys on their staff that year.)

The Cubs had just one other hit after Bryant’s triple, a two-out double by La Stella in the third inning. That’s troubling, too:

And if that’s not bad enough:

Give Scherzer credit. He’s really good. By the time he was removed after six innings, the Cubs were behind by five runs and even the Nats’ shaky bullpen was able to hold them down. The Cubs had one further baserunner off that bullpen. Contreras walked with one out in the seventh, but Jon Jay hit into a double play.

Scherzer, who is a fairly decent hitter (he had 12 RBI last year, second among all pitchers), had two hits in this game. That produced this not-so-fun fact:

Ugh. 2006. You (and the Cubs) certainly don’t want to remember much about that season.

So basically, this game is one we’d all like to put in the rear-view mirror, and fast.

Fortunately, the Brewers also lost Tuesday night, so the Cubs still are just one game out of first place in the N.L. Central, and still even in the loss column with Milwaukee (38 losses). This Cubs team does have the talent to take over the top spot in the division. It’d be nice if they started to show it.

It won’t get any easier tonight in the third game of the series. John Lackey goes for the Cubs and Stephen Strasburg for the Nats.