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Nationals 9, Cubs 4: Blech

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Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Cubs’ 9-4 loss to the Nationals summed up in six tweets:

Seriously, that’s about it. Jon Lester looks awful, just as at around this time last year he appears to have dead arm, if nothing else, and perhaps could benefit from a 10-day DL stay. On the other hand:

Lester recorded the first two outs of the game on just three pitches, and then the Nats started raining down hits on him on one of the most beautiful sunny afternoons we’ve had all summer in Chicago. It was 3-0 in the third when the one Cubs highlight worth watching from this game happened [VIDEO].

Rizzo's 1,000th career hit

Congratulations to Anthony Rizzo on career hit No. 1,000! #EverybodyIn

Posted by Chicago Cubs on Saturday, August 11, 2018

Congratulations to Anthony Rizzo on his 1,000th career hit, which came with Albert Almora Jr. on first base and nobody out. It moved Almora to third, where he scored on a sacrifice fly by Javier Baez. At the time, a 3-1 score might have made this game close, but Rizzo was caught trying to steal second. A missed sign, perhaps? On Rizzo’s milestone:

Here’s hoping in a few years, we are talking about Rizzo’s 2,000th career hit, still as a member of the Cubs.

Anyway, the roof fell in on Lester in the third, where six runs scored, including home runs by Ryan Zimmerman (his second of the game, as noted above) and Daniel Murphy, who is a one-man wrecking crew at Wrigley Field. Even before going 3-for-4 today, Murphy was hitting .406/.436/.688 (39-for-96) at Wrigley with nine doubles and six home runs — and that doesn’t include the demolition he did in the 2015 NLCS with the Mets.

So... when possible, pitch around Murphy at Wrigley. Not that Murphy’s home run was the biggest blow in this game, or the most important. Still.

New Cub Jorge De La Rosa replaced Lester and struck out four of the five hitters he faced, with decent velocity (92-93 on the Wrigley pitch-speed meter), so he might be a useful bullpen spare part. Mike Montgomery, moved briefly to the bullpen to space out his next start till next Saturday in Pittsburgh, threw a scoreless sixth and then... Tyler Chatwood.

And Chatwood... wasn’t awful. That’s a low bar to hurdle, of course, but though Chatwood allowed three hits and two walks in his three-inning stint, he was able to close out each inning without allowing a run. Of Chatwood’s 23 appearances this season, it’s just the third in which he did not give up at least one run. Baby steps.

The Cubs got a consolation run off Tanner Roark in the eighth, and you tell me why Dave Martinez sent his starting pitcher out in a 9-1 blowout after he had thrown 101 pitches, and then left him in after he allowed two hits. Finally, after Willson Contreras drove in the Cubs’ second run with a hit, Martinez pulled Roark after a total of 117 pitches. I mean... what was Davey thinking?

Two more runs crossed the plate for the Cubs in the ninth courtesy of pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist, who smacked a two-run double. Joe Maddon emptied his bench early, giving Rizzo, Baez and Jason Heyward about half the afternoon off, probably a good idea. It was pleasantly mild near the lake today, with a gentle breeze blowing in, but resting players this time of year is important. From Joe:

All true... and yet, the Cubs still lead the N.L. Central by 2½ games, pending the Braves/Brewers game which is still going on at this writing, with the Braves just having taken a 2-1 lead in the fourth. The Cubs could still come out of this day with a three-game lead, and as Maddon noted, they really haven’t played their best baseball yet. They’re certainly capable of that, and can start any day they’d like to do that.

Sunday night, the rubber game of this series will be played, and ESPN got a great pitching matchup for the series finale. Cole Hamels will make his third Cubs start, and first at Wrigley as a Cub, and face Max Scherzer, who’s a strong Cy Young candidate. Nevertheless, the Cubs hit Scherzer pretty well in the division series last year, and hopefully they can right the ship and win the series. Game time Sunday is 7:05 p.m. CT.