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Nationals 7, Cubs 2: A sluggish-fest

The Cubs played sluggishly, the pace was sluggish, and the loss was sluggish.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Between the Cubs’ poor play on the field, the ridiculous length of this game and the horrific Players Weekend uniforms, the Cubs’ 7-2 loss to the Nationals might have been the least enjoyable game of the season, if not the worst.

You know, Jose Quintana deserved better. Of the first 13 Nats batters of the game, just two hit the ball out of the infield, and both of those were for outs (fly balls to left). Unfortunately, some balls that couldn’t be fielded, two uncharacteristic errors by Anthony Rizzo and a couple of walks later, the Nats wound up with a 5-0 lead after three. Then we found out this:

Well, that could explain the errors, perhaps. And if his back was bothering him, why was Rizzo even starting this game? Wait, I can answer that: Because the Cubs have only three bench players and if Rizzo’s unavailable, that leaves just two, and both catchers probably have to be in the game (which eventually happened anyway). At one point Rizzo started running off the field after recording an out at first — which was just the second out of the inning. It was just a bad day for “Tony,” all the way around.

The Cubs did fight their way back, putting a run on the board in the third courtesy of an RBI single by Nicholas Castellanos [VIDEO].

Then the Cubs had Joe Ross on the ropes in the fourth. Rizzo walked and Javier Baez hit a ground-rule double, putting runners on second and third. After a pair of strikeouts, Tony Kemp walked to load the bases. That brought up Ian Happ, batting for Quintana.

Oh my, Vic Carapazza, this was a terrible call [VIDEO].

Oh my, no, that was not a strike:

Happ got himself ejected arguing that legitimately horrible call. If that had been correctly called ball four, the Cubs score a run making it 5-2, and the bases are still loaded with the top of the order up, and maybe there’s a rally bringing the Cubs back into the game.

But no. One guy says that was strike three, and that’s that. I agree with this:

Bring on the robot umpires. Or, as I have suggested before, perhaps give each manager two ball-and-strike challenges per game. Joe Maddon would certainly have used one in that situation.

The Cubs did finally pull within 5-2 in the fifth. With one out, Castellanos singled and Kris Bryant walked. Jonathan Lucroy, who came in to catch when Rizzo left and Victor Caratini moved to first base, batted next [VIDEO].

The ball appeared to bounce over the basket and back on the field, another ground-rule double, so only one run scored and Bryant had to hold at third. That, again, was another bad break. At 5-3, the game is within reach. The Cubs still had a chance to score more runs in that inning, but Javier Baez struck out and Kyle Schwarber popped to third base.

Basically, that was it; a parade of Cubs relievers threw five innings, allowed two hits and six (!) walks, and two more Nats runs crossed the plate. The Cubs did have one more decent shot at scoring a run. With two out in the sixth, reliever Kyle Ryan was left in to bat and he drew a walk. Jason Heyward also walked, and at that point it’s 6-2 and Castellanos is up and maybe if he can send a ball into the gap...

A ball briefly bounced away from Nats catcher Yan Gomes. Ryan — who had literally been on base only twice previously in his entire professional career, last year at Iowa — tried to take third. He was thrown out easily to end the inning.

Oh, and in one of those previous baserunning appearances at Iowa, in 2018 after reaching on a throwing error? Ryan was thrown out trying to steal. I swear, you can’t make this stuff up.

The final Nats run scored in the ninth off Pedro Strop, and seriously, Pedro is a shadow of his former self. His fastball topped at 93, he couldn’t command it or his slider, and he wound up walking a pair sandwiched around an RBI double by Howie Kendrick. Pedro threw 29 pitches, only 14 for strikes, and still does not look 100 percent. I would not be surprised if he went back on the injured list before the Mets series, with a position player added. It’s sad, really, because from 2013-18 Pedro Strop was one of the most reliable relievers on the staff and he had put together a record as one of the best relievers in franchise history. It’s likely he might have thrown his last pitch for the Cubs.

Nine of the last 10 Cubs were quietly retired, the exception being a two-out double by Heyward in the ninth. All that did was stretch out this ridiculously long game by a few more minutes.

And here’s the summation of the first few innings from Q:

He’s right. Just one of those things.

I should, at the very least, give props to Kemp on some terrific defense. He made three outstanding plays, otherwise the Nats might have scored even more runs. Here’s video of all three.

The Players Weekend uniforms were just as awful on Day 2 as they were on Day 1, except the Cubs were wearing the white caps. There are lots of online articles rightfully blasting these horrible uniforms, and I commend you to this one in particular, which contains this piece of great writing:

In Chicago, the Cubs opted against the NFL referee look and wore their traditional blue caps, because if there was anything stranger than everyone wearing white uniforms and white caps, canvases waiting for their colors, it was everyone wearing white uniforms and white caps except for the pitcher, who wore a black cap, signifying he was the villain.

The real reason the Cubs wore blue Friday: Turns out Jon Lester didn’t like the black cap the pitcher was supposed to wear, so they all wore blue. One more day of this nonsense, then we can get back to seeing players in normal uniforms.

So the Cubs have lost a series at home for the first time since May 25-27 (vs. the Reds). They still have a chance to have a good homestand at 4-2 with a win Sunday. It will not be easy — Stephen Strasburg, who’s having a solid year, will be the pitcher they’ll face. Cole Hamels will go for the Cubs. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via WGN. There will be a national broadcast on TBS, available everywhere except the Nationals market territory.