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Nationals 6, Cubs 5: Hey, Cubs pitchers — keep the ball in the ballpark, please

Three Nationals home runs led to a Cubs defeat.

This home run by Seiya Suzuki was good, though.
Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The Cubs’ 6-5 loss to the Nationals Tuesday evening at Wrigley Field comes under the category of “just not quite enough.”

Not enough pitching, not enough runs, a stirring rally that wound up falling short when Mark Leiter Jr. allowed the Nats’ third home run of the evening. It should be noted that Washington ranks 28th in MLB in home runs and that was just the sixth time all year they’d hit three or more in a game.

Let’s rewind to the beginning of this disappointing loss.

Marcus Stroman served up the first of the Nats homers, to Keibert Ruiz, in the second inning.

Seiya Suzuki got that one back in the bottom of the inning [VIDEO].

That was a hanging curveball and Suzuki took advantage. It was his ninth of the year, but just his third at Wrigley Field.

Ruiz did it again in the fourth, smashing his second homer of the game to give the Nationals a 4-1 lead.

The Cubs were mostly silent at the plate after Suzuki’s blast and went into the bottom of the seventh still down 4-1.

That’s when they started smacking singles all over the yard. Zach McKinstry led off with the first of the singles. Christopher Morel singled McKinstry to third, where he scored on this hit by Rafael Ortega [VIDEO].

That one sent Morel to third, where he scored on a single by Willson Contreras [VIDEO].

Ortega took third on the play. Now it’s 4-3, and Ian Happ was the next hitter. This turned out to be a key play [VIDEO].

The play went to review. A couple of the angles they showed on the Wrigley Field video board were inconclusive. Another appeared to show Ortega getting his hand on the plate before the tag. It was ruled “call confirmed,” and Ortega was out.

Suzuki batted next, now with two out, and singled, with Contreras taking second.

New Cub Franmil Reyes batted next [VIDEO].

That tied the game. Here’s an interesting comment about Reyes from Stroman:

Here’s hoping all of that comes to pass.

Reyes’ single tied the game and Nico Hoerner then gave the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].

The Cubs had seven hits in that inning, all singles. That double play was significant; if Ortega is safe, not only does that give the Cubs another run, but with one fewer out perhaps even more could have scored.

The lead lasted about five minutes. Leiter came into the game, allowed a one-out single, then after a strikeout for the second out, served up a home run ball to Joey Meneses to give the Nats a 6-5 lead.

The Cubs did have some chances to tie the game again. McKinstry’s third hit of the evening led off the inning. (That’s an encouraging sign, as McKinstry had been 0-for-14 as a Cub until this game.) He advanced to second on an infield out, but was stranded there as Ortega and Contreras struck out.

The Contreras K was by his former teammate Carl Edwards Jr., who is having a pretty good year for the Nats. Indeed, I’m kind of surprised he wasn’t traded at the deadline, as he’s pitched well enough to help a contending team.

In the bottom of the ninth, Suzuki singled — he also had a three-hit game. Unfortunately, he was then thrown out trying to steal second [VIDEO].

As you can see, Suzuki was safe as the throw was offline, but then he overslid the base and was easily tagged out.

Nelson Velázquez followed with a walk, but Hoerner was called out on strikes to end it [VIDEO].

You make the call on that one. It looks inside on the video clip, and Hoerner thought he had walked.

Here, it looks like the ball barely clips the inner edge of the zone (and an automated zone would probably say that was a strike):

I’ll be very interested to see the ump scorecard for this one, because plate umpire John Libka made quite a few strike calls on pitches like this throughout the game, for both teams, calling a pretty wide strike zone.

Overall, the Cubs had lots of baserunners — 15 hits, a walk and a hit batter — and did all right with RISP (4-for-10). But they left 10 men on base, and with another hit here or there, could have won this game.

Incidentally, for Edwards that was just his fourth MLB save. He had two for the Cubs in 2016 and one for the Mariners in 2020. Here’s an interesting comment Edwards made before the game:

The Cubs will go for the series win Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Justin Steele gets the start for the Cubs and he’ll face Washington righthander Josiah Gray. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.