I’ve written this here previously, but it bears repeating: One of the reasons the Cubs won the World Series in 2016 is that their team defense was outstanding, in fact one of the best defenses in MLB history.
This year’s Cubs team just isn’t very good defensively. Not that they’d be a World Series team if they were, that’s not the point. The point is that one bad defensive play helped lead to a four-run inning for the Nationals, and if not for that, the Cubs might have won Monday’s game instead of losing 5-4.
Let’s rewind to the beginning of this game and then I’ll get to the play in question.
The Cubs took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, with all the runs scoring after the first two hitters were routine outs.
After Seiya Suzuki singled, Franmil Reyes hit a ball to one of the deepest parts of Nationals Park [VIDEO].
The ball bounced away from Nats right fielder Joey Meneses for an RBI triple, just the third triple of Reyes’ career.
Marcus Stroman allowed a few baserunners through four innings, but no Nats runs scored during that time. The Cubs increased their lead to 3-0 on this long home run by Happ in the top of the fifth [VIDEO].
That ball made the second deck:
The bottom of the fifth is where it all fell apart. Lane Thomas hit what should have been a routine ground ball to Zach McKinstry at third. McKinstry double-clutched and then made an off-line throw to first and Thomas was safe. It was initially called a hit, but the ruling was later changed to an error on McKinstry.
Two singles followed, loading the bases. Stroman struck out Meneses and got Luke Voit to hit into a force play. The latter would have ended the inning if not for McKinstry’s error. Instead, a run scored. A single by Yadiel Hernandez made it 3-2 Cubs, and that was it for Stroman.
Mark Leiter Jr. entered and served up a two-run double to Nelson Cruz before recording the third out. The error made all four runs unearned.
The Cubs tied the game in the seventh. With one out, Nick Madrigal doubled. One out later, Ian Happ walked and the next batter was Suzuki [VIDEO].
That single scored Madrigal to make it 4-4.
Leiter did throw two scoreless innings after giving up that RBI double to Cruz, so the game went to the bottom of the eighth still at 4-4.
Brandon Hughes, who’s been very effective recently, relieved Leiter. Unfortunately, with one out Cruz homered to give Washington a 5-4 lead. The Cubs went down 1-2-3 in the ninth and lost a game they coulda, shoulda won if they had played better defense. The loss dropped the Cubs’ record in one-run games to 14-22.
One positive to take out of this game was provided by Happ, who has now homered three times over his last three games and in his last 10 games since August 5 is hitting .368/.429/.737 (14-for-38) with five doubles and those three homers. Something to watch for: Happ’s next home run will be the 100th of his career.
The Cubs will try to even up the series Tuesday evening in Washington. Justin Steele will start for the Cubs against Patrick Corbin for the Nats. Game time is again 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.