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Nationals 7, Cubs 5: A tale of two plays

It doesn’t show in the box score, but sketchy defense was one of the reasons the Cubs lost this game.

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Tick... tock... tick... tock...

If you still have a clock that makes sounds like that, that’s the sound of it counting down the 14 days that remain till MLB’s trade deadline.

Sadly, that’s about all we’ve got left to look forward to after another dispiriting Cubs defeat, 7-5 to the Nationals, on a beautiful evening at Wrigley Field. The latter deserves mention because the weather this summer has, in general, been awful — either smoky, or humid, or rainy, or all of the above.

Ahem. Back to the game.

Three batters in, Drew Smyly and the Cubs trailed 2-0 after a hit batter and a home run by Jeimer Candelario, and you might remember I wrote a few weeks ago that the Cubs should trade for him.

The Cubs cut the lead in half in the second. Cody Bellinger led off with a single and Yan Gomes walked.

Christopher Morel singled in Bellinger [VIDEO].

In the fourth inning, the score still 2-1 Nats, the sketchy defense began. A leadoff walk and double put Nats runners on second and third. A ground out gave Washington a 3-1 lead.

Then this happened [VIDEO].

A ball that should have been caught by Morel wound up as an RBI single. Morel looks at his glove as if there’s something wrong with it:

It’s becoming more and more clear that Morel’s best position is DH. While he wasn’t great defensively last year, I don’t recall him being this bad. His baseball-reference page lists him as worth -0.4 WAR defensively and that’s not even including this play.

As has been the case with several plays this homestand, that could have been ruled an error. Most second basemen catch that ball. If that happens, it’s possible that turns into a double play, but even if not, the next Nats hitter struck out and only one run would have scored that inning instead of two.

Ten Cubs hitters went down in a row between the second and fifth, and then more questionable defense happened in the sixth. This time it was on Bellinger, who made a rare fielding blunder [VIDEO].

Looks like Bellinger lost the ball in the lights, and several Cubs including Bellinger converged on the ball. Bellinger almost caught it anyway, but... he didn’t. It went for a leadoff double by Stone Garrett, who went to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly. That made it 5-1 and two runs on misplays, which was the difference in the game.

The Cubs did try to make a game of it. Seiya Suzuki singled leading off the sixth and Ian Happ sent this laser beam into the bleachers [VIDEO].

That’s about the lowest launch angle a ball can take and still leave the yard [VIDEO].

Well, now it’s 5-3 and ... there’s a chance? Nope, because Daniel Palencia immediately gave those runs back on a two-run homer by Keibert Ruiz in the seventh.

The Cubs did get back to within a pair in the bottom of the inning. Trey Mancini singled and one out later, Patrick Wisdom hit his team-leading 16th home run [VIDEO].

Hey, David Ross! Give Wisdom some playing time the rest of this homestand. Wisdom has a tendency to be streaky hot. Why not see if that can happen now?

The Cubs did have chances in the eighth and ninth, particularly the eighth. Bellinger and Yan Gomes singled with one out. Miles Mastrobuoni was sent in to run for Gomes, and fter Morel struck out, both runners advanced on stolen bases. Mike Tauchman was sent up to bat for Mancini. He hit the ball just a little too hard and it held up to be caught in center field:

That’s the sort of luck the Cubs have been hitting into lately.

In the ninth, Miguel Amaya led off with a single, but Nats closer Kyle Finnegan struck out the next three hitters to end the game.

At this point, the Cubs are likely going to have to win all six games remaining on this homestand to get back into contention for the division lead. Can that happen? Sure, but... it’s seeming less and less likely every day. Again, I feel as if this team hasn’t played up to its talent level, and I can’t specifically put my finger on why. These games are starting to feel like the games the 2021 team played before the selloff, though I don’t think this year’s bunch is going to lose 11 in a row, like the Cubs did two years ago.

Here are Ross’ postgame comments [VIDEO].

All they can do is pick up the pieces and try to win the second game of this series. Jameson Taillon will take the mound for the Cubs against Washington lefthander Patrick Corbin. Game time is again 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.