courtesy of Keith Allison
The Nats dropped a true heartbreaker to the Cubs Sunday afternoon when they lost 2-1. Left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez pitched a spectacular game going seven innings, walking one batter, and striking out six while giving up just two hits on 86 pitches (55 strikes). He even held on to a no-hit bid through the fifth inning but his performance was overshadowed by Manager Davey Johnson’s decision to pull Gonzalez after the seventh inning.
“Obviously we’d been better off in hindsight but I have all the confidence going to my bullpen and [they] just didn’t do it,” Johnson said after the game. “I very seldom early in the season will let a guy go out there and [if] he gets a guy on I don’t want him to lose it, a ball game late in the game. It’s just the way I manage. You can chalk it up to me. You don’t like it, chalk it up to me.”
Right-handed reliever Drew Storen replaced Gonazlez in the eighth and gave up the tying run when pinch runner Travis Wood scored on Starlin Castro single up the middle. But neither Johnson’s decision to pull Gonazlez nor the Nats relievers are wholly to blame for the loss.
The Cubs outscored the Nats in this three-game series 13-10 and the Nats lineup stranded a total of eight base runners today. A combination of runners left on base and tough calls from home plate umpire John Tumpane were the major causes of the Nats inability to win Sunday’s rubber match.
Several Nats fell victim to Tumpane’s calls at the plate leaving the players frustrated. While Johnson’s lineup didn’t let Tumpane’s calls frustrate them too much, catcher Kurt Suzuki couldn’t contain his frustration in the bottom of the ninth when he got called out on a close third strike call.
Tumpane ejected Suzuki after the two exchanged heated words. It was an emotional moment that summarizes how the Nats are likely to feel after dropping two consecutive games to one of the National League’s weakest teams.
Closer Rafael Soriano was charged with the loss, his first of the season, after giving up the Cubs’ game winning run in the top of the ninth. Soriano gave up back-to-back singles to start the ninth, a situation that then took a turn for the worst when a double steal and throwing error by Suzuki allowed Chicago to score. Cubs outfielder and former Nat Alfonso Soriano scored on the throwing error, an error in which the ball ricocheted off the bat of catcher Wellington Castillo landing in shallow left field by third base.
“Any time you lose a ball game, especially [when you] have the lead late and you lose a ball game it’s a missed opportunity no doubt about it,” Johnson said. “Regardless of [the] strike zone we didn’t swing the bats that good. We didn’t really have that many opportunities to score that’s why when we did get an opportunity to score I was gonna go for it.”