CHICAGO -- Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson almost got exactly what he asked for on Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Instead, he and the Nationals settled for a hard-fought 5-4 win against the Chicago Cubs in 13 innings to take the final three games of a four-game series. Denard Span scored the game-winning run on Chad Tracy's swinging bunt down the first-base line and Drew Storen finished it off in the bottom of the 13th for his third save. Craig Stammen picked up the win in relief, while Michael Bowden took the loss.
Prior to the game, which was delayed by two hours because of rain, Johnson told reporters he expected a lot more from Strasburg than his previous outing, when he was ejected in the second inning against the Atlanta Braves for throwing three straight wild pitches.
"I look for him to throw a complete game today," Johnson said, smirking but only half-kidding. "He's well-rested."
Strasburg nearly obliged, but his bid for the second complete game of his career fell one out short thanks to Donnie Murphy's two out, two-run homer off him in the bottom of the ninth. Just when it looked like Strasburg would finish off the complete game, things went sour. Anthony Rendon's throwing error off Junior Lake's single to the hole at short allowed Nate Schierholtz to score the first of three Cubs runs in the ninth, making it 4-2 and setting the stage for Murphy.
His timely homer came off Strasburg's 112th pitch, an 80 MPH curveball, and pleased the smattering of Cubs fans who stuck around. The two-run shot didn't amuse Strasburg, who'd struck out eight and left Chicago hitters shaking their heads most of the day. He started to wear down in the last two frames, though, and that's when he allowed all four runs charged to his pitching line.
Brian Bogusevic also homered off Strasburg in the eighth to make it 4-1.
Strasburg cruised through the first seven frames, using well-located fastballs in the mid-to-upper 90s plus an assortment of effective secondary pitches to tie hitters up.
"He's such a competitor," Johnson said before the game. "I don't know what went wrong last time out, but it was probably more mental and emotionally (driven). He's a competitive professional, so I'm looking for a good game for him and to go deep in the game."
That's exactly what Washington got until the ninth-inning meltdown.
Strasburg even contributed offensively, going 2-for-4 and driving in a run with a bloop single to center in the second that made it 2-0 against Cubs starter Travis Wood (7-11), who allowed four runs in 6 1/3 innings.
Ryan Zimmerman also had a big day offensively. He finished 3-for-6 and drove in the game's first run with his 15th homer of the season. Steve Lombardozzi (2-for-4, two runs) also cracked a solo homer off Wood, which made it 4-0 Nationals in the seventh. Bogusevic went 3-for-4 for the Cubs.
NOTES: The Cubs are still discussing which prospects to call up
when rosters expand in September, but manager Dale Sveum doesn't think SS Javier Baez will be one of them despite an impressive season in the minors. ... Sveum went with Castro and Rizzo back-to-back at the top of the Cubs' batting order for a second straight game. ... Nationals RHP Dan Haren might have his next start, scheduled for Sunday in Kansas City, pushed back a couple days to let his arm recuperate from picking up his first career save just three days prior to beating the Cubs on Tuesday. ... Washington started 2B Anthony Rendon at shortstop in place of SS Ian Desmond, whose back stiffened on Wednesday and forced him to leave the game.