CHICAGO -- The Washington Nationals almost got exactly what manager Davey Johnson asked for Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Instead, they 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.
"A win is a win," Johnson said afterward. "We'll take it and it'll make the flight to Kansas City a lot easier."
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 quickly. 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.
"You feel terrible," said Rendon, who made a nice stop ranging to his right while filling in for injured starter Ian Desmond. "Obviously I had a little slip over there (making the stop), but it's no excuse. I still got a throw off after I made that play ... I was happy we got the win. Better late than never."
Murphy's timely homer came off Strasburg's 112th pitch -- and 26th offering in the last two innings. It was an 80-mph curveball that didn't have as much bite as the ones he'd thrown earlier.
"In all honesty, I actually felt a little more gassed there at the end," Strasburg said. "If I get more consistent and throw the same amount of innings, I feel like I get stronger, especially in the later innings. But it was just a 26-pitch debacle (in the last two innings) that kind of set me back a bit as far as stamina."
Neither Murphy nor the smattering of Cubs fans who stuck around to see his homer cared too much about Strasberg's stamina. Murphy, who has eight homers in 16 games since joining the Cubs as a 30-year old journeyman, won't soon forget the blast -- which came after striking out against Strasburg three straight times.
"I've seen him pitch all the time, but I never got to face him," he said. "Going in there and him (fanning) me three times before getting the last hit was pretty cool."
It didn't amuse Strasburg, who'd struck out eight and left Chicago hitters shaking their heads most of the day.
"I can look at it two ways," he said. "I can look at that last inning or I can look at all the other innings where I was pitching really well. So, I'm going to focus on the positive. It's kind of the story of the year, to be honest. The guy, Murphy, I had my way with him all day and then he runs into a curveball. It is what it is."
Brian Bogusevic also homered off Strasburg in the eighth to make it 4-1. Strasburg also 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 for the Nationals. He finished 3-for-6 and drove in the game's first run with his 15th homer. Steve Lombardozzi (2-for-4, two runs) also cracked a solo home run 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.