Brilliance on the mound by Stephen Strasburg tonight went statistically wasted. Stras had a no-hitter going into the 6th inning with 2-outs in a 0-to-0 game, but a simple error to start the inning raised the intensity level to High Leverage in this tie game. As it turned out, unfortunately, the ball game was decided by that error combined with no Nationals scoring.
“But I guess it’s just frustrating either way if you don’t score runs,” Anthony Rendon said. “If you don’t score runs, you can’t win.”
Good teams take advantage of other team’s mistakes, and that is exactly what the Cubs did. The 6th inning began with an Anthony Rendon error followed by a sacrifice bunt by Cubs’ starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks that put Javier Baez in scoring position. Any further mistake would be costly. Strasburg got lead-off man Ben Zobrist out for the key 2nd out of the inning. The NL-reigning-MVP Kris Bryant stepped up to the plate. Strasburg had handled Bryant brilliantly striking him out twice in his only other at-bats in the game. Stras had Bryant this time in another 2 strike count then threw a pitch Bryant could handle for a run scoring single. To compound the problems, Bryce Harper had no chance to get the runner at the plate and airmailed the throw towards home (see video below) allowing Bryant to take 2nd base and that would prove costly. Anthony Rizzo‘s simple single then scored Bryant for the second run of the game.
“I was just trying to come up and throw it to the cut-off man and threw it a little bit too high,” Bryce Harper said. You can call “bull” if you want when you watch the video replay and see where the throw was in relation to cut-off man Daniel Murphy.
That 2-to-0 deficit certainly hurt as Strasburg had been pitching great and now had 2 unearned runs on his ledger. The Nationals offense was almost non-existent except for hits by Harper and Michael Taylor and some walks. The Cubs defense made some great plays when needed on balls in play plus a lead-off walk to Daniel Murphy looked promising and was quickly erased when Ryan Zimmerman bounced into a doubleplay. Kyle Hendricks bent a few times but never broke and he went toe-to-toe with Strasburg through 7 innings and in his case a run never scored and he exited the game with a 2-to-0 lead.
The Nationals seemed not have a strategy to get to Hendricks who was throwing strikes but not over-powering. Hendricks took advantage of a lot of aggressive swings and sped up the Nats bats. There was no sign of any “small ball” early on to push across a single run.
With the 5th inning strikeout of Kyle Schwarber, Stephen Strasburg set the franchise record for strikeouts in a Postseason game with 8. Strasburg finished up his outing with 10 strikeouts in total.
The analysis of the loss is simple that you won’t win a game if you can’t score a run. When strategy needed to be employed to possibly thwart some tense innings by walking Anthony Rizzo with first base open in two separate situations — it was not done and Rizzo didn’t take advantage of the Nationals once — but twice.