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Nationals’ 3-2 loss to Cubs has a haunting familiarity

August 11 at 1:25 AM

Those are the afternoons that lead one to wonder if some grander conspiracy is at paintings. Those are the moments when one can believe the baseball fates, anyplace they live, had a gathering at which they cackled as they made up our minds amongst themselves that the Washington Nationals would undergo in some merciless purgatory, given simply sufficient hope to imagine, given simply sufficient adversity to succumb.

So it was once that Jeremy Hellickson discovered himself cruising into the 6th inning with a no-hitter Friday at Wrigley Box. Then he all at once hit a wall that knocked his command into the ether, and he walked 3 directly. As Brandon Kintzler warmed within the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen, the ones looking to fill his spot within the Nationals’ bullpen created a bases-loaded jam and walked within the go-ahead run within the 7th.

And when the Nationals rallied within the 8th, rookie Juan Soto were given picked off in the similar manner Jose Lobaton did in Recreation Five of remaining October’s Nationwide League Department Sequence. Their rookie supervisor, the previous bench trainer of the Cubs who celebrated a heat and emotional homecoming Friday morning, noticed his crew fall, Three-2. At 59-57, it stands 5½ video games again of Philadelphia and Atlanta within the NL East, with the Braves (63-50, .558) main the Phillies (64-51, .557) through a proportion level.

“That was once a difficult loss,” Dave Martinez mentioned. “That was once a difficult one.”

Each crew has historical past with Wrigley Box. If each and every collection is essential for this crew now, this one is one thing extra — a take a look at of its playoff readiness and a reminder of what it’s love to play right here when it counts. For the Nationals, the extra salient reminiscences occur to be the new ones.

The remaining time the Nationals had been right here, with Dusty Baker (additionally a former Cub) as their supervisor, they left Chicago after a Five-Zero victory hopeful that the location could be other at Nationals Park within the decisive Recreation Five. It was once now not.

As an alternative, the whole lot is other in 2018. As an alternative of sailing to a department identify, they’re suffering. And as a substitute of Joe Ross or A.J. Cole or some of the many others who’ve auditioned for the 5th starter’s spot during the last few years, the Nationals at the moment are the usage of Hellickson, who walked the primary guy he confronted, then didn’t permit any other Cubs participant to succeed in till the 6th.

With two outs within the 6th, he walked Anthony Rizzo after a 13-pitch at-bat — an at-bat through which catcher Spencer Kieboom dropped two foul-tip moves that will have ended it. The margin for error for this crew is narrow.

Visibly fatigued, Hellickson then walked Javier Baez on 4 pitches. Then he walked Ben Zobrist on 4 pitches, at which level Martinez went to the mound. Hellickson instructed him he was once gassed, despite the fact that Martinez had already discerned as a lot. He pulled him from the sport, from an lively no-hitter — and a long way from that being the unsuitable determination, one may argue Martinez made it a batter too overdue.

“I simply can’t stroll guys proper there,” mentioned Hellickson, shaking his head again and again within the clubhouse after the sport. “It simply can’t occur that manner. I’ve were given to cause them to put the ball in play.”

Martinez selected Sammy Solis to stand left-handed Jason Heyward. His different left-handed possibility is Matt Grace, much less of a strikeout-stuff man than Solis. Solis fell at the back of Heyward 2-Zero. Heyward singled up the center to tie the ranking, the primary hit of the day for the Cubs. Left-handed hitters are hitting .273 in opposition to him. Proper-handed hitters are hitting .213.

“He understands that his process is to get lefties out. He’s were given to get lefties out,” Martinez mentioned. “He’s going to get installed eventualities to do this, so he’s were given to take into account that.”

As Solis was once suffering, Kintzler, a Nationals reliever till remaining month’s industry time limit, was once warming for the Cubs. It was once an insult-to-injury second that appeared in line with the converting really feel of the afternoon. The person they signed to successfully take his spot, Greg Holland, relieved Solis and surrendered sufficient exhausting touch to fill the bases.

Martinez does now not have many alternatives now, now not with Sean Doolittle and Kelvin Herrera injured and Ryan Madson had to shut. This crew is weaker within the bullpen now, the only position it was once intended to be more potent. As Kintzler warmed, Holland walked within the go-ahead run.

“You’re looking to throw a well-executed pitch and expectantly get a double play. I simply fell at the back of,” Holland mentioned. “The previous couple of pitches of that series, I didn’t throw the place I sought after to, clearly.”

However then Kintzler walked Bryce Harper and Soto, as though destiny had been forgiving this crew once more. Then Soto were given picked off first base in the similar manner, in the similar inning, through Willson Contreras — the similar catcher who picked off Lobaton within the NLDS remaining 12 months. Martinez and his coaches had warned Soto that Contreras loves to back-pick — to throw at the back of the path runner with more than one males on base. Soto idea Rizzo was once in his manner getting again to the bottom. Martinez instructed him that may’t topic.

“I think lovely unhealthy as a result of you need to assist the crew essentially the most you’ll be able to,” Soto mentioned. “Simply know about that and stay going.”

The rally sputtered. The Nationals didn’t ranking and completed their 19th recreation of the season a run clear of a unique destiny. All they may be able to do, as their supervisor and avid gamers say again and again, is stay enjoying. But when they need to alternate their future, they should get started enjoying in a different way quickly.

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