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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, anywhere they live, had a gathering at which they cackled as they determined amongst themselves that the Washington Nationals would endure in some merciless purgatory, given simply sufficient hope to imagine, given simply sufficient adversity to succumb.

So it used to be that Jeremy Hellickson discovered himself cruising into the 6th inning with a no-hitter Friday at Wrigley Box. Then he 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 seeking 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 final 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 workforce 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 share level.

“That used to be a difficult loss,” Dave Martinez stated. “That used to be a difficult one.”

Each workforce has historical past with Wrigley Box. If each collection is necessary for this workforce now, this one is one thing extra — a check 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 recollections occur to be the new ones.

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

As an alternative, the whole lot is other in 2018. As an alternative of boating to a department identify, they’re suffering. And as a substitute of Joe Ross or A.J. Cole or probably the most many others who’ve auditioned for the 5th starter’s spot over the last few years, the Nationals at the moment are the use of Hellickson, who walked the primary guy he confronted, then didn’t permit some 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 by which catcher Spencer Kieboom dropped two foul-tip moves that might have ended it. The margin for error for this workforce is slender.

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 advised him he used to be gassed, despite the fact that Martinez had already discerned as a lot. He pulled him from the sport, from an energetic no-hitter — and some distance from that being the mistaken determination, one may just argue Martinez made it a batter too overdue.

“I simply can’t stroll guys proper there,” stated 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 lead them to put the ball in play.”

Martinez selected Sammy Solis to stand left-handed Jason Heyward. His different left-handed choice is Matt Grace, much less of a strikeout-stuff man than Solis. Solis fell in 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 towards him. Proper-handed hitters are hitting .213.

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

As Solis used to be suffering, Kintzler, a Nationals reliever till final month’s industry cut-off date, used to be warming for the Cubs. It used to be an insult-to-injury second that gave the impression in step with the converting really feel of the afternoon. The person they signed to successfully take his spot, Greg Holland, relieved Solis and surrendered sufficient laborious 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 workforce is weaker within the bullpen now, the only position it used to be meant to be more potent. As Kintzler warmed, Holland walked within the go-ahead run.

“You’re seeking to throw a well-executed pitch and expectantly get a double play. I simply fell in the back of,” Holland stated. “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 have been forgiving this workforce 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 final yr. Martinez and his coaches had warned Soto that Contreras loves to back-pick — to throw in the back of the path runner with more than one males on base. Soto idea Rizzo used to be in his manner getting again to the bottom. Martinez advised him that may’t topic.

“I think lovely unhealthy as a result of you wish to have to lend a hand the workforce essentially the most you’ll,” Soto stated. “Simply know about that and stay going.”

The rally sputtered. The Nationals didn’t ranking and completed their 19th sport of the season a run clear of a special destiny. All they are 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 will have to get started enjoying in a different way quickly.

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