WASHINGTON – Seven hours and 55 minutes of rain delays for that?
The Cubs on Saturday played baseball when the weather allowed – and several innings when it shouldn’t have – only to get swept by the Nationals in a doubleheader that ended after 1:40 a.m. Sunday local time.
After more than four hours of delays and a postponement Friday, the Cubs waited around more than an hour to start Saturday’s opener – losing 10-3 to Cy Young contender Max Scherzer.
They lost the nightcap 6-5 after Justin Wilson gave up a decisive seventh-inning homer to Bryce Harper – and only after another 1:29 delay in the eighth inning.
“This is some tough weather for both teams to be involved in,” said Cole Hamels, who pitched into the sixth and handed off a lead to the bullpen in the nightcap. “Obviously, it’s not what you would like just for the fact that we all know what’s at stake. You want to have some nice transitional games that are more of what’s to be expected.
“This is just kind of the tough part of a little stretch right here that you have to try to bear the weather and just maintain our focus and try to go out there and be ourselves and try to win ballgames.”
The sweep left the road-weary Cubs with one game to play in this four-game series – and an adverse forecast for the finale – near the end of the toughest stretch of the season for the team.
Their fourth loss in six games dropped them to 5-5 on this 11-game, four-city trip – and 12-7 with four to play during a stretch of 23 games in 23 days.
“It’s been a very difficult, weird trip,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re not complaining. This whole, so-many-in-a-row, the four cities, the weather – this is the kind of stuff that can actually make you better as you go forward. As long as nobody’s crying or complaining, these are those things that can make you stronger.”
Talk about a sunny disposition – especially for a manager whose team just watched its division lead shrink to 2½ games with the second-place Brewers at Wrigley for a three-game series starting Monday.
After taking a late lead in Game 2 behind Victor Caratini’s grand slam and Hamels’ pitching into the sixth inning, the Nationals stormed back for three runs in the seventh, including Harper’s go-ahead, two-run homer off Wilson.
The first game was all about Scherzer (17-6), whose second complete game of the season included 11 strikeouts and made him the first pitcher in the majors to reach 200 innings (202 2/3).
He gave up only one run through eight innings Saturday and leads the majors with 271 strikeouts.
In two starts against the Cubs, he has allowed three runs in 16 innings and struck out 22 with just one walk allowed.
Scherzer, who retired 15 consecutive batters at one point, has a 2.31 ERA – third in the league behind the Mets’ Jacob deGrom (1.68) and Phillies’ Aaron Nola (2.29) in what looks like a three-man race for the NL Cy Young Award.
The highlight for the Cubs in Game 1 was the first hit for journeyman speedster Terrance Gore in 16 career plate appearances. Gore, who has 25 career stolen bases, singled up the middle off Scherzer in the ninth and eventually scored the Cubs’ final run.
He came back in the nightcap as a pinch-runner in the seventh and stole second and third before Kris Bryant drove him in with a double.
The lowlight for the Cubs? Take your pick from Game 1: Jaime Garcia’s 23-pitch, three-run, one-out start in his Cubs debut, or Tyler Chatwood’s erratic two-inning relief appearance.
In his first appearance since a two-start minor-league rehab appearance for a mysterious hip injury, Chatwood hit the first batter he faced, sprinkled in a wild pitch and two walks, and allowed two runs — including one on Scherzer’s run-scoring single on a 3-2 pitch.
It was the first loss for the Cubs in 10 games against six of the top pitchers in the National League they have faced this year: Scherzer (twice), deGrom (twice), Nola (twice), Mike Foltynewicz (twice), Kyle Freeland and Clayton Kershaw.