Cubs manager David Ross, on starter Marcus Stroman: ‘Probably took him out one batter too soon’
The Cubs lost the first game of a three-game series 5-4 on Monday against the Nationals.
WASHINGTON — Cubs manager David Ross strode toward right-hander Marcus Stroman on the mound and clapped once. After just shy of five innings — with a couple of odd bumps in the road — Stroman’s night was over.
‘‘I thought he was throwing the ball really well,’’ Ross said after the Cubs’ 5-4 loss Monday to the Nationals. ‘‘We didn’t play good defense there that last inning, and I probably took him out one batter too soon.’’
Stroman was charged with four runs — none earned because of an error. He pitched 4⅔ innings, holding the Nationals scoreless for the first four.
Stroman’s start began smoothly enough. He allowed two hits and issued a walk in his first three innings.
Oddities, however, started in the fourth. PitchCom, the electronic system for pitch-calling, went out. So Stroman and catcher Willson Contreras went to the traditional method of giving signs.
After Stroman gave up a leadoff single to Yadiel Hernandez, he and Contreras appeared to get their signals crossed. Stroman threw a slider, and Contreras looked surprised at its movement, seeming to expect a different pitch. Hernandez took second on the passed ball.
‘‘Willson and I had a little trouble getting with the signs,’’ Stroman said. ‘‘It’s pretty dark.’’
Stroman then retired three consecutive batters to get out of the inning unscathed.
In the fifth, however, defensive mistakes worked against Stroman. The Cubs’ infield has seen plenty of turnover and shuffling this season, and that lack of continuity was clear in the inning.
Stroman induced a ground ball from Lane Thomas to open the fifth, but the throw from utility player Zach McKinstry, who started at third base, pulled first baseman Patrick Wisdom off the bag.
Stroman then allowed back-to-back singles before recording the first out of the inning by striking out Joey Meneses.
He gave his infield a chance at an inning-ending double play by getting Luke Voit to hit a grounder to the left side, but McKinstry — with the Nationals’ Ildemaro Vargas running right at him — hesitated after turning to throw to second and only got one out.
Stroman then gave up an RBI single to Hernandez before Ross took him out of the game. His pitch count had climbed to 94.
‘‘I don’t have much to say,’’ Stroman said. ‘‘I felt pretty good. I thought I did a good job eliminating the long ball, [limiting] extra-base hits. And it’s just one of those days where things play out weirdly.’’
Reliever Mark Leiter Jr. took over and yielded a two-run double to Nelson Cruz that gave the Nationals a 4-3 lead.
‘‘I felt strong,’’ Stroman said. ‘‘I felt strong still in that situation. My biggest job is just to hand the ball off and go in the dugout in those situations. I’ve been blasted in the past for wanting to stay in. I’ve been blasted in the past for any situation. So I just try to keep my mouth shut and do everything I can while I’m out there. And then when he comes to get me, my job is done.’’
Stroman said Ross told him after the game that he wished he had stuck with him for another batter.
‘‘That’s huge,’’ Stroman said of the conversation. ‘‘Obviously, I want to be in. . . . But the fact that he identified and let me know right after the game, it just shows who Rossy [is]. I love Rossy. Rossy’s the man. And I have a lot of respect for that man.’’