Cubs offense ‘frustrated’ with missed opportunities but keeping one-run losses in perspective

The Cubs’ 2-1 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday was their fourth one-run loss this road trip.

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The Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki and Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz watch Wednesday’s game-ending double play. The Cubs lost 2-1.

The Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki and Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz watch Wednesday’s game-ending double play. The Cubs lost 2-1.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

WASHINGTON — As the Nationals slung the baseball from shortstop to second base, to first the reality sunk in: The Cubs had lost a fourth one-run game in less than a week.

“It’s gonna happen during the course of the season,” outfielder Ian Happ said after the 2-1 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday. “Sucks when they’re back-to-back like this. We’re having good at-bats and hit balls hard at people, and haven’t got those runners in scoring position in. And that’s obviously frustrating for everybody.”

Case in point: Seiya Suzuki led off the ninth inning with a line-drive single into right field. Then, Trey Mancini pulled a single into left, pushing Suzuki to second.

The Cubs had the tying run in scoring position with no outs.

They didn’t get him home.

Eric Hosmer pushed a hard bunt to Nationals third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who threw Mancini out at second. Hosmer barely beat out the throw to first to avoid a double play. Then, Patrick Wisdom, who the night before had produced the Cubs’ only run with a solo home run, grounded into a double play to end the game.

“It’s been a tough road trip,” Mancini said. “Not ideal, but nothing you can do. You turn the page, come back the next day. Tonight and a few of the other nights, we just didn’t get that big hit when we needed to.

“And I know we’ll get back to that. But, certainly, we’d like to start winning a lot of these close games.”

The Cubs’ other one-run losses in this road trip at least included more than one run scored. In their second game against the Marlins, they came just a run shy of a comeback after trailing by as many as five runs.

“It’s part of, as an offense, not pressing individually and just understanding that it’ll come,’’ Happ said. “You just have to keep having the good at-bats.”

On Wednesday, even the pitching matchup favored the Cubs. They had Marcus Stroman, their Opening Day starter, on the mound. The Nationals’ Jake Irvin was making his major-league debut.

Facing a rookie pitcher comes with its own set of challenges, namely the lack of information available. There is some data coming out of the minors, but this early in the season even that’s limited. And unlike preparing for more established pitchers, the veterans can’t describe the shape of the breaking ball, for example, in the hitters’ meetings.

Wednesday marked the second time this season that the Cubs faced a pitcher in his debut.

The Cubs also faced A’s rookie Mason Miller in Oakland two weeks ago. They only scored two runs against him but were able to run up his pitch count to 81 in 4⅓ innings and pounce on the A’s struggling bullpen.

They didn’t follow that script in Washington.

It took a moment for Irvin to settle in. He hit Nico Hoerner with the first pitch he threw. Dansby Swanson and Ian Happ took him deep into counts, Swanson striking out and Happ drawing a walk. Then, with two outs, Suzuki hit an RBI single to give the Cubs an early lead.

Stroman held the Nationals to one run in six innings, shaving his ERA down to 2.18. But the Cubs didn’t score again.

“It’s hard to kind of nitpick and say what it is,” Stroman said. “There could be a stretch where we win five, six close games in a row on the road. So it’s a long season. Just making sure we stay confident each and every day, I think that’s the key.”

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