Comeback eludes Cubs, who sink to 8.5 games back in NL Central with loss to Nationals

The Cubs have lost three of their first four games out of the All-Star break.

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Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki comforts Mike Tauchman after he lines out to end the eight inning against the Washington Nationals Monday night at Wrigley Field. The Nationals defeated the Cubs 7-5.

Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki comforts Mike Tauchman after he lines out to end the eight inning against the Washington Nationals Monday night at Wrigley Field. The Nationals defeated the Cubs 7-5.

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Cubs pinch hitter Mike Tauchman struck an inside fastball well with two runners in scoring position in the eighth inning Monday, but the ball traveled on a line right into Nationals center fielder Alex Call’s glove.

Without breaking stride, Tauchman pulled off his helmet and threw it to the ground with both hands. The Cubs’ best chance at a comeback fell short in a 7-5 loss at Wrigley Field. The Cubs have lost three of their first four games out of the All-Star break with two weeks left before the trade deadline Aug. 1.

‘‘It’s tough when you’re [8.5] games back,’’ said left fielder Ian Happ, who went 1-for-4 with a two-run home run. ‘‘That’s the part that makes it tough. It’s not about time of the year; it’s about wanting to win games to be in the race. And that’s what we’re all here to do.”

The Cubs were playing catch-up the whole game after left-hander Drew Smyly allowed a two-run home run to Jeimer Candelario in the first.

Smyly allowed five runs in six innings, continuing a rough stretch. It was his longest outing since June 14 against the Pirates, when he also surrendered five runs.

‘‘I thought in a lot of ways I took a step forward and made a lot of good pitches,’’ Smyly said.

His final line took a blow when a line drive flew just out of second baseman Christopher Morel’s range with the infield playing in and center fielder Cody Bellinger lost a routine fly ball in the sky.

‘‘You’ve got to make your own luck and pitch better,’’ Smyly said.

Wisdom powering up

Third baseman Patrick Wisdom hit his second homer in three games after enduring a long-ball drought for more than a month.

Wisdom had been trying to tighten up his swing, and a Triple-A rehab assignment a couple of weeks ago while he worked his way back from a sprained wrist gave him time to focus on those adjustments.

‘‘I feel better than what the numbers say,’’ Wisdom told the Sun-Times this month. ‘‘It’s so hard not to let them affect how you feel because you see them everywhere. They’re up on the Jumbotron, and you’re, like, ‘I just don’t feel like I’m hitting like that.’ So you remind yourself of who you are and what you’re capable of.’’

Swanson still sidelined

Shortstop Dansby Swanson (bruised left heel) continues to progress slowly, Ross said.

‘‘Just like you would expect with a [bone] bruise,’’ he said.

Ross watched Swanson run before the game and said he still felt discomfort, especially when putting on the brakes. Swanson has yet to run the bases since hurting his heel while landing on first base while trying to beat out a double play.

Madrigal ‘ahead of schedule’

Infielder Nick Madrigal (strained right hamstring) is ‘‘ahead of schedule’’ in his recovery, Ross said.

The Cubs are targeting this week — ‘‘maybe Wednesday or Thursday,’’ Ross said — to have Madrigal run the bases. If that goes well, he’ll head out on a rehab assignment.

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