The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
In chill and fog, Nationals beaten by Cubs 5-3 at Wrigley Field
CHICAGO - The Washington Nationals felt as though they were playing a mid-April game at Wrigley Field on Thursday rather than what should have been a warm June night.
With the temperature 59 degrees at first pitch and fog rolling in that at times became so dense fielders struggled to see fly balls, the Nationals were battling more than just the Chicago Cubs after they fell behind 3-0 in the fourth inning of a 5-3 defeat.
Washington centre fielder Denard Span made up for failing to catch a fly ball off Luis Valbuena's bat that landed behind him for a triple due to the fog in the sixth inning. The Nationals escaped the sixth without letting Valbuena score.
Span, who earlier doubled and scored on Anthony Rendon's RBI single to make it 3-1, redeemed himself with a one-out, two-run double in the seventh to tie the game.
However, the Cubs answered immediately in the bottom of the inning to retake the lead, and held on.
Cubs reliever Neil Ramirez (1-1) got the win and Hector Rondon pitched a perfect ninth for his ninth save.
"We battled back," Washington manager Matt Williams said. "We find ourselves in that position a lot where if we are down early, we have a chance to come back, and we've done it a lot. It didn't work out for us tonight."
Justin Ruggiano's two-out, two-run double off Nationals reliever Craig Stammen (0-3) broke the tie in the seventh. Starlin Castro had two RBIs and Anthony Rizzo went 3 for 4 with two doubles and a run scored.
The Cubs had dropped four of five games before the win.
Span went 2 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs for the Nationals.
Washington players, as well as Williams, said they had never experienced such foggy conditions. Williams said the umpires discussed calling for a delay during the game , but the fog was too unpredictable.
"Honestly, the ball that I didn't see I didn't even know it was coming at me," Span said. "I didn't know where it was. I finally figured the ball was coming towards me because everyone was looking at me and pointing in my direction. But it is scary because once I figured the ball was coming towards me, I didn't want to look up because the last thing I wanted was to let a ball hit me in my pretty face."
Neither starter was involved in the decision. The Cubs' Travis Wood gave up three runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings and was hurt most by five walks.
"I had some walks kind of in the first couple of innings, spaced out, nothing too big," Wood said. "But to walk two there in the seventh can't happen. Once again, walks end up hurting me tonight."
Washington's Doug Fister also allowed three runs on seven hits. Fister, making his first career start against the Cubs, said the difference came down to Chicago capitalizing on his mistakes.
"I felt good. I felt like I was executing, but at the same time, pitches need to be a little better," Fister said. "I need to make sure they're in or out a little bit more, down more.
"A lot of shoulda, woulda, couldas, but it's just a matter of going out there and getting it done."
Cubs centre fielder Junior Lake had to leave in the second inning after crashing into a door in the outside wall at Wrigley Field chasing a drive by Ryan Zimmerman. The wall is not covered with ivy. The Cubs said Lake has shown no signs of a concussion and has some bruises, including one on his head.
The Cubs opened the scoring with three runs in the fourth by bunching hits. Ruggiano's lead-off grounder surprisingly was scored a hit when third baseman Rendon threw well wide of first.
Rizzo followed with a double. Castro, who took over the team lead in RBIs on Wednesday, added to his total with a two-run single. One out later, Welington Castillo singled to drive in Castro.
Washington finally pushed across a run in the sixth. Span led off with a double and Rendon immediately drove him in with a single.
It appeared the lead was about to shrink further after Wood walked Jayson Werth. But Wood got Adam LaRoche to ground into a double play. Following another walk, he struck out Ian Desmond to end the inning.
Wood wouldn't be so fortunate in the seventh. He started the inning with back-to-back walks and, following a sacrifice bunt, two runs scored on a double by Span to tie the score at 3.
The Cubs staged their rally in the bottom of the inning and took the 5-3 lead on Ruggiano's double off Stammen.
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