The Nationals looked poised to salvage their four-game series against the league-leading Cubs in Chicago on Sunday afternoon, but the bullpen couldn't hold off the Cubs' bats, and Ryan Zimmerman set an MLB record for futility en route to a 4-3 loss in 13 innings.
How it happened: When reigning N.L. Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta (ND, 6-0, 1.13 ERA) left the game in the fifth inning, the Nationals led 3-1 and were four innings away from handing him his first loss of the season. But a Kris Bryant single off reliever Oliver Perez in the seventh scored two runs tying the game at 3-3.
In the top of the 12th inning, Zimmerman strode to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. He would leave the batter's box with a ground out and stranded the final three of his MLB-record 14 batter's left on base. After getting pitcher Travis Wood (W, 1-0, 5.00 ERA) to strikeout in the bottom of the 13th inning, Blake Treinen (L, 2-1, 4.38 ERA) offered up a fastball to Javier Baez, who promptly put it in the Wrigley Field bleachers, ending the game and the series.
What it means: The Cubs are very good. The Nats' bullpen gave up multiple runs in all four games, but much of that can be attributed to the Cubs' potent offense. Ben Zobrist finished the series with six hits, three home runs, nine RBIs and five runs scored. After sweeping the Cardinals and winning the first game of their series against the Royals, the team returns home for an interleague series against the Tigers having lost five of their last six games.
Harper makes history: Bryce Harper continues to get the Barry Bonds treatment from pitchers, and on Sunday he did something even Binds never did: Harper was walked six times, and reached base on a hit-by-pitch. He became just the fourth player to be walked six times in one game and the first player in the live-ball era to reach base seven times in one game without a registered at-bat.
Healthy Murphy is good Murphy: A day after not being in the starting lineup due to an illness, Daniel Murphy continued his assault on baseballs. He was just one of three Nationals to record multiple hits on Sunday, and now has 45 hits in 115 at-bats.
Pitching needs improvement: Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer, two of the Nationals' top arms, were roughed up to the tune of 12 earned runs. On top of that, the bullpen could not stop the bleeding. The Cubs scored 10 of their 24 runs off relievers.
What's next: The Nats return to the nation's capital to begin their first itnterleague series against the Detroit Tigers (14-16). Stephen Strasburg (5-0, 2.36 ERA) takes to the mound on Monday, but the star attraction awaits on Wednesday, when Jordan Zimmermann (5-1, 1.10 ERA) returns to D.C. for the first time since leaving the team as a free agent. He will be opposed by former Tiger Scherzer.