Johnson lifted Gonzalez after 86 pitches because he sensed an opportunity to tack on runs. The Nationals had put two runners on base the previous inning and he saw an opening in the seventh. Johnson sent his most veteran pinch hitter, Chad Tracy, to the plate. The bullpen was well-rested. Johnson weighed Gonzalez’s inconsistency in recent starts. He didn’t want to yank Gonzalez in the middle of the eighth should he put a runner on base.
“I don’t want him to lose the ballgame late in the game,” Johnson said. “Just the way I manage. Chalk it up to me. You don’t like it? Chalk it up to me. Didn’t work out.”
In the eighth, Storen coughed up a leadoff single to Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro, the same hitter who broke up Gonzalez’s bid at a perfect game. Navarro was lifted for a pinch runner, starting pitcher Travis Wood. A sacrifice bunt moved Wood to second. He tagged up and took third base on a popup caught in foul territory by Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche. A chop single by Starlin Castro on a slider over the plate tied the game at 1.
“I thought I made good pitches and you gotta get the first guy out,” Storen said. “You do that, you have no problems.”
In the ninth, Soriano, the Nationals’ best reliever of late, was asked to keep the score tied. Instead, Alfonso Soriano led off with a weak single to left. Julio Borbon followed with a single to center. With one out and the Nationals’ closer facing Welington Castillo, the Cubs attempted a double steal.
Suzuki caught a high fastball, hopped to his feet and fired toward third base. The throw slightly grazed Castillo’s bat and went wide of third base and rolled to the wall in foul territory. The winning run scored on what was officially ruled an error. The Nationals have 30 errors on the season, second only to the Cubs’ major league-leading 31. “It was bad luck, bad day,” Rafael Soriano said.
Suzuki watched in disbelief after the throw. Johnson emerged from the dugout to check with home plate umpire John Tumpane. There wasn’t any interference by Castillo because he held his ground in the batter’s box.
“When I work on that, I don’t work on clearing the bat,” Suzuki said. “I just make sure I don’t hit the guy in the head and obviously I didn’t hit him in the head with the baseball so I did my job, just I threw it and it hit the bat.”