“I feel like I can look at it two ways: I can look at that last inning or I can look at all the other innings where I was pitching really well,” Strasburg said. “So I’m gonna focus on the positive. Kind of the story of the year, to be honest. The guy Murphy, I had my way with him all day and then he runs into a curveball. So it is what it is.”
Johnson took issue with the pitch selection.
The Post's Jonathan Forsythe talks with Nationals beat writer Adam Kilgore about why the Nationals have struggled this season.
Insight on the Nationals and all the latest news from Post reporters Adam Kilgore and James Wagner.
“If he just locates the fastball nobody is going to hit him in that part of the game,” he said. “He threw a decent curveball, but it was up and over the heart of the plate. If he bears it down, he gets by with it. . . . That’s just part of the learning curve. He’s going to be awfully good. He is awfully good. He’s only going to get better and learn from that.”
Before the disintegration, Strasburg was almost unhittable. The lone hit in the first four innings was a bloop single by Navarro. He was staked to an early lead thanks to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who hit the first pitch he saw from Cubs left-handed starter Travis Wood to right-center for a solo home run.
In the second, Strasburg added to the lead with an RBI single in a tough at-bat in which he fouled off four pitches. Rendon’s sacrifice fly scored another run. In the seventh, Lombardozzi’s first home run of the season, the first of his career as a right-handed hitter, made it 4-0.
Strasburg allowed his first run of the game in the eighth inning. Left fielder Brian Bogusevic smashed a first-pitch fastball to right-center, the alley where the ball carries here during the summer. With one out, pinch hitter Cole Gillespie singled to left. Strasburg sat at 93 pitches and Tyler Clippard began warming in the bullpen. But Strasburg buckled down and induced a double-play grounder to third to get out of the inning.
Clippard sat down. Strasburg hit for himself in the ninth. He was determined to finish this game, as Johnson had predicted earlier in the day. A hanging curveball dashed those hopes.
The victory would not be salvaged until the 13th. The Nationals put the leadoff hitter on base in three of the four extra innings but didn’t score until Span opened the 13th with a double off Michael Bowden, the sixth Cubs pitcher. Lombardozzi’s sacrifice bunt moved Span to third. Tracy’s swinging bunt of a 2-2 slider scored what proved to be the winning run.
“I know he was on the after-game show as the hero,” Johnson said of Tracy. “But we gotta do better than that. That gave me a heart attack. Good thing we got a track star running on third base. A win is a win.”