White out: Cubs nearly blanked by Nats in Players' Weekend opener
The Chicago Cubs suffered through an agonizing afternoon to kick off 2019 MLB Players' Weekend. (Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports)

White out: Cubs nearly blanked by Nats in Players' Weekend opener

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO — Based upon the special MLB Players' Weekend uniforms, Friday's matchup between the Chicago Cubs (69-59) and the Washington Nationals (71-57) appeared to be a battle between good and evil, as the Cubs wore all-white uniforms that contrasted the Nationals' all-black getups. Unfortunately for the North Siders, good did not triumph over evil. In fact, the Cubs did not come remotely close to defeating the Nationals, with Washington holding the Cubs scoreless through eight innings and winning 9-3.

The Cubs were fortunate to defeat the San Francisco Giants (63-65) at Wrigley Field on Thursday, with Chicago coming out on top by a final score of 1-0 after tallying only two hits. However, the Cubs were not so lucky at the Friendly Confines on Friday afternoon. Getting dominated in the opening game of MLB Players' Weekend, in which all 30 MLB teams wear unique uniforms with nicknames on the backs of the jerseys, the Cubs were fairly listless at the plate against Nationals starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez.

Other than a single and a pair of walks, Sanchez was flawless in his 8 1/3 innings of work. If not for an error committed by the Nationals in the bottom of the ninth, Sanchez might have thrown a complete-game shutout. On the flip side, Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester suffered through a woeful 4 1/3-innings start that saw him get taken for six runs. A first-inning solo home run off Lester put the Nats up 1-0. The Cubs later trailed 2-0 entering the top of the fourth and gave up two runs on five hits, despite a spectacular diving stop by Cubs shortstop Javier Baez preventing a run from scoring.

In addition to showing out on the mound, Sanchez impressed at the plate by laying down a perfect RBI bunt single in the fourth frame. Sanchez was provided with additional run support not long after the Nationals chased Lester from the game in the top of the fifth. Cubs relief pitcher Pedro Strop proceeded to allow a run to come home on a wild pitch and was then tagged for a 2-run double off the bat of Victor Robles that made the score 7-0. A solo shot by Juan Soto and an RBI double Howie Kendricks contributed to the Nationals going up by nine in the later innings.

Sanchez walked Cubs second baseman Tony Kemp to lead off the bottom of the ninth, and, after a groundout advanced Kemp to second base, a throwing error committed by Anthony Rendon on a tough play enabled Kemp to score and break up the shutout. Sanchez was removed from his brilliant outing thereafter, and an RBI double by Nicholas Castellanos and an RBI single by Anthony Rizzo off Nationals relief pitcher Matt Grace resulted in the final score of 9-3. The Cubs were limited to three hits and two walks in their series-opening lopsided defeat, which was even more lopsided than the final score indicates.

Washington Nationals at Chicago Cubs
Aug 23, 2019 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Washington (71-57) 1 0 1 2 3 0 1 0 1 9 14 1
Chicago (69-59) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 3 3 1
W: Anibal Sanchez (8-6) L: Jon Lester (10-9)
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