WASHINGTON (AP) — The Nationals played their first game since placing closer Jonathan Papelbon on the disabled list. Naturally, the matchup against the majors-leading Chicago Cubs came down to the final inning, and Washington’s bullpen didn’t deliver.
Albert Almora Jr. drove in the go-ahead run with a ninth-inning double, Dexter Fowler had two hits and the Cubs beat the Nationals 4-3 on Tuesday night.
Addison Russell led off the ninth with a walk from Sammy Solis (1-2) and was sacrificed to second before Almora, who entered the game in the eighth inning, lined a shot to left center.
Washington, which had won four straight, tied it in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Anthony Rendon off closer Hector Rondon.
The run snapped a string of 10 straight scoreless appearances by Solis.
“He’s been great for us,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said of Solis, whose ERA remains a tidy 1.71.
“He just made one bad pitch. He got the slider up, and that was really the only bad pitch he’s made in, I don’t know how long.”
It was also the only pitch Solis threw to Almora, who was called up from Triple-A Iowa on June 7.
Jason Heyward provided a two-run single for Chicago, which evened the three-game series between division leaders.
Rondon (1-1) pitched the final 1 2/3 innings for the win.
Washington was without Papelbon, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right intercostal strain.
Almora remembered Solis from their days in the Arizona Fall League. After giving a tip of the cap to the familiar face on the mound, the rookie delivered the winning hit.
“How about Almora? I mean, come on,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “The guy has been up here for 5 minutes. Goes up there and is not passive. He went up there, jumped on the first pitch and I loved it.”
Not surprisingly, Solis had the opposite reaction to the ninth, particularly the walk to Russell.
“Leadoff walk. Can’t do that, especially in a game like that,” Solis said.
Ben Revere’s sacrifice fly in the seventh pulled Washington within 3-2.
Chicago’s John Lackey, making his 400th career start, left after hitting a batter and allowing a double to start the seventh. He gave up two runs and four hits while striking out seven and walking two.
Gio Gonzalez gave up three runs and five hits over 6 1/3 innings. The Nationals starter struck out nine and walked four.
Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo (0 for 5) ended his 10-game hitting streak.
Lackey hadn’t allowed a run in his previous two starts, covering 13 2/3 innings.
In his last six games, Werth is 10 for 23 (.435) with two doubles, a homer, nine RBIs, nine walks and five runs scored.
Nationals: Reinstated RHP Matt Belisle, who missed 45 games with a right calf strain, following a rehabilitation assignment.
Cubs: Jason Hammel (7-2, 2.36) starts in the series finale. He’s 9-0 with a 3.16 ERA in 12 career starts against the Nationals.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (10-0, 3.03) has won 13 straight decisions dating to last season. He hasn’t faced the Cubs since August 2013.