WASHINGTON -- Joe Ross made his first full start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2017, Victor Robles shined defensively and Spencer Kieboom homered. These are big-picture moments for a team outside the potseason bubble. None of that was enough to take down the Cubs, however, or keep the Nats' five-game winning streak alive.
The Cubs used small ball in the 10th inning to derail the Nationals for a 4-3 win on Tuesday afternoon at Nationals Park in the makeup of Sunday's game, which was postponed by rain.
Sean Doolittle (3-3) allowed Kristopher Bryant's one-out double in the 10th. Ex-National Daniel Murphy reached with a single when second baseman Wilmer Difo couldn't cleanly field the grounder. Bryant took third on the play and then scored when Javier Baez's aggressive bunt eluded first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
Washington came up short in its bid to match its longest winning streak of the season despite Trea Turner's RBI double in the seventh, which brought home Robles with the tying run. The loss stings, especially with the Nats on the upswing after weeks of sideways baseball, but those poised for future success helped to provide silver linings.
Ross started Sunday's postponed game and threw only 24 pitches. Thursday, he tossed 74 pitches over five innings, allowing two runs on four hits with two walks while throwing in the low-to-mid 90s.
"Just being back says a lot. I would have liked to go deeper in the game, but unfortunately, I was getting ahead in certain situations," said Ross. "Hopefully next time, I can get ahead a little bit better and pitch deeper in the game. But, for the first [full] game back, I feel pretty good about myself."
Making his first career start in the leadoff spot, Robles went 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and his first career stolen base. While Bryce Harper's free agency looms over Washington's offseason, the idea of Robles and teenage phenom Juan Soto playing together in the outfield offers much promise.
"I definitely want to get him in [the lineup]. I'll look for opportunities," manager Dave Martinez said of Robles. "He's exciting, and he's our future."
Kieboom launched a solo homer off Chicago starter Mike Montgomery in the third for a 1-0 lead, his second career big fly in as many games. Washington had one run and four hits against eight Chicago relievers over the final six innings.
Jimmy Cordero surrendered Baez's 31st home run of the season that put the Cubs up 3-2 in the sixth. That's the expected way for Chicago's infielder to beat pitchers, and that's why Baez's approach in the 10th surprised Washington's closer.
"If you had told me that I was going to get beat by Javy in extra innings, I would not have thought it would be on a bunt," said Doolittle, who pitched 1 1/3 innings.
Washington lost the season series, 4-3.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Tied at 3 in the eighth inning, Chicago loaded the bases with two hits and an intentional walk against Nationals reliever Matt Grace. Right-hander Greg Holland, an effective relief option since joining Washington on Aug. 7, entered and dispatched back-to-back pinch-hitters on strikeouts.
• The Nationals twice had six-game winning streaks: April 29-May 4 and May 25-30. They had been unable to win more than three in a row after the All-Star break before their five-game stretch.
• Soto extended his on-base streak to 18 games with a single in the sixth inning.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Anthony Rizzo was twice on the wrong end of a spectacular defensive play by Robles. In the fifth, the Cubs slugger laced a drive into the right-center-field gap. According to Statcast™, Robles had to cover 53 feet in 3.5 seconds, giving him a 33-percent catch probability. Robles beat the odds with a diving grab.
Robles also threw out Rizzo in the first trying to turn a single into a two-base hit.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
With the bases loaded with Chicago holding a 4-3 lead in the top of the 10th inning, the Cubs let closer Pedro Strop bat so that he could return to the mound to close out the game in the bottom half. Strop hit a ground ball to third baseman Anthony Rendon, who fired home for the first out. Catcher Matt Wieters turned and threw down to first for a double play. The Cubs challenged, but the call stood. Even worse for Chicago: Strop injured his left hamstring on the play and left the game.
Washington preps for its third game in three days in three cities with Friday's matchup against the Braves at 7:35 p.m. ET. Max Scherzer (17-6, 2.31 ERA) continues his campaign for a third consecutive National League Cy Young Award. He needs 13 strikeouts to match his career best for a single season (284 in 2016). Atlanta counters with Kevin Gausman (9-10, 3.89 ERA).