WASHINGTON — One strange throw by Kurt Suzuki undid an entire afternoon of solid pitching by the Washington Nationals.
Alfonso Soriano scored the tiebreaking run in the ninth inning on a unique error by Suzuki, giving the Chicago Cubs a 2-1 victory Sunday in the deciding matchup of a three-game series.
Washington starter Gio Gonzalez threw five perfect innings and finished with seven innings of two-hit ball. He left with a 1-0 lead, but his performance became an afterthought following a wacky ninth inning.
With the score 1-all in the ninth, Alfonso Soriano singled off Nationals closer Rafael Soriano (0-1) and took second on a single by Julio Borbon. After Ryan Sweeney struck out, both runners took off on a double steal with Castillo at the plate.
Suzuki’s throw hit Castillo’s bat. The ball veered well to the left of third base and into foul ground, allowing Alfonso Soriano to scoot home.
“I was just standing there and I just feel the ball hitting my bat and the ball fly into the outfield,” Castillo said.
If Castillo moved into the throw, interference would have been called.
“I didn’t move. I just looked,” Castillo said. “Only thing that I say when (Suzuki) said something to the umpire is, ‘I didn’t move.’ And the umpire said, ‘I see you didn’t move.'”
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, “The way you draw it up, that’s the way you do it. Make the catcher get around you. Don’t let him have the throwing lane.”
Suzuki shrugged his shoulders afterward and said, “That’s the first time I have ever done something like that, let alone saw it. It’s one of those things where, a freak thing happens like that.”
Alfonso Soriano concluded: “It’s a huge play for us and we score a run and we don’t have to hit the ball.”
James Russell (1-0) worked the eighth and Kevin Gregg got three outs for his sixth save.
Ryan Zimmerman drove in the run for the Nationals, who went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. After missing the first two games of the series with an ingrown toenail, Washington’s Bryce Harper went 0 for 2 with two walks and is mired in 4 for 35 skid.
Gonzalez struck out six and walked one before Nationals manager Davey Johnson turned to his bullpen. Drew Storen allowed an eighth-inning run before Soriano was touched for an unearned tally in the ninth.
“I feel like we have a great bullpen,” said Gonzalez, who was pulled after throwing only 86 pitches. “You turn the page, move forward and go to the next series.”
Gonzalez walked one and struck out six. He was flawless until Dioner Navarro opened the sixth by beating out a grounder deep in the hole that shortstop Ian Desmond gloved before opting not to attempt a throw.
The Cubs then used a walk and a single to load the bases with two outs before Gonzalez retired Anthony Rizzo on a grounder to first base.
Gonzalez concluded his performance with a perfect seventh.
In the eighth, however, Chicago pulled even against Storen. Navarro drew a leadoff walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Travis Wood, who advanced on a sacrifice and scored on a two-out single by Starlin Castro.
Cubs starter Scott Feldman gave up one run, five hits and three walks in six innings.
The Nationals hit two doubles and drew two walks in the first inning, but they left the bases loaded after Zimmerman doubled in a run.
Washington also stranded a runner in scoring position in the second and third innings. By that time, Feldman’s pitch was at 61.
NOTES: Cubs 3B Luis Valbuena, who jammed his right pinky finger Saturday, was available to pinch hit but did not play. … The Montreal/Washington franchise missed a chance to earn its 300th win against the Cubs. The teams next meet in Chicago for a four-game series August 19-22. … After going 3-2 on their homestand against Detroit and Chicago, the Nationals begin a West Coast trip Monday night with Jordan Zimmerman (6-1) on the mound against the Dodgers. … Travis Wood (3-2) will start for the Cubs on Monday night in the opener of a three-game home series against Colorado.
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