CHICAGO — Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals were cruising along until it all fell apart. Then, a slow roller bailed them out.
Denard Span scored the go-ahead run on pinch-hitter Chad Tracy’s grounder in the 13th inning, and the Nationals beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4 on Thursday after Strasburg blew a three-run lead in the ninth.
Span doubled leading off the 13th against Michael Bowden (1-3). He moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Steve Lombardozzi and came around on Tracy’s roller to the first-base side of the mound.
“We got to do better than that. I mean, that gave me a heart attack,” manager Davey Johnson said, smiling. “It’s a good thing we had a track star down on third base. But a win is a win.”
Craig Stammen (7-5) worked two innings and earned the victory. Drew Storen secured his third save in eight chances.
Storen deflected Dioner Navarro’s liner toward Lombardozzi to start a game-ending double play after Anthony Rizzo reached on a throwing error by the second baseman with one out.
After a two-hour rain delay at the start, Strasburg was one out away from a complete game with a 4-1 lead before Chicago rallied to tie it.
Junior Lake had an RBI single, and Donnie Murphy hit a two-run homer to make it 4-4. Rafael Soriano gave up a double to Brian Bogusevic before Darwin Barney lined to left, sending the game to extra innings.
Before the rally, Strasburg and the Nationals were sailing along.
Strasburg was aiming for his second shutout in three starts before Chicago’s Brian Bogusevic homered leading off the eighth. When the Cubs struck again in the ninth, Chicago spoiled the ace’s dominant outing.
“I’ve seen him pitch all the time, but I never got to face him,” said Murphy, a 30-year-old journeyman with eight homers in 16 games since joining the Cubs about three weeks ago. “Going in there and him K-ing me three times before getting the last hit was pretty cool.”
Strasburg gave up seven hits, struck out eight and walked two after the shortest start of his career. He was ejected in the second inning at Atlanta last week for throwing two consecutive pitches behind Andrelton Simmons’ back.
Strasburg acknowledged he was tired toward the end of Thursday’s game.