- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2015

Even the long-awaited return of Anthony Rendon couldn’t wake up a struggling Washington Nationals lineup on Thursday night. Though Rendon collected a pair of hits in his season debut, the Nationals scored only a single run and lost their series-opener against the Chicago Cubs, 2-1.

First pitch was delayed by nearly two hours because of rain, and the game took more than three hours to complete, devolving into a chess match between managers late in the game. 

The Nationals have now lost six of their past seven games.

THE RUNDOWN: For the second night in a row, Washington’s starting pitcher allowed an opponent to load the bases with no outs in the first inning. This time, it was Gio Gonzalez. The left-hander gave up two singles and a walk to begin the game, then walked Junior Lake on eight pitches to bring home Chicago’s first run of the night. From there, however, Gonzalez settled down. A double play allowed one runner to score but helped limit the damage, and Gonzalez didn’t allow another run from that point on. Meanwhile, two close calls made a difference for Washington’s offense. In the fourth inning, Danny Espinosa was called out on a stolen base attempt and the Nationals unsuccessfully challenged the play, thereby losing the right to challenge later in the game. That ended up making a significant difference when, in the sixth, Bryce Harper appeared to beat out a ground ball with the bases loaded but was ruled out. The grounder scored one run, but that was all the Nationals were able to muster.

THE HIGHLIGHT: With one out in the third inning, Gonzalez performed what can only be described as an acrobatic sideways barrel roll. Kris Bryant hit a chopper toward the right side of the infield, and Ryan Zimmerman ranged to his right to collect it. He made an off-balance throw behind Gonzalez, who leaned back to grab it, then rolled himself toward the bag. It wasn’t clear whether he or Bryant got to the base first, but it was ruled an out. The Cubs didn’t challenge. And it was a tremendous effort by Gonzalez either way.

STAR OF THE GAME: Blake Treinen’s up-and-down season reached its low point Tuesday night, when the right-hander gave up three earned runs and recorded two outs in Washington’s eventual 7-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. Thursday was different. On this night, Treinen was as dominant as he’s been all season, mixing a sweeping slider with a sinking fastball that hovered around 97 mph and ramped up to 99 mph on the final pitch of the inning. Treinen struck out two batters and didn’t allow a baserunner.

SEE ALSO: Drew Storen tries to stay in rhythm during losing streak

THE TAKEAWAY: Much of the conversation Thursday afternoon revolved around Rendon playing second base instead of third, but after one inning, it became (at least temporarily) a moot point. Yunel Escobar struck out swinging to end the first inning and was subsequently removed from the game. Rendon shifted to third base, where he started 126 games last year, and Espinosa entered the game at second. It’s unclear what was bothering Escobar, but he appeared to grimace while taking a swing. We’ll see what manager Matt Williams has to say after the game.

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