Cubs blow ninth-inning lead then rally to beat Giants

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Starlin Castro homered in the fifth and played hero in the ninth, delivering a game-winning double as the Cubs avoided what would have been an ugly loss and defeated the Giants 4-3.

The Giants scored all three of their runs off new Cubs closer Kyuji Fujikawa in the ninth, taking Matt Cain off the hook and erasing a strong outing from Carlos Villanueva.

However, Sergio Romo, who was a perfect 6-for-6 in save chances this year, couldn’t hold the lead. He surrendered a rare homer to switch-hitter Dioner Navarro — just the fourth homer he’s ever allowed to a left-handed hitter — and then gave up two more hits, including Castro’s game-ender.

Some thoughts:

– Villanueva is the game’s unluckiest pitcher 12 days in. He left with a 5-1 lead over the Braves in his first start, only to see that blown. Today, his relievers needed to get just five outs, but still couldn’t hold a 2-0 lead. That’s left Villanueva 0-0 despite a 0.64 ERA.

– Castro could have ended the game 20 minutes earlier if he wanted. Hunter Pence hit what appeared to be a rally-killing double play ball Castro’s way in the top of the ninth, but Castro, even though he was as close to third as he was to second, went with an underhand toss to Alberto Gonzalez. The relay ended up being a bit slow, allowing Pence to barely beat it out.

– Castro also chose not to run on his game-ending double to the wall in center, thinking it was a homer. It didn’t matter a whole lot — the runner at first base was the one that mattered — but the game’s outcome would have still been in doubt had David DeJesus not come all of the way around to score.

– The homer hit by Navarro was an incredible oddity. Romo had allowed just three homers in 290 at-bats against left-handers previously, and the switch-hitting Navarro had homered off righties once every 65 at-bats, compared to once every 29 at-bats versus lefties.

– Before he became a closer, Romo was really more of a righty specialist in the San Francisco pen, often sharing innings with Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez. His numbers against lefties were still terrific, but part of that is because he wasn’t typically getting to face the good ones. That’s changing now that the ninth inning is his alone, so it will be interesting to see if he proves more vulnerable to lefties.

Max Scherzer reaches 300 strikeouts on the season

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Nationals ace Max Scherzer struck out his 300th batter of the season on Tuesday night against the Marlins. Austin Dean was the victim, swinging and missing at a 3-2 curve for the second out in the seventh inning.

Scherzer’s 2018 is the seventh 300-strikeout season since 2000. The others: Chris Sale (308; 2017 Red Sox), Clayton Kershaw (301; 2015 Dodgers), Randy Johnson (334; 2002 Diamondbacks), Curt Schilling (316; 2002 Diamondbacks), Randy Johnson (372; 2001 Diamondbacks), Randy Johnson (347; 2000 Diamondbacks). It’s the 67th 300-strikeout season dating back to 1883.

At the conclusion of the seventh, Scherzer had held the Marlins to a run on four hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts. He entered the start 17-7 with a 2.57 ERA across 213 2/3 innings. Jacob deGrom will almost certainly win the NL Cy Young Award, but Scherzer’s 2018 has been outstanding.