Commentator George Will stands on the field before the Chicago ...

(GOP commentator George Will works out the Cubs’ magic number after the Cubs-Nats game tonight)

With all the mid-September World Series talk out of Chicago this third week of April, I did check the calculator after tonight’s 5-3 loss to the Nationals to make sure the Cubs were still in the hunt. Fortunately, there’s some games left. The downer in DC last night coulda-shoulda been won, especially after leaving 10 runners on base, and an amazing catch by Reed Johnson. DC’s second-string catcher Wil Nieves mercifully ended it with a walk-off 9th inning homer, his first. Piniella bitched on the Cubs’ pre-game show that they need more support from the mid-bullpen and leave too many men on the bags. Unfortunately, the boys mistook that as his game plan instead of something to fix. An autopsy of this mess is offered by The Daily Herald‘s Bruce Miles:

WASHINGTON — If ever a game fell into the “deserved to lose” category for the Cubs, it was Friday night’s 5-3 loss to the Washington Nationals.

Never mind, for a moment, reliever Bob Howry giving up a game-winning, 2-run homer in the ninth inning to backup catcher Wil Nieves for Nieves’ first career home run.

Well before that the Cubs had many chances to blow out the pesky Nats but couldn’t do it.

“This is a couple games in a row where we’ve had opportunities, and we haven’t taken advantage of them,” said manager Lou Piniella, whose team is 15-8 and has lost two straight. “A backup catcher got a hold of a high fastball, and that was that.”

The Cubs wasted a 7-inning pitching performance by starter Ryan Dempster who righted himself after giving up a 2-run homer in the first to Nick Johnson.

The offense left 10 runners stranded and ran itself out of a couple of innings.