Game Eighty-Three – Cubs 0 Nationals 6
WP – Matt Chico (4-5) LP – Rich Hill (5-6) Save – None
The Cubs offense managed just 4 hits off of rookie starter Matt Chico with one coming off the bat of Rich Hill. Mark DeRosa extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the 2nd inning but the Cubs were a combined 0-7 on the day with runners in scoring position. The Cubs could not get into a rhythm offensively, even with the return of Aramis Ramirez to the lineup. Ramirez and DeRosa were the only two Cubs to reach base twice, with his single in the 6th Ramirez has hit safely in his last 8 games.
Rich Hill was consistently inconsistent. Hill once again had command problems and gave up two more home runs, #17 and #18 on the year. Ryan Zimmerman’s solo home run with 2 outs in the 1st inning proved to be the game winner but Dmitri Young’s grand slam in the 5th put the game out of reach. Rich Hill was looking for a positive to end his first half on and could not locate one. At times Hill was very sharp on the mound. He struck out 6 and, for obvious reasons, looked extremely confident and comfortable on the mound during those at bats. But he struggled to find the rhythm and confidence that allows him to win games, when the Nationals made contact….even the outs were hit hard. With Wednesday being Hill’s last start of the first half and likely his last start until July 16th, he and Larry Rothschild will have a lot of time to look at film and get him back on track. Although the end result was not what Hill would have wanted, there are a lot of positives to take out of his first half….especially considering it was his first full one at the big league level.
The Cubs looked flat from the first pitch of the game and the final result was being shutout for the 4th time this season. Alfonso Soriano worked the count to 3-2 in his first three at bats against Matt Chico, but could not reach base against the rookie southpaw. The loss on Wednesday was just that….a loss, nothing more and nothing less. The only concern that can be taken from the game is the fact this organization has made a habit of making either a rookie pitcher or a mediocre pitcher they have never faced before look like an award winner. Lou Piniella and his staff must figure out this “mystery” fast before the rest of the league does.
The Nationals had scored only 19 runs in their last 10 games before Wednesday. The last time they had scored more than 3 runs in any game was on June 22nd against the Indians and the 6 runs they scored was the most since a 9-8 loss to the Tigers on June 18th. Ryan Zimmerman hit a solo homer with 2 outs in the 1st inning (it was Zimmerman’s first RBI since June 18th) off of a 3-2 pitch from Rich Hill. With the struggling Nationals offense and the Cubs not swinging the bat well, it appeared the 1 run might hold up. Hill looked very sharp in the 2nd inning and worked around a throwing error from Rob Bowen. He struck out Jesus Flores to end the 2nd with Felipe Lopez at 3rd base.
Hill gave up a lead off single to Matt Chico in the 3rd (the 5th hit of his career) but retired Nook Logan on a fly out to left center and got Ronnie Belliard to ground into a 5-4-3 inning ending double play. Hill put the first two runners on the 4th but retired the next three batters he faced, including striking out Austin Kearns, to end the inning. However, the 5th inning he could not work his way out of.
Jesus Flores singled to lead off the inning. Chico sacrificed him to 2nd base (the first of two sacrifice bunts on the day). Logan singled to left to put runners on the corners with 1-out. Ronnie Belliard doubled down the 3rd base line, Flores scored and runners were on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out….Hill missed badly on his pitch to Belliard. Hill intentionally walked Ryan Zimmerman to load the bases. Dmitri Young stepped in and Hill quickly got ahead in the count 0-2. After Hill’s third pitch missed, Young took his 1-2 offering over the left field wall….Hill hung a curve over the middle of the plate.
Billy Petrick pitched a scoreless inning of relief in the 8th and gave up a double to Dmitri Young. Scott Eyre walked 1 in his inning of relief and struck out Ryan Langerhans to end the inning. Petrick looked very good once again and Eyre was effective despite throwing more balls than strikes….19 pitches, 9 strikes.
The Cubs will try to win the series on Thursday night behind Sean Marshall. Jason Bergman is scheduled to take the hill for the Nationals. Thursday will be the last game the Cubs play at RFK Stadium and will be their last game of the year against the Nationals, the Cubs have won 5 of the first 6.