Game Twenty-Five – Cubs 0 Nationals 2
WP – John Lannan (2-2) LP – Ted Lilly (1-4) Save – Jon Rauch (4)
A day after recording their first shutout of the season, the Nationals returned the favor and shutout the Cubs for the first time this year. Ted Lilly turned in the Cubs fourth quality start in a row with an impressive 6 inning performance….he was just out pitched. John Lannan handled the Cubs offense with pinpoint control and did not allow a hit until the 5th inning. The Cubs loaded the bases for the sixth time in the 3-game series in the 5th with 1-out but came away empty. They also left the tying runs in scoring position in the 6th….again with 1-out. On the day the Cubs left 8 on base and appeared out of gas for most of the afternoon.
Ted Lilly took the loss but for the first time this season he pitched the way he did a year ago. Lilly gave up both runs in the 2nd inning, surrendered only 4 hits in 6 innings, struck out a season high 7 batters and walked only 2.
The Cubs finished the road trip with a disappointing 2-3 record but have still won 9 of 13 since their last day off. Lou Piniella’s crew appeared tired and ready for the off day on Monday. They worked the count effectively most of the afternoon but when they put the ball in play, it simply did not find green.
The only scoring in the game came in the 2nd inning. Nick Johnson singled on the first offering from Lilly and Lastings Milledge sacrificed him to 2nd base. At the time the move was questioned, but it turned out to be the difference in the game. Austin Kearns grounded out to short for the second out. Wily Mo Pena stepped in hitless in 5 at bats against Lilly with 4 strikeouts.
Pena singled to left on a 0-2 pitch, Johnson scored and Pena advanced to 2nd on the throw to the plate by Mark DeRosa. Wil Nieves burnt the Cubs again with a single to center. Reed Johnson’s throw was will off the mark and Pena scored the second and last run of the game.
The Cubs pitching staff did not allow another run. Michael Wuertz was very sharp in the 7th and Kerry Wood retired the side in order in the 8th….on just 9 pitches.
The Cubs mounted two threats in the game but came away empty. Ronny Cedeno recorded the first hit off of Lannan to start the 5th. Henry Blanco followed with a single to left. Ted Lilly attempted a sacrifice but bunted through the ball. Cedeno was caught too far off 2nd and made a head’s up decision to take off for 3rd. Cedeno made it with a head first slide and Henry Blanco advanced to 2nd on the play….Blanco was awarded a steal, his first since 2001.
Lilly ended up striking out then Reed Johnson hit a hot shot to Nick Johnson at first. Johnson kept the ball in the infield, was originally given an error (it was changed to a hit in the 7th) and Johnson slid head first into to the bag to avoid the tag of Nick Johnson. Ryan Theriot stepped in with the bases loaded and just 1-out. Theriot looked at only 1 pitch before hitting a chopper up the middle….an easy 6-3 double play to end the inning.
Derrek Lee led off the 6th with a walk but was erased at 2nd on a tap back to the mound by Aramis Ramirez. The play developed slowly and Aramis beat out the throw to first. Kosuke Fukudome doubled to left over Wily Mo Pena….Pena misplayed the ball. Mark DeRosa then tapped out to the mound and Ronny Cedeno grounded out to 2nd to end the inning.
The Nationals bullpen retired 6 of the last 7 batters they faced to end the game.
At least the flight back to Chicago is a short one. It was a very disappointing weekend for the Cubs. The Cubs have trouble with pitchers like Odalis Perez and John Lannan….and the proof is their first series loss since April 11th – April 13th in Philadelphia.
Monday is an off day for Lou Piniella’s crew….and apparently a much needed one after Sunday. Ben Sheets is scheduled to face Jason Marquis on Tuesday night at Wrigley in the first of three against the Brewers.