Game Twenty-One – Cubs 1 Nationals 3
WP – Livan Hernandez (3-1) LP – Tom Gorzelanny (0-3) Save – Matt Capps (9)
The mesmerizing Livan Hernandez took the mound for the Nationals on a cold, windy night at Wrigley … and lulled the Cubs’ bats to sleep. The Cubs managed only one run on six hits, all singles, in seven-plus innings against Hernandez with only one walk. Hernandez was ahead in the count all night and painted the outside corner with strike one for a majority of his seven-plus innings.
The ageless wonder is now 3-1 on the year with a 0.87 ERA. Hernandez threw 99 pitches, 62 for strikes.
After a shaky start and allowing two runs in the top of the first, Tom Gorzelanny settled down and pitched a good game. The Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 lead after three straight hits. Nyjer Morgan tripled to start the game and scored on the first of two RBI on the night by Ian Desmond. After Desmond stole second, Cristian Guzman tripled him home for the games second run.
The Cubs lone run came on a fielder’s choice ground out by Geovany Soto. After Alfonso Soriano singled in the second and advanced to third on a single by Mike Fontenot, Soto hit what appeared to be a tailor-made double play to third. But Fontenot’s slide at second forced Guzman to change his throw to first. The ball sailed on Adam Dunn, Soto was safe and Soriano cut the Nationals’ lead to 2-1.
The days of John Grabow pitching meaningful innings have to come to an end. Grabow simply cannot throw strikes and retire major league batters right now … and pitching him late in games does not give a struggling offense any time to make up the runs he allows time after time after time. The run Grabow allowed is unearned in the box score due to his throwing error that allowed Nyjer Morgan to reach and score the Nationals’ third run of the game.
Bullpen struggles and missed opportunities aside, Tuesday night was one of those games a team loses during a long season.
The Cubs four-game winning steak came to an end with a less than exciting ballgame. The loss slipped the Cubs back to a game under .500 at 10-11 on the young season …
Nyjer Morgan led off the game with a triple to left center on a 2-1 pitch. Ian Desmond followed with a bloop single to right that plated Morgan with the first run of the game. Desmond stole second on a 0-1 offering to Cristian Guzman. Gorzelanny got ahead of Guzman before he tripled to center over the head of Marlon Byrd. Byrd did not misplay the ball … the wind changed the direction.
Gorzelanny then retired Adam Dunn (swinging strikeout), Josh Willingham (pop out to shallow right) and Ivan Rodriguez (tap back to the mound) and stranded Guzman at third.
Gorzelanny allowed one hit and two walks over his last six innings of work.
The Cubs cut the Nationals 2-0 lead in half in the second inning. Alfonso Soriano singled to right with one out and advanced to third on a single to left center by Mike Fontenot. Geovany Soto swung at Hernandez’s first pitch and hit a grounder to third. It was a tailor-made double play ball that the Nats could not convert. Guzman’s throw to Adam Dunn sailed to the home side of first. Soriano scored and Soto took second on the throwing error. Gorzelanny grounded out to second to end the inning.
The Nationals tacked on a run in the eighth. John Grabow replaced Gorzelanny and was horrible again. After retiring Livan Hernandez on a groundout to second, Nyjer Morgan hit a tapper to the third base side of the mound on a 0-2 pitch. Grabow fielded the ball but rushed his throw and threw high to Derrek Lee. Grabow’s error allowed the speedster to reach.
Morgan then stole second on a 1-0 pitch to Ian Desmond. Grabow fell behind Desmond 3-2 before serving up a single to right. Morgan scored … 3-1 Nationals. Grabow struck out Guzman on a 3-2 pitch and retired Adam Dunn on a ground out to Fontenot in the shift to end the inning. Box scores often do not tell the whole story and Grabow’s outing on Tuesday is a perfect example. Grabow threw 27 pitches in an inning of work … 17 for strikes.
The Cubs had a chance to tie the game in the eighth. Ryan Theriot extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single to right … and chased Livan Hernandez from the game.
Tyler Clippard then walked Kosuke Fukudome. With no outs and the heart of the order due up, the Cubs had the tying runs on base. Derrek Lee popped out to shallow right, Marlon Byrd advanced the runners with a ground out to second but Aramis Ramirez grounded out to first on a 1-1 pitch to end the inning.
It was just one of those games …
Ryan Dempster will try to win the series on Wednesday afternoon. Jim Riggleman will send Luis Atilano to the hill for his second big league start.