The Nationals Tee Off on Cubs Pitching … Again – Cubs 1, Nationals 9

Game One Hundred Thirty-Six – Cubs 1, Nationals 9
WP – Gio Gonzalez (18-7) LP – Chris Volstad (2-10) Save – None

The Washington Nationals picked up where they left off on Tuesday and pounded the Chicago Cubs for the second night in a row. The Nationals followed their 11-run, 19-hit, six-home run output on Tuesday night with nine more runs on 13 hits and six more home runs on Wednesday. Dale Sveum said during his post-game press conference, “That’s just men playing boys right now.”

The Nationals squared up Cubs pitching like they knew what was coming. Washington launched six more home runs and became the third time in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) to hit six-plus home runs in back-to-back games. Five different Nationals hit longballs, Bryce Harper went deep twice and the Nationals hit back-to-back homers twice (third and seventh innings), both times on consecutive pitches.

Chris Volstad barely made it out of the third inning. The Nationals launched three of the six homers off Volstad in the span of four batters and scored four of their nine runs during the 32-pitch third inning. Volstad could not find a rhythm and struggled with his command throughout his five-inning outing. Volstad allowed five runs on nine hits (three home runs) with four walks and two strikeouts in five innings. Volstad threw 89 pitches, 46 for strikes.

Like Tuesday night, the Cubs’ bullpen could not keep the ball in the yard and the Nationals off the scoreboard. Michael Bowden served up the Nationals’ fourth home run in the sixth to Bryce Harper. The Nationals lit up Blake Parker in the seventh. Parker served up back-to-back home runs to Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. Parker surrendered hits to the first three batters in the seventh inning and walked two of the other three batters he faced. Parker recorded only one out while allowing three runs on three hits in a third of an inning. Alberto Cabrera took over for Parker with the bases loaded and one out. Cabrera issued a four-pitch walk to Ryan Zimmerman that forced in the Nationals’ ninth run before he found the strike zone.

Jaye Chapman provided one of the only highlights for the Cubs. In his second big league appearance Chapman retired the Nationals in order with a pair of strikeouts in the eighth inning.

The Cubs became the third team to allow six-plus home runs in back-to-back games (Expos, June 3-June 4, 2003 and Rockies, June 29-June 30, 1996).

While the Nationals were busy launching balls out of Nationals Park, Gio Gonzalez took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Darwin Barney (1-for-2) broke up Gonzalez’s no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the sixth. The Cubs managed just five baserunners all night … four hits and no walks. Anthony Rizzo (1-for-4 with a home run) broke up the shutout with his 11th homer of the season off Craig Stammen with one out in the ninth. The Cubs struck out 11 times against Gio Gonzalez and Craig Stammen on Wednesday night.

Dale Sveum was ejected during the fifth inning. Sveum appeared to be arguing with homeplate umpire Larry Vanover about his inconsistent strike zone before Vanover tossed him from the game. Sveum was very animated and might have taken out some of his frustration during his “discussion” with the umpire.

Darwin Barney did not commit an error before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game. Barney ran his errorless streak to 121 games, two short of Ryan Sandberg’s franchise mark (123) for consecutive games played by a second baseman without an error.

With Wednesday’s loss, the Cubs dropped to 34 games under .500 with a 51-85 record.

Gio Gonzalez retired the Cubs in order on eight pitches, six for strikes, in the first inning … and made it look easy.

The Nationals picked up in the first inning where they left off Tuesday night. Roger Bernadina led off the inning with an infield single. Bernadina hit a 1-2 pitch back up the middle that Barney fielded but could not get anything on his throw to first. Bryce Harper smoked a 2-0 pitch into right directly to Dave Sappelt. Bernadina took off for second on a 1-1 pitch to Ryan Zimmerman and beat Castillo’s throw. Zimmerman grounded out to second (2-1 pitch) and Bernadina advanced to third on the play. The Cubs pitched to Adam LaRoche and he ripped a 2-0 pitch into center. Volstad threw a 2-0 breaking ball and LaRoche smacked it like he knew what was coming. Bernadina scored, 1-0 Nationals. Michael Morse followed with a single to center and the Nationals had runners on first and second with two down. Ian Desmond hit the first pitch to Sappelt in right to end the inning. Chris Volstad threw 21 pitches in the first inning, 13 for strikes.

The Cubs did nothing in the second … 19 pitches for Gonzalez after two, 14 for strikes.

Chris Volstad retired the bottom of the Nationals’ lineup in order in the second. Volstad needed 28 pitches, 18 for strikes, to get through two innings.

Josh Vitters led off the third and reached on a throwing error by Ian Desmond … but that was all for the Cubs. Darwin Barney flied out to center. Chris Volstad could not get the bunt down and looked at strike three for the second out. Joe Mather flied out to right to end the inning.

The Nationals put the game out of reach in the third. Roger Bernadina led off the inning with a home run just to the right of straight away center (3-2 pitch). Bernadina’s fourth longball of the season put the Nationals up 2-0. Bryce Harper followed and launched Volstad’s first pitch to deep left … back-to-back homers for the Nationals on consecutive pitches.

Ryan Zimmerman ripped a 2-2 pitch into center for a single then trotted around the bases after Adam LaRoche lifted Volstad’s first pitch over the wall in left … LaRoche’s fourth homer of the series put the Nationals up 5-0.

Chris Bosio made his way to the mound and had a one-sided conversation with Volstad and Welington Castillo. Volstad retired Morse on a pop out to right center and Ian Desmond struck out swinging. Danny Espinosa cranked a 1-0 pitch to deep right center. The ball one-hopped the wall and Espinosa ended up at second with a double. Volstad intentionally walked Kurt Suzuki. With two on and two out, Gio Gonzalez grounded out to short (2-2 pitch) to end the inning … 60 pitches for Volstad after three, 36 for strikes.

The Cubs did nothing in the fourth … 12 up and 12 down for Gonzalez on 47 pitches, 32 for strikes.

Chris Volstad faced the minimum in the fourth. After Bernadina hit a blooper to Barney for the first out, Volstad walked Bryce Harper. Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a 1-4-3 double play to end the inning. Volstad threw 10 pitches in the fourth … and after four Volstad’s pitch count stood at 70, 40 for strikes.

After four, the Cubs trailed 5-0 and were being outhit 8-0.

The Cubs did nothing in the fifth. Gonzalez needed only 59 pitches, 38 for strikes, to complete five no-hit innings on Wednesday night.

Adam LaRoche led off the fifth with a single to left center (first pitch). After Volstad missed on his first offering to Michael Morse, Welington Castillo started chirping at home plate umpire Larry Vanover. Vanover then took off his mask and ejected Dale Sveum from the game.

A very animated Sveum got his money’s worth. Sveum appeared to be arguing about Vanover’s inconsistent strike zone.

Chris Volstad ended up walking Morse and the Nationals had runners on first and second with no outs. Volstad caught Desmond looking at a 2-2 pitch for the first out. Danny Espinosa grounded out to Rizzo. LaRoche and Morse moved up ninety feet. Volstad then intentionally walked Kurt Suzuki to load the bases with two down for Gio Gonzalez. Volstad missed with his first two pitches to Gonzalez. Volstad jammed Gonzalez with his next offering and he hit a blooper back up the middle that Castro hauled in with a diving catch to end the inning … 89 pitches for Volstad after five, 46 for strikes.

Darwin Barney led off the sixth and ripped Gonzalez’s first pitch past a diving Zimmerman and into left field … the Cubs first hit of the game. Tony Campana hit for Volstad and popped up a bunt attempt to Kurt Suzuki. Joe Mather and Dave Sappelt struck out swinging to end the inning.

Michael Bowden replaced Volstad in the sixth and retired Roger Bernadina on a pop out to Castro in left center. Bryce Harper launched Bowden’s first pitch to deep right. The ball hit off the fa├žade of the upper deck … Harper’s second multi-homer game of his career. Bowden struck out Zimmerman swinging then walked Adam LaRoche. Josh Vitters made an excellent diving stop to his left to take away a hit from Michael Morse to end the inning.

After six, the Cubs trailed 6-0.

Anthony Rizzo looked at a 3-2 pitch to start the seventh. The ball appeared to be out of the strike zone but Vanover rang him up. Alfonso Soriano flied out to right (first pitch) for the second out. Starlin Castro worked a full count before reaching on an infield single. Castro drove the 3-2 offering back up the middle and off Espinosa’s glove. Welington Castillo followed with a double to left center (1-0 pitch). With runners on second and third with two down, Josh Vitters struck out swinging to end the inning.

Blake Parker took over in the seventh and the Nationals resumed launching balls out of the park. Ian Desmond led off the seventh with a home run to center (3-1 pitch). Danny Espinosa followed and launched Parker’s first pitch of the at bat over the wall in left center … back-to-back homers for the Nationals on consecutive pitches for the second time in the game … 8-0 Nationals. Kurt Suzuki ripped a single into center. Chad Tracy hit for Gonzalez and walked. Roger Bernadina lined out to right. Suzuki tagged and advanced to third with one out. Blake Parker then walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Jamie Quirk popped out of the Cubs dugout and went to the pen.

Alberto Cabrera took over on the mound and Luis Valbuena replaced Vitters at third on a double switch. Cabrera fell behind Ryan Zimmerman 2-0 … then missed with his next two pitches. Cabrera issued a four-pitch walk and forced in Suzuki with the Nationals’ ninth run. Mark DeRosa ran for Zimmerman at first..

Adam LaRoche stepped in with the bases loaded and one down. Alberto Cabrera struck LaRoche out swinging (2-2 pitch) for the second out … the first time the Cubs’ retired LaRoche since Monday afternoon. With the bases still loaded and two down, Cabrera got away with a couple of mistakes to Morse before striking him out swinging to end the inning.

After seven, the Cubs trailed 9-0 and were being outhit 13-3.

The Cubs did nothing against Craig Stammen in the eighth.

Jaye Chapman retired the Nationals in order in the eighth on nine pitches, seven for strikes. Chapman struck out Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa swinging to start the inning … and retired Kurt Suzuki on a fly out to center for the third out.

Craig Stammen stayed in for the ninth and Dave Sappelt drove a 3-2 pitch to deep right center. Bernadina made a leaping catch at the wall for the first out. Anthony Rizzo cranked a 0-1 pitch to deep right center. The ball was long gone and Rizzo broke up the shutout with his 11th longball of the season. Bryan LaHair struck out swinging and Starlin Castro grounded out to short for the 27th out.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Justin Germano will face Jordan Zimmermann in the series and season finale against the Nationals on Thursday night.

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