Cubs Find a Way to Beat the Nationals in the Fog – Cubs 5, Nationals 3

Game Seventy-Seven: Cubs 5, Nationals 3

WP – Neil Ramirez (1-1) LP – Craig Stammen (0-3) Save – Hector Rondon (9)

wflag-pub2014Starlin Castro drove in the Cubs first two runs and Justin Ruggiano delivered a two-out, two-run double in the seventh that broke a 3-3 tie and proved to be the game winner as the Cubs beat the Nationals on an extremely foggy night at Wrigley Field.

After the Nationals tied the game at three in the top of the seventh on a two-run double by Denard Span that chased Travis Wood from the game, Darwin Barney (1-for-3 with a double and a run scored) reached on a one out double and advanced to third after pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan walked and Ryan Sweeney (0-for-4 with a run scored) grounded into a 3-6 fielder’s choice. Justin Ruggiano (2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a run scored) lined a 2-1 pitch past a lunging Anthony Rendon and down the left field line that plated both Barney and Sweeney with the go ahead and eventual winning runs.

The Cubs offense had a good night against Doug Fister and Craig Stammen. The Cubs made Doug Fister work over his six innings and scored three runs in the fourth inning as Fister labored through a 39-pitch inning. Justin Ruggiano reached on an infield single in the fourth and went to third on a double by Anthony Rizzo (3-for-4 with a double and a run scored). Starlin Castro (1-for-4 with two RBI) delivered a single into left that plated Ruggiano and Rizzo. Castro scored on a single by Welington Castillo (1-for-3 with a RBI).

The Cubs scored five runs on nine hits with one walk and four of the Cubs nine hits went for extra bases.

Travis Wood put together a serviceable start and was left in the game too long. Wood started losing his command in the sixth and was left in for the seventh inning. Wood was lifted with two outs in the seventh after he issued back-to-back walks to start the inning. Wood gave up the game-tying double to Denard Span before Rick Renteria went to his pen.

Travis Wood allowed three runs on seven hits with five walks and four strikeouts. Wood threw 98 pitches, 57 for strikes, over 6 2/3 innings. Wood was the beneficiary of two excellent defensive plays and two double plays turned behind him.

Neil Ramirez picked up his first big league win after recording the final out in the seventh. Pedro Strop faced the minimum in the eighth after the defense turned its third double play of the game. And Hector Rondon picked up the save after a 1-2-3 ninth inning on 14 pitches.

The Cubs defense was the difference Thursday night. The Cubs turned three double plays and executed a perfect relay in the second inning that cut down Ryan Zimmerman at the plate. And in the seventh after Denard Span doubled in the tying runs, Anthony Rizzo threw behind Span, who rounded the bag at second too far, and threw him out for the second out of the inning in a tie game.

The Cubs received a big scare in the second inning when Junior Lake crashed into the metal door in right center going for a fly ball of the bat of Ryan Zimmerman. Lake did not slowdown in time and slid in feet first into the wall before hitting his head on the metal door. After receiving attention from the training staff and the team doctor, Junior Lake left the field on his own power.

The Cubs provided an update on Junior Lake prior to the start of the eighth inning. Lake didn’t show any concussion symptoms. Lake has bruises on his knees and head.

With Thursday’s win, the Cubs improved to 33-44 on the season.

Both teams managed a single in the first inning, but no runs and the game went to the second inning scoreless.

Ryan Zimmerman led off the second and drove a 2-0 pitch to deep right center. Junior Lake raced into the gap to try to make a play. Lake did not slow down before the wall in time and slid feet first into the metal door in right center. Lake slammed his head into the metal door and rolled over face down into the warning track. Lake was in obvious pain as Ruggiano checked on him and coaches and training staff hustled out to attend to him. Lake rolled over and was helped to his feet. Lake was smiling as he was checked out by Rick Renteria, one of the Cubs trainers and the team doctor, Dr. Steve Adams. Lake left the field on his own power after he tried to stay in the game. Lake kept smiling as he made his way to the dugout. When play resumed Justin Ruggiano moved to center and Nate Schierholtz entered the game in right.

Ian Desmond flied out to right for the first out in the second inning. Wilson Ramos, in his first game back from the DL, singled to left on a 0-1 pitch. Ryan Sweeney charged the ball and threw a strike to Luis Valbuena. Valbuena flipped to Welington Castillo to cut Zimmerman down at the plate. Wood walked Espinosa and put runners on first and second with two down. Doug Fister flied out to right to end the inning. Travis Wood needed 33 pitches, 20 for strikes, to complete two innings Thursday night.

The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth. Travis Wood threw 56 pitches, 35 for strikes, over the first four innings.

Justin Ruggiano reached on an infield single to third to start the fourth. Anthony Rizzo worked a full count before pulling a double into right. The ball hit of the sidewall and right to Jayson Werth. Gary Jones held Ruggiano at third with no outs. Starlin Castro singled to left on a 0-1 pitch. Ruggiano and Rizzo scored, 2-0 Cubs. Luis Valbuena popped out to Anthony Rendon at third for the first out. A wild pitch with Castillo at the plate allowed Castro to move up ninety feet and into scoring position. Welington Castillo smoked a 1-2 pitch back up the middle and into left center. Castro scored, 3-0 Cubs. Schierholtz flied out to left and Barney grounded out to second to end the inning. The Cubs forced Doug Fister to throw 39 pitches in the fourth inning and it took Fister 82 pitches, 56 for strikes, to complete four innings.

After four complete, the Cubs had a 3-0 lead.

Travis Wood retired the Nationals in order in the fifth and the Cubs went down in order quickly in the bottom of the fifth.

Travis Wood took the hill in the sixth with a 3-0 lead and he began struggling with his command as the Nationals chipped in to the Cubs lead.

Denard Span led off the sixth with a double to right. Anthony Rendon singled to right past Anthony Rizzo. Span scored, 3-1 Cubs. Travis Wood walked Jayson Werth. Adam LaRoche hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Rendon advanced to third on the play. Wood walked Ryan Zimmerman and with runners on the corners and two down, Wood struck out Ian Desmond swinging to end the inning.

The Cubs collected two hits in the sixth. Rizzo led off the inning with a single to center but was erased when Castro hit into a 5-4-3 double play. Luis Valbuena hit a fog-aided triple to center. Denard Span, the Nationals centerfielder, threw his hands up in the air when the ball was hit. The fog at the park was so thick he could not see the ball. Welington Castillo lined out to center to end the inning.

After six complete, the Cubs led 3-1.

Travis Wood was left in for the seventh after a rather wobbly sixth inning. Wood issued back-to-back walks to Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa to start the inning. Doug Fister was left in to hit for himself and he bunted both runners up ninety feet. Denard Span stepped in with runners on second and third with one out and just missed a homer to right. The ball hit off the ivy and bounced right to Schierholtz. The Cubs’ right fielder made a perfect throw to Rizzo as Espinosa was crossing the plate to tie the game. Span rounded second too far and Rizzo threw to Castro, who applied the tag for the second out. Rick Renteria went to his pen and brought in Neil Ramirez with the game tied at three and two outs in the seventh. Anthony Rendon popped out to Rizzo for the third out.

Craig Stammen took over for the Nationals in the bottom of the seventh and struck out Schierholtz swinging to start the inning. Darwin Barney pulled a double into left with one out. Chris Coghlan hit for Neil Ramirez and walked. With runners on first and second with one out, Ryan Sweeney rolled a 3-2 pitch toward first. LaRoche fielded the ball and threw to second to force Coghlan. With runners on the corners and two down, Justin Ruggiano pulled a 2-1 pitch over Anthony Rendon and into the left field corner. Barney scored easily and Sweeney slid in safe with the Cubs’ fifth run. Ruggiano was thrown out at third to end the inning (7-6-2-5).

At the end of seven, the Cubs led 5-3.

The Cubs’ defense turned its third double play of the night behind Pedro Strop in the eighth. And Hector Rondon retired the side in order in the ninth to close it out.

Jason Hammel is scheduled to take on Tanner Roark in game two with the Nationals Friday afternoon (3:05pm CDT).

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