Game Ninety-Six – Cubs 3 Nationals 7
For the second straight game Aramis Ramirez hit 2 home runs, the bullpen could not hold the lead and the Cubs lost to the Nationals dropping to 22 games under .500 for the season. Sean Marshall was not sharp and had trouble with location but he was effective before he left the game after one pitch in the 5th to Robert Fick. Marshall left the game with a strained left oblique muscle and is listed as day-to-day. Marshall was the second Cubs pitcher to leave the game with an injury in the middle of inning in the past two days. According to a report on Cubs.com, Scott Eyre’s injury is a tight hamstring and left the game on Friday for precautionary reasons.
The Cubs inability to play complete games as a team has cost them back-to-back losses. The amount of games that all aspects of this team play together are few and far between and can possibly be counted on one hand. Whether one day it is the offense or the next day the defense or the inability of the starting pitchers to throw a quality start….Saturday it was the bullpen that could not hold the lead, everyday is an adventure with this team. Aramis Ramirez continued his onslaught on Saturday afternoon and hit two monster home runs and has hit 5 in his last three games but the Cubs could only add one other run on the afternoon a RBI single with 2 outs in the 1st inning by Phil Nevin. John Mabry scored after taking a 2-out walk after the Ramirez home run; Jacque Jones doubled but was thrown out at the plate attempting to score the third run of the inning.
The Cubs managed 10 hits and 2 walks but could not push home another run. They left 8 on base including 2 in scoring position in the 4th. With 2 outs, Ronny Cedeno walked and went to 3rd on a double by Henry Blanco but both runners were strained when Sean Marshall struck out looking. In the 6th and 7th innings the Cubs left runners on 2nd that they were unable to plate and while the Cubs were having trouble plating those runs, the Nationals were not.
The Nationals put up runs on all but 3 innings and were led by Alfonso Soriano. Soriano was 4 for 5 with 2 runs scored and an RBI and if not for two fine defensive plays Soriano would have scored 4 runs on the afternoon. Soriano was doubled off at home on two good plays by the defense, one by Neifi Perez and the other by Jacque Jones and Henry Blanco.
Scott Williamson was credited with the loss and rightfully so. Williamson came in the ballgame in the 5th after Marshall left and proceeded to retire the first two batters he faced. After that is when the game got out of hand. Soriano doubled and newly acquired Felipe Lopez walked. Ryan Zimmerman then doubled to score both Soriano and Lopez and after an intentional walk to Johnson, Williamson retired Kearns on a fly ball. Williamson was left in to start the 6th and gave up a lead off double to Luis Matos; Dusty went to the pen for Will Ohman. Ohman retired the first two batters he faced and then after a wild pitch he gave up a 2-run homer to pinch hitter Alex Escobar, who injured himself on Friday night and was not in the starting lineup. The Nationals added another run in the 8th off of back-to-back doubles by Soriano and Lopez. Soriano had 4 extra base hits, 3 doubles and a triple.
The Cubs overworked bullpen of Scott Williamson, Will Ohman and Roberto Novoa gave up 5 runs on 7 hits over the last 4 innings. The lack of quality innings the past two games by Prior and Marshall has put a strain on an already overworked bullpen. Also the inability of Scott Williamson to record that all-important third out when his team needed it the most could have just hurt the Cubs not only on the field but on the trade market.
While the Cubs keep losing games they also keep losing players. Saturday’s start for Marshall was his 19th of the season and the 35th by the Cubs’ rookie hurlers. Marshall and Sunday’s starter Carlos Marmol have performed in such a way to give the Cubs Faithful hope that the organization could have found good 4th and 5th starters in the rotation but they must figure out a way to finish out the year healthy to avoid being added into the health discussions that for years have surrounded the Cubs pitching staff. Marshall has had a good season with the Cubs after only 16 starts and 99 innings last season in the Cubs Minor league system.
Carlos Marmol will attempt to salvage the last game of the series on Sunday afternoon.