August 22, 2014

Washington Nationals Game 124 Review: Nats trampled in loss to Cubs as NL Wild Card slips further from view

Jordan Zimmermann allowed eight runs over five innings as the Washington Nationals fell 11-1 to the struggling Chicago Cubs Monday night at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs are 16 games below .500 and yet they completely dominated against the Nationals’ ace, knocking in three runs in the first inning alone. With the blowout, the Nats are no1 10 ½ games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the second NL Wild Card slot with only 38 games left to play.

It all began with a double by Junior Lake in his first at-bat against the Nationals to lead off the bottom of the first. Lake took third on a sacrifice bunt by Darwin Barney and Dioner Navarro walked to put runners at the corners.

Then, Zimmermann (L, 14-7) allowed the first of three home runs the Cubs would go on to tally against him. On a 2-2 count, Nate Schierholtz launched one to right to put Chicago up 3-0 early.

Zimmermann pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the second, with each of the three outs recorded on ground balls. In turn, the top of the third marked the third consecutive inning in which the Nationals singled off starter Jeff Samardzija (W, 7-11), and only singled.

 But, yet again, the Cubs capitalized on their own suddenly hot hitting in the bottom of the inning.

Barney singled and Schireholtz continued to prove a menace for Zimmermann with an RBI double to make it 4-0 Cubs.

The Nats failed to answer in the fourth, but the Cubs continued to draw blood – this time, with a lead-off homer by Donnie Murphy in the bottom of the inning.

In case there were any lingering hopes that the Nats’ offense would eventually wake up to rally back, Zimmermann helped lay them to rest in the bottom of the fifth after Lake doubled, Barney walked and Navarro hit a three-run shot to give the Cubs an 8-0 lead.

Zimmermann’s day resulted in a disastrous final line of 5.0 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 2 BB, 5 K and 3 HR, bringing his ERA to 3.37.

It was not until the sixth inning that Davey Johnson called upon relief, in the form of Fernando Abad. Abad pitched a solid inning, retiring the Cubs in order before losing his luster in the seventh.

Before the game would reach that point, Wilson Ramos at last put the Nationals on the board with a solo shot in the seventh that made it 8-1 Chicago.

But, in the bottom of the inning, the Cubs quickly earned back the run – and then some.

Navarro drew a two-out walk, Schierholtz’s homer to right to draw in two runs.

The last bit of torture against the Nats came in the bottom of the eighth when Ian Krol allowed a lead-off homer to Murphy to give the Cubs their would-be final lead of 11-1.

In the meantime, Samardzija earned himself a complete-game win, allowing just 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K and 1 HR over 105 pitches thrown.

THE GOOD: Bryce Harper went 2-for-4 and Wilson Ramos went 1-for-3 with a homer. And… that’s about it.

THE BAD: It’s been said before, but it begs to be repeated – games like Monday night’s serve to raise the question of whether or not Jordan Zimmermann’s arm is simply tired after a grueling season or the League has just begun to decipher his once-dazzling pitching routine.

Also worth noting, regardless of whether or not you buy into the idea of situational hitting, it needs to be mentioned that the Cubs out-hit the Nationals just nine hits to six and recorded three walks compared to the Nats’ zero… yet they came out on top by a whopping 10 runs. And, this is a team that has struggled offensively at its home field.

THE UGLY: It doesn’t seem that the Nationals had a sensible strategy – or a strategy at all – in their acquisition of David DeJesus. After all, the outfielder pinch-hit in the eighth inning of Monday’s game – and popped out – only to be placed on waivers afterwards.

THE STATS: 1 R, 6 H, 0 E, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 0-for-1 with RISP, 4 LOB

NEXT GAME: Tuesday, 8:05 p.m. at Wrigley Field – RHP Dan Haren (7-11, 4.79) LHP Chris Rusin (2-2, 3.06)

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