There are two ways to look at last night’s game and the upcoming series with the Cubs: either the Nationals came to Chicago at a good time or the Nationals came to Chicago at a bad time. After a 10th inning loss to the Cubs at Wrigley, I’d say last night was on the “bad time” part of the vantage point at-hand.
The Cubs were 9-10 going into the game and the Nationals were 10-9. The Cubs have a miserable bullpen that’s been killing their season, not to mention a lack of run support when they need it most from the top of their line up. The Nationals have Zimm out for the count and have been having a less than lack luster beginning to the season when it comes to starting pitching. What both clubs have are knock out closers (Carlos Marmol and Matt Capps) and the ability to send the ball to the stands.
It’s safe to say that at this point in the season these teams are pretty comparable when compared to each other, according to the statistics.
But there’s one thing the Cubs have that the Nationals don’t – Carlos Zambrano as the set-up man. Zambrano has been struggling this season as a starter (and well … has in the past few years, but this is something Cubs fans don’t like to hear), and was moved to the bullpen just last week by manager Lou Pinella. Last night just so happened to be Zambrano’s first relief appearance at Wrigley Field since being moved to the bullpen. What does that mean? Tons and tons of energy from the stands as one of the Cubbie die-hard’s favorite pitchers lights up the night. And — as any one who’s been to Wrigley knows — that place becomes quite the electric factory come game time no matter what month of the season it is.
Zambrano entered a tied game after the Nats came back from an early three run lead by the Cubs. Sadly, he was too much for Wil Nieves, and caught him on a 94 mph fastball on a 3-2 pitch. The Nats fought the good fight though. John Lannan got the start, but fell behind early in the first two innings with the Cubs scoring three. Sean Burnett and Tyler Walker pitched well. Brian Bruney had a solid ninth. Clippard and Capps got to rest a little. All in all, not too shabby.
Let’s not forget how the Nats pushed the game to extras though: Willingham got walked with the bases loaded, pushing Nyjer home. Adam Kennedy followed that up with a sac fly, bringing Ian Desmond in to score. Wil Nieves tied ‘er up by driving a single into center, sending Willinham home. But, as we know, that wasn’t enough to win game one at Wrigley.
Tonight, both teams are at .500 and ready to fight. Livan’s (2-1, 0.75) up on the mound facing Tom Gorzelanny (0-2, 2.40). This is where the Nats could catch a break. If their bats are lively against this ball club early, often, and even late into the game, then they stand a really good chance of reeking some havoc on the Cubs less than stellar bullpen.
The game starts at 8:05.