Good, Bad & Ugly: Nationals Lose Pair to Cubs Over Weekend

Dave Nichols@@DaveNicholsDSPSenior Analyst IJuly 20, 2009

DENVER - JULY 06:  Nyjer Morgan #1 of the Washington Nationals steals second base against the Colorado Rockies in the third inning during MLB action at Coors Field on July 6, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Nationals 1-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

"Today was a step backward. It was a breakdown all the way around."-- Jim Riggleman, July 19, 2009.

THE RESULTS: The Washington Nationals were handed two more defeats by the Chicago Cubs, who completed a four-game sweep of the worst team in baseball.

Saturday, Washington's defensive indifference led to a three-run inning against rookie pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and the Nats eventually fell 6-5, despite having two on and one out in each of the final two innings.

Zimmermann (L, 3-5, 4.63) was cruising until the sixth. Derrek Lee led off with a ball to left that would have been caught by a man faster than Adam Dunn; instead it went for a ground rule double. The next batter, Aramis Ramirez, bounced one off of second baseman Willie Harris for an error.

So instead of two outs, it's first and third with no outs. After striking out Milton Bradley on three pitches, Zimmermann hung a slider to Alfonso Soriano, who deposited the mistake into the right field bleachers, turning a 4-2 lead into a 5-4 deficit that the Nats would never erase.

Zimmermann finished with five and one-third innings, five runs (four earned) on six hits and one walk. Eight of his 16 outs for the night were via strikeout.

The Nats left 12 men on base.

Sunday afternoon, the Nats were pasted every which way by the Cubs, losing 11-3. Cubs rookie starter Kevin Hart gave up five hits AND five walks in five innings, but the Nats could only push two across the plate.

Washington left nine men on base. Adam Dunn hit his 24th home run of the season in the seventh inning, after the competitive portion of the game had long since finished.

Nats starter Garrett Mock seemed rattled after Alberto Gonzalez let a ball go through him in the top of the fourth inning, and the Northsiders put up seven in the frame, in front of 34,574 mostly Cubs fans.

Mock (L, 0-3, 7.71) went three and one-third innings, surrendering seven runs (four earned) on eight hits and two walks, striking out three. He gave up a massive two-run shot to Alfonso Soriano.

THE TAKEAWAY: Another lost weekend for the Nationals. Washington actually held the lead in each of the four games. It's time people realized that this offense actually gets WORSE when runners are on base.

The Nats left a stunning 21 runners on base in the two weekend games. Stunning.

THE GOOD: Nyjer Morgan. The leadoffhitter went 5-for-9 with three runs, an RBI and two stolen bases over the weekend.

THE BAD: Alberto Gonzalez. 0-for-8 for the weekend, with a big error Sunday. All those folks that wanted to see more of the Attorney General the rest of the season are going to get their wish. Be careful what you wish for.

THE UGLY: The record now stands at 26-65, on pace for a 46-116 season record.

NEXT GAME: Tonight. The Mets come to town, oh boy. J.D. Martin makes his major league debut against venerable right-hander Livan Hernandez (5-5, 5.10), who has dominated the Nats in two starts this season.

NOTES: After the game, the Nats designated RHP Julian Tavarez for assignment and selected the contract of RHP Logan Kensing from Triple-A Syracuse.

Tavarez went 3-7 with one save and a 4.89 ERA this season for the Nats. Recently, however, he had trouble getting anyone out, and his walk rate the last 15 appearances was almost one walk per inning.

Kensingposted 12 saves in 13 opportunities and a 3.91 ERA in 23 appearances during a nearly two-monthstint withSyracuse. While with the Chiefs, Kensing walked just five and struck out 24 in 25.1 innings.

LHPScott Olsen went on the 15-day Disabled List to make room for Martin. Olsen is scheduled to meet with Dr. James Andrews this week about his ailing left shoulder.

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