Jun 7, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: The Nationals’ offense showed signs of life on Sunday with two early runs to give Jordan Zimmermann a lead to work with, but Zimmermann himself could not capitalize in what ended up one of his worst starts of the 2015 season so far.
Zimmermann gave up four runs to the Cubs and was lucky it wasn’t worse. He allowed 12 batters to reach base and several times escaped jams that could have turned the game into a blowout.
Zimmermann was roughed up by the Cubs and so was Blake Treinen, who replaced him in the sixth inning. Treinen retired the first two batters he faced before giving up a double, two consecutive walks and then a wild pitch to score a run. Two batters later another run came home on a single by Starlin Castro. Treinen was coming off two scoreless outings, but could not keep it going on Sunday.
That unfortunate sequence in the sixth inning put the Nationals down three runs and they were not able to recover. The 6-3 loss was their eighth in their last 10 games and it left them at 30-27 on the season. They are just three games over .500 for the first time since May 15.
The Nationals lost this four-game series to the Cubs three games to one. Chicago won the season series 4-3.
One thing to watch for postgame is the status of Denard Span. He left after the seventh inning and was replaced in the outfield by Danny Espinosa. Espinosa had never played outfield in his professional career before, so it was likely not just to get Span some rest. He has been dealing with a sore right knee in recent days and missed three games earlier in the week due to the injury.
HITTING HIGHLIGHT: With all the ‘hitting lowlights’ of late, why don’t we take a glass half-full approach to this one? The Nationals lost the game, but their offense did manage three runs off eight hits despite not having regulars Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman on the field.
Yunel Escobar led the way with three singles in his return from missing two games with a sore right wrist. The second one drove in a run in the fifth inning. Escobar now has 16 multi-hit games out of the 51 he has played this season. This was his fourth game this year with three hits or more.
The Nationals’ other two runs came on Ian Desmond’s fifth homer of the season. He smashed an opposite field bomb in the second inning to score Wilson Ramos, who reached on an error by Castro at shortstop.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: Zimmermann entered Sunday with nine consecutive quality starts overall and 16 straight at home. But he found trouble early against the Cubs and never fully recovered in five innings of inefficient work.
Zimmermann gave up four runs on the day and allowed 12 total baserunners on 10 hits and two walks. He surrendered his first run on a Castro single in the second inning. The second run was on a Jonathan Herrera RBI single in the fourth. And the final two came on a Chris Coghlan single to right field in the fifth.
Zimmermann gave up more than three runs on Sunday for just the second time this season. It was his worst start since April 13 at the Boston Red Sox, his second outing of 2015.
KEY STAT: Sunday was only the seventh time in the Nationals’ last 16 games that they’ve scored at least three runs.
UP NEXT: The Nationals have Monday off before traveling to New York to play a two-game series with the Yankees. Monday is the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft where the Nationals pick 58th overall. Their Tuesday game against the Yankees is a 7:05 p.m. start with Max Scherzer (6-4, 1.85) and Masahiro Tanaka (3-1, 2.76) set to square off.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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